BILL RUSSELL'S GREATEST VICTORY -- History of the NBA Finals Part 20
The 1968-1969 season features Bill Russell's greatest victory.
It is the summation of everything he had ever tried to do.
Elvin Hayes enters the league with the first pick in the draft. He's a San Diego Rocket.
I just assumed San Diego's first team was the Clippers until my brother pointed it out. He read all the Superbowl hubs and says that Jackie Smith actually dropped a tying touchdown, Eli Manning converted to David Tyree on 3rd and 5, not 4th and 20, and the Bills lost to Dallas in the first Superbowl 52-17, not 52-14, nor did Ferragamo throw to Rod Smith but McCutheons the halfback threw it...and it was also a halfback who threw to Golden Richards and not Staubach.
But he says everything else is pretty accurate.
He says I should be ashamed of myself and die.
I tell him I'm sorry...yet in my defense that's 5 inaccuracies in about 40,000 facts.
I'm like the Ozzie Smith of...fact-sayers or whatever the fuck they're called:)
Elvin Hayes one of the most graceful musclemen ever.
With a mix of finesse and strength, Hayes will take the LEAGUE SCORING TITLE as a rookie and be FOURTH IN REBOUNDS.
The second pick to Baltimore would be a great one, and someone Elvin Hayes would become allies with -- Wes Unseld.
Unseld would win not only the rookie-of-the-year......but the FREAKING LEAGUE MVP!!! THIS YEAR!!!
This is the first season that the New York Knicks would become anything.
In St. Louis's mid-decade resurgence, without Alex Hannum, their coach had been a guy named Red Holtzman.
Dick McGuire's Knicks were 15-22 this season as Holtzman takes over.
They go 28-17 for the rest of the season.
They had three rookies who risked laboring in the trenches -- Phi Jackson of North Dakota, Walt Frazier of Southern Illinois, and Bill Bradley of Princeton who was a Rhodes Scholar.
During this run they would also get Dave Debusschere from the Pistons for Walt Bellamy.
So the Knicks had a team all of a sudden, and their run would be something.
The Lakers meanwhile were spiraling out of control with their Los Angeles-idis.
Now that funky basketball stars were the big new thing in this funkadelic landscape of 1968 and 1969...the Lakers of Los Angeles TRULY were vulnerable.
Baylor and West are huge stars as it is...but now comes Wilt Chamberlain.
The Dark Knight (Bill Russell) officially had his Rogues Gallery.
All the guys that the Celtics had already thrashed and exposed...now saddling up together like butt-buddies to suck on Chamberlain.
Could aging Gotham be saved for an amazing 11th straight time now that Philly and L.A. had merged?
Would they even get that far now that Alex Hannum's protegee was mentoring the young Knicks?
So Bruce Wayne Jackie Brown Russell had alot to overcome, and we haven't even gotten to the fun part --
The Lakers were owned by one of the only GOOD TEAM OWNERS.
Jack Kent Cooke did everything he could to win, grow bigger, win, grow bigger, win, grow bigger.
Without the win...he didn't want to grow bigger. He moved somewhere else.
The Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Washington Redskins.
All had come a point when his way was being seriously hindered.
So he left it to them to fuck it up on their own terms, and continued on.
We've seen the AFC/NBL player...Bill Russell.
We've seen the AFC/NBL coach...Red Auerbach.
Well now meet the AFC/NBL owner...Jack Kent Cooke.
Like all owners, Cooke wanted to go to Los Angeles. That was HIS way of doing it his own way.
Which was to win.
No manipulation, just win.
Don't sink anything if you don't win, just go somewhere else.
The Redskins would win 3 titles with him later on in life, for he returns to NFL ownership in the late 70s.
Jack Kent Cooke takes over the Lakers from Previous Guy (that was his name, honest).
It happens in 1965.
This is why the Lakers now have purple and gold instead of the blue.
AFC owner, baby. He was out there.
So the Lakers are now about attempt their thing.
Yet the NBA had a problem.
As they tried to curb and contend against Russell and the ABA, they would pitch in by simply...opening up one expansion franchise after another.
Last year it was the Sonics and Clippers.
This year...the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns.
They thought that naturally giving Russell more opponents would lead to Russell...eventually...getting stopped.
They didn't understand that expansion teams WATER DOWN THE EXISTING OPPONENTS.
This will happen alot. The defending dynasty always goes down within a year, two years of every new team coming because of the bad asses the champion and every other good team fails to protect.
We'll watch this happen alot.
Right off the bat I'm thinking Rick Mahorn's departure from the Pistons.
