Although they had won four NBA Championships, in March, 1963, on the eve of the playoffs, an article in Sports Illustrated proclaimed, "The Boston Celtics are an old team. Tired blood courses through their varicose veins."
Bob Cousy, the Celtics' great playmaker, was 34 years old, and though spry enough to rank third in the NBA in assists, K.C. Jones already was being groomed to take his place. Cousy approached the championship series against Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and the Los Angeles Lakers as a personal challenge.
"People don't know what they're talking about when they say the older you are the less you notice the tension," he said. "Each day you have to prove yourself all over again."
The Celtics won the first two games of the series at Boston Garden, split the next two in Los Angeles, then blew a chance to wrap up the series at home when Cousy fouled out and the Lakers pulled out a 126-119 victory in Game 5. Could it be the Celtics were feeling their age?
The series moved back to Los Angeles, where Boston jumped in front and led Game 6 by nine points early in the fourth quarter. But Cousy tripped and sprained his left ankle, forcing him to the bench and opening the door for a Laker comeback that cut the lead to one. But Cousy re-entered the game for the final five minutes and got Boston's offense back on track, and a steal and basket by Tom Heinsohn stretched the Celtics' lead to four points with two minutes to go.
After that, Cousy lived up to his nickname. The Houdini of the Hardwood handled the ball like a magician and worked the clock like a master, leaving frustrated Lakers in futile pursuit until they were forced to foul. Finally he dribbled out what would be the final seconds of his career, throwing the ball high into the air as the buzzer sounded on a 112-109 Celtics victory and a fifth straight championship.