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Dan Shaughnessy

Old Garden parties

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / June 17, 2008

Paved paradise and put up a parking lot. That's what the Celtics did with the sacred space where they won nine NBA championships.

Winning a title on their home court for the first time since 1986, the Celtics crushed the Lakers in Game 6 of the Finals last night, 131-92, for crown No. 17.

But nine of Boston's 17 flags were clinched in the old Boston Garden, which was torn down after TD Banknorth Garden (which has had multiple corporate names) was finished in 1995.

Nothing has been done with the empty space where all the great things happened. It's a parking lot for players and VIPs.

Here's the rundown on the first nine NBA titles won in Boston.

  • 1. April 13, 1957. Game 7. Celtics 125, Hawks 123 (double overtime). In many ways, the first one was the best one. Tom Heinsohn, whose greatness has been largely forgotten in his new career as a cartoonish television analyst, scored 37 points and snatched 23 rebounds in the finale. Bet he got some Tommy Points for that one. Fellow rookie Bill Russell chipped in with 19 points, 32 rebounds, and 5 blocks. The crowd was 13,909 (a magic number in Boston sports lore) and the winners' playoff shares were $1,681 per man.

  • 2. April 9, 1960. Game 7. Celtics 122, Hawks 103. Not much drama in this one. Ed Macauley, the man Boston traded for the rights to Russell, was coach of the Hawks. The big story of these playoffs was Russell outdueling MVP/Rookie of the Century Wilt Chamberlain in the first round (notice how these early titles were won in April? The Celtics didn't start their 2008 playoff run until April 20, more than eight weeks ago).

  • 3. April 11, 1961. Game 5. Celtics 121, Hawks 112. Bill Sharman's last game. Red Auerbach claimed, "This is the greatest team ever assembled," after the clincher and he had a good case. Nine players on the team had their numbers retired by the Celtics, and seven are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Counting Red and owner Walter Brown, there are nine Hall of Famers in the 1960-61 Celtic team photo. Let's see Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant top that.

  • 4. April 18, 1962. Game 7. Celtics 110, Lakers 107 (overtime). LA's Frank Selvy had a chance to win this one in regulation, but his shot rolled off the rim. "It could have been a Bill Buckner game for me," says Cousy, who was supposed to be covering Selvy. "I'd have gotten the blame." Frank Ramsey, Jim Loscutoff, Tom Sanders, and Heinsohn all fouled out, but Russell kept things together with 30 points and 40 rebounds in 53 minutes.

  • 5. April 26, 1964. Game 5. Celtics 105, Warriors 99. Too easy. It was Ramsey's last game, the first championship without Cousy, and the sixth straight for Auerbach and Friends. It was the first Russell-Chamberlain Finals matchup, and it wasn't close. Wilt scored 30 with 27 rebounds in the finale, but it wasn't enough to beat Russell.

  • 6. April 25, 1965. Game 5. Celtics 129, Lakers 96. The Celtics opened the fourth quarter with a 20-0 run. They outscored the Lakers, 72-48, in the second half. Russell later wrote, "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." Red lit the cigar early in the fourth and tossed a fistful of monogrammed stogies into the crowd behind the Celtics bench. It was the first championship after the death of Brown.

  • 7. April 28, 1966. Game 7. Celtics 95, Lakers 93. Red's last game on the bench. Boston's eighth straight championship. Massachusetts Governor John Volpe lit Red's cigar with Boston leading by 6 and 16 seconds left. Russell played all 48 minutes, scoring 25 with 32 rebounds. Russell tossed Auerbach into the showers and Red emerged with his cigar still lit. When Auerbach got to his car after the game, he had a parking ticket.

  • 8. June 12, 1984. Game 7. Celtics 111, Lakers 102. Categorically, the worst moment of Pat Riley's basketball life. Cedric Maxwell told his teammates, "Hop on my back, boys," then carried the Celtics to championship No. 15 with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists. This was the last year of the 2-2-1-1-1 format, and everyone was weary from coast-to-coast travel. In the cramped locker room (Mayor Ray Flynn and his son were there), Red snarled, "You guys were talking about the Laker dynasty. Here's the only dynasty. Right here!" Nancy Parish celebrated by threatening to gouge out the eyeballs of Globe beat writer Dan Shaughnessy.

  • 9. June 8, 1986. Game 6. Celtics 114, Rockets 97. This one made the Celtics 50-1 at home for the season. Larry Bird had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists as the crowd hooted Ralph Sampson (4 for 12 with zero free throws). It was 87-61 after three. Bill Walton's best moment in Boston. A true Garden party. Once again, Red made the "best ever" claim and again he was probably correct.

    Those are the old memories of the old building. The Finals history of the new building was first written in June of 2008.

    Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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