The New York Knicks were in the playoffs, but they were not playing well. They had a 15-30 record, and their star player was struggling to find his game. Then Phil Jackson came in as team president and fired coach Jeff Hornacek.
Bill Russell had already taken over as Red Auerbach’s coach. Auerbach became the general manager of the Boston Celtics after the 1965-66 season. He has led the club to eight consecutive NBA championships and ten consecutive trips in the NBA Finals. Russell was a player-coach during the 1968-69 season, and he guided the club to yet another appearance in the championship series. Despite the fact that the Lakers were the favorites, Auerbach predicted the Celtics would win Game 7 on the road before it ever started.
In the 1960s, Red Auerbach and the Boston Celtics had an amazing run.
Red Auerbach embraces Bill Russell after defeating the Lakers 95-93 at the Boston Garden to win his seventh consecutive NBA title. | Photo credit: Getty Images
Boston’s remarkable run started in the late 1950s, when they won the first of their eight consecutive titles in the 1958-59 season. The Celtics were NBA champions from 1959 through 1966, although they previously won it in 1957 and lost in the finals to the St Louis Hawks in 1958.
Auerbach took over as coach of the Celtics in the 1950-51 season and went on to have an NBA-record-setting tenure. With Boston, he won 795 games during the regular season and another 90 in the playoffs.
He won his first of nine titles as a coach during the 1956-57 season. Auerbach had another wild run in the Celtics front office as GM and club president after turning over the coaching reigns to Russell in 1966. Auerbach was inducted as a coach into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Until his death in 2006, he worked as a front-office executive with the Celtics. He added seven additional championship rings to his collection during that period.
Before the game, Red Auerbach predicted that the Celtics will defeat the Lakers in Game 7.
High in the rafters, this was deemed bulletin-board stuff. The Celtics battled through the regular season in 1968-69, finishing fourth. The Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals to win a rematch with the Lakers.
Coming into the series, the Lakers were the overwhelming favorites. The Lakers won 55 games during the regular season after adding Wilt Chamberlain to an already strong team that featured Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. The best-of-seven series’ first four games were all tight, with each game ending within six points. The Lakers and Celtics each won their first two games at home.
The first blowout victory occurred in Game 5, when LA defeated Boston 117-104, but Boston knotted the series in Game 6 with a 99-90 victory.
Simply by gazing skyward before Game 7, the Celtics and Auerbach discovered some extra inspiration. At the Forum, tens of thousands of celebration balloons were attached to nets high in the sky. They were immediately spotted by Auerbach.
According to United Press International, Auerbach stated in 1987, “I saw them as I came in.” “I was in charge of the color scheme” (commentary on television). ‘What is Jack Kent Cooke going to do with all those stupid balloons?’ I wondered after we won. What they did was commit the most egregious error in sports history.
“They had a mimeographed document that they distributed to everyone; we all received a copy. ‘After the Lakers win, this player should go here, and this player should go there, and balloons will be released from the four corners of the building,’ it stated. And it all went wrong.”
The Celtics were victorious in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t anticipated, but the Celtics held on to beat the Lakers in Game 7 on their home floor.
With five minutes left, Boston had a nine-point advantage, but with Chamberlain on the bench with an injury late in the game, the Lakers went on a furious run to get within a point. Boston, on the other hand, held on for a 108-106 win. Russell played his last NBA game, finishing with six points and 21 rebounds.
West was the star of the game, and the series, despite the fact that it was a loss. West had a triple-double in the championship despite suffering a leg injury in Game 5. He had 42 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists to lead all scorers. This occurred after he scored 53 points in Game 1 of the series and 40 and 39 points in Games 4 and 5, respectively.
The MVP of the series was awarded to West. If it hadn’t been for a few thousand balloons, he may have added a ring.
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