NBA.com takes a look back at the top moments that define the history of the NBA.
It is the most famous radio call in basketball history, hoops’ equivalent to Russ Hodges’ famed “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” from baseball’s 1951 National League playoffs. There simply is nothing like the gravelly tones of the late Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most describing the closing seconds of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals between the defending champion Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers.
First, to set the scene: The Celtics’ lead had shriveled to 110-109, and Philadelphia regained possession with five seconds left after an inbounds pass attempt by Boston’s Bill Russell hit one of the wires that ran down from the ceiling of Boston Garden and helped support the baskets in those days.
Hall of Fame guard Hal Greer prepared to toss the ball inbounds under his own basket. The logical target seemed to be massive Wilt Chamberlain in the low post, but Russell fronted Chamberlain and took away that option. K.C. Jones, guarding Greer, leaped along the baseline and frantically waved his arms to distract him as the five seconds ticked away.
To get a better view of the court, Greer jumped up and spotted high-scoring forward Chet Walker, seemingly open beyond the key. But Boston’s John Havlicek had taken a position several feet off the direct line between Greer and Walker, making it look like Walker was open when he really wasn’t. After counting off a couple of seconds in his head, Havlicek sneaked a peek over his shoulder at Greer just as he prepared to release the ball. He moved into the passing lane … but let Most tell it:
“Greer is putting the ball into play. He gets it out deep,” Most intones, before his voices rises into a frenzy. “Havlicek steals it. Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!”
Havlicek tipped the inbounds pass away from Walker and toward teammate Jones, who dribbled out the clock as fans poured onto the court. The Celtics had the win, and would go on to capture their seventh consecutive championship.
Havlicek went on to score over 26,000 points in an NBA career that lasted 16 seasons, but he is best remembered for that steal immortalized on tape by the late Johnny Most.