The celebration began with 26 seconds left in the evening. Larry Bird came running toward Dennis Johnson at the top of the foul circle in front of the Boston Celtics ' bench and the two players stretched their right arms into the air and jumped.
Hello, America. Take a look at the new, old and perpetual world champions of basketball.
The Celtics had done it again.
"Pow!" Larry Bird said to Dennis Johnson as they exchnaged high fives.
"Pow!" Dennis Johnson replied.
There were a few finishing touches to be added to the 111-102 victory in the seventh, winner-take-all game with the Los Angeles Lakers last night at the Garden, but there was no more doubt about what would happen. The Celts had done what they had said they would do all along.
"We're going to win the world championship," Bird had predicted as far back as two weeks ago, minutes after the Celtics had lost by 33 points and trailed in the series, 2-1. "This was just a step on the way."
"It's over," reserve forward M.L. Carr had said as recently as Monday night. "If the Lakers want to win a championship, they're going to have to play in a summer rec league. We're going to win this one."
Call it self-confidence. Call it arrogance. Call it whatever you want, but the Celtics flapped and fumed and fueled their way to this championship with their own mouths.
They yelled at the Lakers. They yelled at the press. They even yelled at themselves. No team in recent memory in any sport - not the L.A.-Oakland Raiders, not the Oakland A's, not the Big Bad Bruins - ever talked a better game and then went out and played it.
No matter what happened, these Celtics believed in themselves. That was their strength.
Down 1-0 in the series, trailing by two at the close of regulation? No problem, Gerald Henderson will steal the ball and tie the game. We'll win in overtime.
Down 2-1 in the series, trailing by 11 in the second half? No problem. Kevin McHale will knock Kurt Rambis into South America with a diving forearm. The entire game will be changed again. We'll win again in overtime.
Heat in the fifth game? Lovely. The Lakers won't have a chance. They'll be spun dizzy and stupid. No celebration after the sixth game, the Lakers beginning to run again? Forget it. Winning at home will be a lot more fun.
"Too bad we didn't win in L.A.," Cedric Maxwell said. "I figured on playing a little blackjack in Las Vegas at night. I already had the reservations."
He and Carr somehow were the masters of ceremony to it all. Larry Bird was the star, doing the rallying around all green and white flags on the floor. Max and M.L. were the chatters, the disturbers.
"Choke," Maxwell said to James Worthy and the Lakers in that fourth game, putting his hand to his throat and never denying what the motion meant.
Who says and does things like that in professional sport? Who? He was treating the NBA finals as if they were some sort of league playoffs between two high schools that hate each other. Is that something that any other player would do?
Probably one. M.L. Carr.
"This team was going to do what it had to do," M.L. Carr said. "If it meant out-shooting 'em, we'd out-shoot 'em. If it meant out-rebounding 'em, we'd out-rebound 'em. If meant out-fighting 'em, we'd out-fight 'em.
"This team would do what it had to do."
Bird - the unanimous MVP - was a starting point of everything. When he was going badly, he still kept going. He kept fighting, rolling, coming up with more rebounds than a man his size possibly should grab. When he was going well, the Celtics were flying.
He brought all the parts of his game into focus. He shot, he was on the boards, he passed, he edged into the passing lanes for little, sneaky deflections. When there seemed to be trouble in the house, he screamed.
"Played like sissies," was his most memorable quote after the third game.
"My teammates have to get me the ball," was his second most memorable quote after the sixth game. "If they get me the ball, we'll win it."
They got him the ball. The Celtics won it.
"Everyone just did his part," M.L. Carr said in the happy locker room. "Whatever you had to do, you did. K.C. Jones called me this afternoon and told me I was going to be the first guard off the bench for this game. I was ready. I was going to do what I was going to do."
The sum - as Celtics tradition always has said it should be - was larger than the major parts.
There was Robert Parish, silent and unsmiling, latched onto the goggles of Lakers' center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second half of the series. Headaches? Maybe the biggest one Kareem had was the man called The Chief. There was Dennis Johnson, criticized for his shooting, for his defense, for his personality in the first half of the series. He was shooting well, defending Magic Johnson into a haze, smiling at the end.
Gerald Henderson - Henderson stole the ball! He also shot without fear. Whenever needed. There was Scott Wedman, off the bench, hitting jumpers until he was injured. There was Danny Ainge, hitting his stride in the second and seventh games. There was Quinn Buckner, rolling in for defensive minutes. There was Kevin McHale, hero at home, bumbler on the road.
There was Max.
After Bird and D.J. did their sloppy high fives, Maxwell went to the middle of the court with M.L. They went into a routine as choreographed as a Solid Gold special. Maxwell leaped. M.L. leaped.
"Pow!" Max said.
"Pow," M.L. returned.
- #05 (Walton)
- #08 (Wedman)
- #12 (Sichting)
- 1971-72 Lakers
- 2007-08 Scores
- Banner 17
- Grassy Knoll Network
- Green Mile
- Larry & Magic
- NBA Scoreboard
- Russell v. Chamberlain
- Walton Gang (1977)