Celtics-Lakers 3

This is Part 3 of our The Worst of Celtics-Lakers series. And just like Return of the Jedi, this third championship meeting between the two teams was ruined by the presence of hundreds of Ewoks. Seriously.

1965 NBA Finals

The Grim Reaper: Walter A. Brown, the original owner of the Boston Celtics, died on September 7, 1964 at the relatively young age of 59. This meant that Brown missed out on watching his team set a franchise record for victories (62) and win their seventh consecutive league championship. He also missed Red Auerbach's first (and only) Coach of the Year award.

Regarding Brown, Tommy Heinsohn said: "Everybody loved Walt Brown. He was like your father. He didn't make any money. He savored life at the Garden. You went in to talk contract with Walter Brown. You'd walk into the men's room, and he's say, 'What do you want?' And you'd say, 'What do you want to give me?' And it would be back and forth, and by the time you zipped up, you had a deal."

By all accounts, Brown was one of the best and most generous owners the league has ever known. He sacrificed a lot to keep the Celtics going during some very difficult years. It's a damn shame he had to die when he did. Or ever, for that matter.

Fun fact: The NBA championship trophy was renamed in Brown's honor after his death. It remained the Walter A. Brown Trophy until the mid-80s. The trophy was similar to the Stanley Cup in that it was a bowl placed above engraved panels listing the previous championship teams. Furthermore, the trophy was kept by the winning team for one year and then given to the next championship team after the following finals.

The trophy was redesigned for the 1977 NBA Finals -- adopting it's current ball-on-a-cup form -- after which it was given permanently to the winning team. It retained the Walter A. Brown title until the 1984 NBA Finals, when the hardware was renamed to honor former NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien.

The big letdown: Just like in 1963, the Celtics had to survive a seven-game scare from Wilt Chamberlain -- now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers -- in order to make it to the NBA Finals. Game 7 of that divisional series was the famous "Havlicek stole the ball!" game, which of course has been immortalized in league history. With that classic series as the buildup, the 5-game Finals was sort of a disappointment. It was kind of like going to Olive Garden and filling up on breadsticks and then not really being able to enjoy your fettuccini alfredo. And seriously, that stuff is not good heated up.

Fun fact: Go back and watch the film. John Havlicek only tipped the ball; Sam Jones retrieved it and dribbled out the clock. So, technically speaking, Sam -- and not John -- stole it. But Johnny Most didn't scream "Sam stole the ball," so people still think Havlicek stole it in the same way some people think Christopher Columbus discovered the atomic bomb.

Injuries: Part of the reason that the Finals were so lopsided was that the Lakers didn't have Elgin Baylor. Poor Elg severely injured his knee in Game 1 of the Western Division Finals against the Baltimore Bullets. As Baylor put it: "I went up for a shot and my knee exploded. I could hear a crack and a pop and everything else." It was a devastating injury, and it left L.A. badly undermanned. Bummer, huh? Baylor rehabbed the hell out of his knee and -- against all odds -- was back in purple and gold the very next season...but he was never the same player.

The original Bruce Bowen: The Celtics obliterated the Lakers in Game 1, 142-110. And for the most part, that was because K.C. Jones put the clamps on Jerry West. K.C. held Mr. Clutch to one basket in the first quarter and stole the ball from him five times in the first half. West finished with a mortal 26 points. But Lakers coach Fred Shaus thought Jones' defense was a little too touchy-feely, and he was still crying foul years later. Said Shaus: "K.C. Jones used to tackle West rather than let him get off a jump shot." (Of course, West went off for 45 in Game 2 and 43 in Game 3, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say the officials protected The Logo from K.C.'s football tactics.)

Lakers fans: In a show of true Hollywood class and style, the L.A. crowd bombed Red Auerbach with cigars after the Lakers pulled off a 126-105 victory in Game 3. But it was better the cigars than what they really wanted to use: Bricks.

