Player-coach Bill Russell inspired Boston to one last title in '68-69 before retiring as the game's greatest champion.


The 1968-69 Celtics were considered by many to be too old to win yet another title, and a 48-34 regular season and fourth place finish in the East did nothing to dissuade this opinion. But Boston came on strong in the postseason, beating Philadelphia and New York to once again move into the NBA Finals.

Their opponent was the Los Angeles Lakers, and with Wilt Chamberlain at center, the Lakers felt they had the manpower to take the title away from Boston after losing to the Celtics in six previous Finals matchups. "Most of the years we played, they were better than we were," reflected Lakers star Jerry West. "But in `69, they were not better. Period. We were better. Period. And we didn't win. And that was the toughest one."

The rivals battled to a seventh game, which took place in Los Angeles, where Laker team officials had positioned thousands of balloons in nets near the ceiling of the Forum in anticipation of their first championship since the team moved to California a decade earlier. But that celebration was not to be. It was a tightly fought game that came down to the final seconds, when Don Nelson of the Celtics put up a jumper that hit the back of the rim, bounced several feet into the air and then nestled into the net to give Boston a 108-106 victory. It was the Celtics' 11th title in 13 years, and it marked the end of pro basketball's greatest dynasty.