Chris Havlicek in his father’s shadow

     With his college years coming to an end, Chris Havlicek knew his basketball career was coming to an end as well. Despite being an all-star player in his younger years, he struggled to find time on the court. The fact that he was the next player behind Bryant Stith, who was a first round draft pick to the NBA, didn’t help either.

     With very little playing time in his 4 years at the University of Virginia, he knew he couldn’t live up to the country’s expectations of him being as great as his dad. This didn’t mean the end of the world, though, for Chris. He was determined to be more than or equal to his father in some way, shape, or form. One of which included playing on a U.S. Olympic team.

     “Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! It’s all over,” from a commentator during game five of the eastern finals in 1965. John Havlicek pulled a move no one expected. Trailing 110-109, the Sixers were inbounding the ball while the clock stood still, five seconds on the board. As soon as the pass left Hal Greer’s hands, John Havlicek epically dives to get his fingertips on the ball, claiming possession of it. The crowd roars because of the remarkable move that was pulled. Havlicek runs down the court dribbling the ball, doing whatever he can to let the clock slowly tick away its final seconds to claim a Celtic victory. 

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     To get a little more context, John Havlicek is one of basketball’s greatest players of all time. He played sixteen seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA championships, four of them which were won in his first four years playing on the team. In 1984, John Havlicek was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1997. He was the Celtics’ all-time leader in points and games played, scoring 26,395 points in 1,270 games. He also became the first player to score 1,000 points in 16 consecutive seasons according to basketball-reference.com.

     Playing both forward and guard, John Havlicek revolutionized the role of the sixth man, starting the game on the bench but substituting out more often than the reserves, sometimes even having more play time and points than actual starters. Overall, John Havlicek is someone that will never be forgotten in the world of basketball and is one hard act to follow, but Chris never put his guard down.

     Growing up, people knew Chris Havlicek was going to be one of the best players on the court no matter where he played. For his first middle school basketball game, a couple hundred people from all over his town showed up just to watch him play. “That’s when I knew I was getting more attention than some of the other kids. That was definitely an eye-opening experience for me,” Chris mentioned in an interview with Henry Hersom in 1996. There was a constant pressure wherever he played simply because of his famous father, John Havlicek.

     Sometimes his dad would drive Chris to his games, but not stay in fear that he was putting too much pressure on his son. They would even go as far as entering his name as “Chris Evans”, using his mother’s maiden name to enter him into basketball games to avoid the publicity. Yet somehow, the pressure was always beneath the surface, taunting him to play as well as his dad. Even when he played well, people expected him to, since he was John Havlicek’s son. When he didn’t play well, however, people would be critical by asking what was wrong with him and why he wasn’t playing well, since he was John Havlicek’s son.

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     At the University of Virginia, Chris Havlicek averaged 0.8 points, 0.5 rebounds, and 4.9 minutes per game for his entire college career. Despite the poor statistics, he kept pushing forward and striving to be better, just as he had done his entire life trying to be as great as his dad. After graduation, he began a professional career playing for a second division team in Italy as a shooting guard. While there, he noticed a sport which he had seen before the last time he visited Europe: Team Handball.

     “I thought it was a wild game, cool and fast… There was a questionnaire in the basketball office that fall [after the Olympics], asking for people who were interested,” from an interview with Brad Markus in 1996. 

     The first time he saw the sport was at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Upon his first four months of playing professional basketball, he switched his career path and visited Philadelphia for his first handball camp. Being a large and tall athlete, he picked up the game fast and began to get noticed by coaches and other players. Enjoying the sport, Chris Havlicek decided he was going to try out for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Handball Team.

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Handball is a game of speed and can be compared to water polo without the water. When compared to basketball, it fit in a little better with Chris’s body type. In basketball, he wasn’t big enough for the inside, not quick enough for the backcourt, and didn’t shoot well enough to be a sixth man. Yet again, he is compared to the greatness of his father and his legacy of what made the ultimate sixth man.

     “It’s like being a point forward in basketball, but the moves are so different, the timing is so different,” said Havlicek. “I went from not knowing what was going on to learning how to throw and learning my steps,” again from an interview with Brad Markus in 1996.

     In handball, however, playing circle runner fit him perfectly. A good circle runner catches any ball that’s within his reach, which was easy for Chris with his experience with basketballs which are at least twice as large as handballs. Circle runners also can dart the ball around the perimeter to another player, or flex and muscle through sweaty defenders to take a close up rip at the goal which is 3 meters away. He played in a couple games in Barcelona and really came to love the sport. Chris was proud to say he was finally much better than his dad at something. He was an Olympian, while his father was not.

     John Havlicek had tried out for the 1960’s team but was not chosen. At the time, AAU players had a high representation on the team, but John was not playing AAU. Also, John was only a sophomore at Ohio State. While he was an All-American, no one knew how great John’s future was going to be.

     As all great things come to an end, Chris Havlicek did not spend more than a year playing for the U.S. Olympic Handball Team. Some of the larger tournaments he played at included the World Championships and the Pam-Am Games. However, he was not chosen to represent the U.S. in the 1996 Olympics, but he was selected as one of the eight alternates for the team.

     After he was finally done playing sports, he still wanted to be involved in the athletic industry, specifically basketball. While playing basketball at the University of Virginia, he obtained Dean’s List all four years, All-ACC Academic Team three years, and graduated with a degree in communications, deeming himself worthy of his intelligence.

     He had grown up with his dad watching and playing basketball, so there wasn’t anything else he could see himself doing. He began as a reporter for the NBA and moved onto becoming the vice president of NBA City, a former restaurant and part of Disney Springs. While working with NBA City, he would directly report to the NBA Commissioner, overseeing dining and entertainment events.

     A dramatic turning point in Chris’s life happened in 2013 when he was charged with soliciting prostitution. While this is not an uncommon crime, the fact that he was John Havlicek’s son had the media bursting with news articles. The focus was always placed about how this was a NBA legend’s son who had committed a crime. This again compares to how Chris couldn’t be as flawless or as great as his father.

     All his life, Chris chased the accomplishments and recognitions his father attained, but seemed to never be as good as him. John had set such a high bar that all Chris did was try to jump to reach it, only falling short every time. 

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