Oh, the humanity: The Celtics finished off the Lakers in a Game 5 mercy killing. Only without the "mercy" part. At one point, Boston went on a 20-0 run and eventually won 129-96. And it left William Felton Russell feeling strangely depressed. "We were not just beating this team. We were destroying it. It was my worst moment in sports. There was the horror of destruction, not the joy of winning. We knew -- and did not know -- we sensed, and did not completely comprehend, that we had taken sports out of the realm of the game." Uhm, okay, Mr. Russell. Whatever you say.

Satch Sanders, quote machine: Satch said it best when he said, simply that: "We were just kickin' ass and takin' names."

Red Auerbach: Tommy "Gun" Heinsohn had announced that he would retire after the 1964-65 season, his ninth in the league, in order to take a full-time position at the insurance company for which he worked during the offseason (Heinsohn claimed later that he made more money selling insurance than he did playing basketball.) For reasons known only to himself, Auerbach barely played Heinsohn in the final game, even though the Celtics were in control the entire way. Near the end of the game, he casually asked Heinsohn if he wanted back in -- as if he was doing the guy a favor -- and Tommy said "no." The incident stung Heinsohn's pride (and I'm guessing Red didn't get any Tommy Points that night), but it also epitomized Auerbach's philosophy as a coach and as a person: Winning is everything; sentiment is nothing.

Sources: NBA.com, Wikipedia, Basketball-reference.com, Ever Green by Dan Shaughnessy, and The Rivalry by John Taylor.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Has nothing to do with this post but Paul Pierce had an awsome unintentional dirty quote about Artest "He likes to bang you, grab you, hold you, pull your shorts down. He’s going to try anything.”

Blogger Rudy said...
"Fun fact: Go back and watch the film. John Havlicek only tipped the ball; Sam Jones retrieved it and dribbled out the clock. So, technically speaking, Sam -- and not John -- stole it."

Actually statisticians are required to award the steal to the player who initiated it, not the beneficiary. For example if a defensive player A pokes the ball from the offensive player and defensive player B catches it, the steal belongs to player A, as he was the one who poked it, while B was just the beneficiary. This is why the steal belongs to Havlicek, as he initiated the steal.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Why is John Lithgow in the Celtics locker room?

Blogger Dan B. said...
Why is John Lithgow in the Celtics locker room?

He was doing research in preparation for his role as the bad guy in Cliffhanger on how to be a cold-blooded killer.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Awesome. Or it could be a reaffirmation of his manliness after his role in The World According to Garp.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Basketball-reference figures the Lakers-Celtics 2010 will be most similar to Syracuse-Minneapolis 1954, followed somewhat by Rockets-Knicks 1994. Oh goody.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Really? Columbus didn't invent the atomic bomb? Does that mean Thomas Edison wasn't the first man on the moon?

Blogger Silva said...
It's Havlicek's steal. And if it wasn't Columbus who discovered the atomic bomb, who was it then huh?

Blogger 49er16 said...
I've always liked Simmons idea of the NBA championship trophy reverting back to a Stanley Cup type of trophy called the Stern Cup.

Imagine what could go wrong if each of the players had a "day" with the David Stern Cup?

Blogger Murcy said...
wow... Hedo, Hedo, Hedo... it's good to see that after playing so well this season, you have some nice words for your organization http://blogs.thescore.com/tbj/2010/05/28/hedo-turkoglu-i-do-not-want-to-go-back-to-toronto/

Anonymous Czernobog said...
I can't wait for the league to change the cup into a golden colostomy bag when they rename it after stern after he passes away.

Blogger Will said...
Here's a pic of the illustrious Walter A Brown award. Good god, would it hurt them to polish it once in a while?

Blogger chris said...
Will: I think that's why they went to the abstract design for the Larry O'Brien trophy: it's so simple, it requires no thinking whatsoever and doesn't require putting up a plaque for each year!

(because the Stern button determines everything beforehand, right? :) )

Anonymous AK Dave said...

Rockets-Knicks was an awesome series that went 7 games and was one of the more entertaining Finals I can remember. Yes there was epic fail and a lot of free throws involved, not to mention a game 7 beat-down, but I'd trade that one for LA-ORL or SA-CLE or most of the garbage finals we've gotten this decade in a heartbeat.