The Game: 1969 Finals, Game 7
The Series Situation: Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics tied 3-3.
The Play: The Celtics lead 103-102 with 1:33 left when Keith Erickson knocks the ball from John Havlicek straight to Don Nelson at the foul line. His 15-footer just beats the shot clock, kicks high off the back rim and drops straight into the basket.
The Significance: Nelson's jumper gave the Celtics the cushion they needed to hold on for a 108-106 win that delivered another title to Boston and embarrassed Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke. Expecting a win, Cooke had thousands of balloons with "World Champion Lakers" printed on them suspended from the rafters of the Forum. Flyers were placed in every seat stating: "When, not if, the Lakers win the title, balloons will be released from the rafters, the USC marching band will play 'Happy Days Are Here Again' and broadcaster Chick Hearn will interview Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain in that order."
The Celtics circulated one of the flyers in their locker room. West was furious at the sight of the hanging balloons. The game also closed out the greatest run of dominance by any team in NBA history. Bill Russell announced his retirement as player-coach, ending a career that saw him win 11 championships in 13 seasons. Fellow Hall of Famer Sam Jones had previously announced that he was also done playing. Finishing with a triple-double -- 43 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists -- in Game 7, West is still the only player from the losing team ever to be named Finals MVP.
-- Fran Blinebury
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