Russell celebrates the '57 Championship victory.

The season marked the beginning of what would become sports' greatest dynasty, the reign of the Boston Celtics that would produce 11 championships in 13 years. The Celtics had employed the group of Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman and Ed Macauley to score points in bunches for some time, but without rebounding and defense, they hadn't progressed very far in the Playoffs. But Red Auerbach traded Macauley and Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for the draft rights to center Bill Russell of San Francisco, and Boston used its own pick to grab high-scoring 6-7 forward Tom Heinsohn of Holy Cross.

With Russell and Heinsohn joining Cousy, Sharman, muscleman Jim Loscutoff and sixth man Frank Ramsey, the Celtics had assembled a team that would be the scourge of the league for years to come. Sharman (21.1 ppg) and Cousy (20.6) still piled up the points, but with Russell anchoring a suddenly-tough Celtics defense, Boston cruised to a league-best 44-28 record, winning the Eastern Division by a comfortable six games. St. Louis, buoyed by the addition of Macauley (16.5 ppg) and Hagan, advanced to the Finals in the West. A classic seven-game series ensued, with Boston winning a thrilling Game 7 in Boston, 125-123 in double overtime.

CELTICS CLAIM FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP
Game 7 of the 1957 NBA Finals was the type of game that could advance a sport by its sheer excitement. It was a game that would be talked bout for years: how rookies Russell (19 points, 32 rebounds) and Heinsohn (37 points, 23 rebounds) stepped up and provided the win that would set the Celtic dynasty in motion.

"The first one (championship) is always the hardest, and it's also the most satisfying," reflected Auerbach. "Everywhere I went that following summer, I could tell myself, `I'm the coach of the world champions.'"