B.J. Armstrong's departure from the Bulls.
So that didn't work.
Nor did it do anything but load the ABA with more guys with NBA experience and knowledge of a higher form of ball...making the ABA more legitimate.
To understand why I would have a problem with the ABA, is to understand...the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The creators had seen things like He-Man and She-Ra and Silverhawks and Ring Raiders and the list goes on and on.
They noticed something had not been done yet...samurai/ninjas.
But they didn't want to be offensive to Asians, something that would only be achieved by doing ALL THE NECESSARY RESEARCH.
They didn't want to do research.
They just wanted to do ninja stuff like Silverhawks did cyborgs, as the ABA just wanted to have basketball teams in places they'd make money, such as cities that didn't have them.
It is this scenario where you end up with a Ralph Nader.
Nader carves out a niche that does nothing but piss both sides off, the NCAA and the NBA, and all the votes that should be going to the NBA...are going to the ABA.
Ralph Nader will create a political scenario that becomes the equivalent of turning your samurai characters into turtles because it looks good and will dodge tons of real issues...but if all it's going to lead to is giving them Italian names and blond surfer personalities in the end...why the fuck are you here?
Welcome to the 1969 playoffs.
Our NBA front office has now added yet another fucking game to the first round, which Russell no doubt kept in mind. And he should of. Who else would such a tiny little slight be meant for? What's two extra games going to do in terms of profit that a hundred aren't?
In the first round, Boston beats Philly 4-1 while the Brand New New York Knicks sweep Baltimore.
In the west, as the Hawks have now moved to Atlanta and are in need of making St. Louis regret defending their rights as fans, so they're now good enough to make it to the Western Division Finals by beating San Diego 4-2.
Meanwhile the Lakers are met with a scare.
San Francisco is in town, and they take the first two at the Forum.
Chamberlain, West and Baylor are now 0-2.
But they go to San Francisco and take Game 3 and 4 in a rout.
Game 5 back in L.A. was a five-point victory. Boy you play it close.
And then they beat the living crap out of them back at Alameda.
So it's Boston vs. New York.........and L.A. vs. Atlanta.
Jerry West has been the key thus far, and Atlanta will only take Game 3. The Lakers win in five, but at least Kerner and gang can say they tried.
Meanwhile New York really hangs in there after losing the first two in Boston, but the Celtics win in six.
It comes down to clutch time in both game 4 and 6, the Knicks with a chance to tie things up if they convert.
Instead of 2-2 and 3-3, they would become 3-1 and 4-2.
Celtics return to the Finals.
It's Lakers vs. Celtics once once once again.
And this time they have Chamberlain.
They go to L.A.
Russell decides to not double-team West whose scoring average in these plays is almost 50.
West dominates, and Chamberlain hits a shot in Game 1 with 23 seconds left to put them up by two and they win.
West and Baylor dominate Game 2, so the Lakers go up 2-0 in L.A.
Back to Boston.
Russell double-teams Jerry West.
Game 3, Celtics rout.
Then in Game 4, the Lakers look like they're going to win.
With 4 seconds left, up by 1, Baylor's got the ball...and STEPS OUT OF BOUNDS ACCIDENTALLY!!!
WHAT THE FUCK?!!!!
So there's 3 seconds left...the Celtics run a play...
Sam Jones comes off a triple pick.
He gets it, he puts it up...the horn sounds....it rattles...IN!!!!!!
Like Allan Houston's shot against Miami.
The Celtics win at the buzzer and the fans almost collapse the arena.
But the Lakers and Celtics trade the next two games on their home court.
Now it's Game 7 in Los Angeles.
Jack Kent Cooke has 10,000 purple-and-gold balloons waiting to come down.
The USC band is ready to come out and play "Happy Days Are Here Again".
Russell knows all this because his ballboy hands him one of the many fliers urging the fans to stick around for fun afterwards.
And so Russell gives them the game of the century.
It's still tied in the final seconds.
They run the same kind of play they did for Sam Jones, only this time it's big Don Nelson...
Don Nelson puts up an attempt that is even funkier then Sam Jones's. It would go take a bounce that could not have been luckier, going straight up in the air about 10 feet...and landing DIRECTLY down into the basket.
The old, creaky Celtics had majestically come through.
108-106 the final here in Game 7 in L.A.
The Boston Celtics, in Russell's greatest victory, were the 1969 NBA World Champions.
Russell could barely speak during the champagne celebration in the visitors lockerroom. This had been a particular brand of sweet.
And it was the last game that Bill Russell ever played in the National Basketball Association.