Here are 10 things you absolutely had to know about the storied playoff history between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, the NBA’s two remaining charter franchises.
1. All-Time Record
The Celtics and Knicks are meeting for the 14th time in playoff hyistory. Boston won seven of the previous 13, including a 2-0 win in a curious 1954 round robin with the Syracuse Nats. Overall Boston leads the series 34-27.
2. Common Foes
That’s second all-time to the 18th playoff meetings between Boston and the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers. They have met 19 times, though just twice since 1985.
3. The First Time
Boston faced New York for the first time in 1951, when the Knicks beat the Celtics, 2-0 behind Max Zaslofsky, a guard from Brooklyn and St. John’s, who averaged 17.9 points a game.
4. Knicks in the 50s
The Knicks won the first three playoff meetings — in 1951, 1952 and 1953 — and advanced to the NBA Finals each year, losing all three times.
5. Eventual Champs
Four times the winner of the Celtics-Knicks playoff series has gone on to win the NBA Championship — Boston in 1969, 1974 and 1984 and New York in 1973.
6. Seventh Heaven
Twice the series has gone seven games, in 1973 and 1984. The Celtics had never lost a Game 7 before 1973, but the Knicks marched into Boston Garden and won 94-78 behind Walt Frazier.
7. Larry Legend
The Knicks pushed the Celtics to seven games in 1984, but Boston dominated the finale and won 121-104 behind Larry Bird, who averaged a career post-season high 27.5 points that year.
8. King of the Court
Knicks forward Bernard King averaged 29.1 points per game for the Knicks in the 1984 series, the highest single series scoring average in the history of the rivalry.
9. The Last Time
The Celtics swept the Knicks in four straight in a 2011 first round meeting. Before that, they last met in the playoffs back in the spring of 1990, when Paul Pierce was 12 years old and rooting for the Lakers; Carmelo Anthony was in kindergarten.
10. Knicks Break Streak
In 1990, the Knicks rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five series and won Game 5 to break a 26-game losing streak over six years at Boston Garden.
A few days aqo, I was clearing out a few things in my aunt’s basement when I stumbled upon a New York State license plate. Not just any New York license plate, a NY WORLD’S FAIR 64 plate with orange letters on a black background.
1964. The year the World’s Fair came to New York. Conjures up memories of class trips and family visits. Exhibits like General Motors, Johnson’s Wax and the State of Illinois. And Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Unisphere, shown below.
I became a teen-ager that year, entered eighth grade and discovered girls, not necessarily in that order. In 1964, the nation was dealing with the pain of JFK’s assassination. LBJ was President. The Civil Rights Act was signed.
In 1964, a gallon of gas cost 25 cents, and postage stamps were a nickel. My Fair Lady was the best picture and The Munsters premiered on CBS-TV.
The Beatles came on the scene in 1964. A huge earthquake rocked Alaska. Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco were born in 1964; so were Sandra Bullock, Nicholas Cage and Lenny Kravitz.
End of A Dynasty
In sports, the great Yankee dynasty was coming to an end….although few saw it coming. The Yankees would win their fifth straight American League before losing to St. Louis and a gritty Bob Gibson in the seventh game of the World Series in October, 1964. All that after Mickey Mantle’s walk-off homer in Game Three gave the Yankees a 2-1 win…and a lead in the series.
The Mets, meanwhile, had a new home, Shea Stadium, right next to the World’s Fair in Flushing. Phillies’ outfielder Johnny Callison hit a three-run home run to lift the National League to an All-Star win at Shea. And in September, the Phillies would blow the pennant, blowing a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games remaining.
The Giants, tumbled to a 2-10-2 record in 1964, this after winning five conference titles — and no championships — in the previous six years. The Cleveland Browns demolished the Giants, 52-20, on a rainy Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the final game of the regular season and went on to beat the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, for the NFL championship.
The Jets didn’t fare much better at 5-8-1. Another New York team, the Buffalo Bills, would defeat San Diego 20-7 for the AFL title.
And while the Knickerbockers (last) and Rangers (next to last) were languishing, the Boston Celtics were in the midst of an eight-year championship run. And the Toronto Maple Leafs were winning their third straight Stanley Cup.
UCLA won its first NCAA title in 1964; the Bruins beat Duke in the final. And Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide were national champions in football.
1964 was an Olympic year, and Billy Mills made his mark in the Summer Games in Tokyo when he became the only American ever to win the 10,000 meters. Bob Hayes won the 100-meter race, and Joe Frazier won gold in the heavyweight boxing division.
Bill Russell and Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics combined to win seven NBA Finals against the Lakers.
Two years ago, the SportsLifer previewed the 2008 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers with a look back at their history in championships matchups.
Well the Celtics won that series in six games, their 17th NBA title overall and first in 22 years. Paul Pierce was named Finals MVP.
The Lakers responded in 2009, returning to the Finals for the sixth time in 10 years. Kobe Bryant led the way as Los Angeles beat Orlando in five games to won its 15th championship.
Now the two clubs who have combined for more than half of all NBA championships are meeting for the 11th time, with the Celtics holding a 9-2 advantage in previous meetings.
They’re the Lennon and McCartney of basketball, the Rogers and Astaire of hoops, the Batman and Robin of the hardwood.
They’re the Celtics and the Lakers. These two trademark NBA fantasies have combined for 30 championships, 16 by the Celtics.
They’ve clashed 10 times in the NBA Finals, beginning in 1959 when the Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers in four straight to start Boston’s run of eight straight titles.
The Celtics won the first eight matchups; four went the full seven games. The Lakers took the final two, the last in 1987, each in six games.
In 1962, Frank Selvy of Los Angeles had an open jumper with a chance to beat the Celtics in Game Seven. He missed and Boston won in overtime behind 30 points and 40 rebounds from Bill Russell. In that Series Laker forward Elgin Baylor scored an NBA playoff record 61 points to lift his team to a Game 5 win at the Boston Garden. However, with a chance to win the championship on their home floor, the Lakers lost Game Six, and the combatants returned to the Boston Garden for the finale.
The following year, Boston’s Bob Cousy dribbled out the clock in the final game of his historic career as the Celtics once again triumphed, this time in six games.
In 1966, the Celtics held on for a 95-93 win in Game Seven to complete their run of eight straight titles. Boston coach Red Auerbach retired after the game, with Russell assuming player-coach duties.
The Celtics won another seven-game showdown with the Lakers in 1969, although Jerry West, right, was the MVP of the Series, the only player from a losing team to win the NBA Finals MVP. West, whose 29.1 playoff scoring average ranks third to Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson, had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in Game Seven, but Boston prevailed 108-106 at the Los Angeles Forum.
Lakers’ owner Jack Kent Cooke was already planning his victory celebration as he ordered thousands of balloons suspended from the Forum rafters.
The Celtics and Lakers resumed their rivalry 15 years later as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, right, squared off for the first time in the playoffs. And the Celtics again won in seven games, Bird averaging 27.4 points and 14 rebounds per game to win MVP honors.
The next year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the Finals MVP and the Lakers finally beat Boston, 4-2, after eight straight playoff losses. And in 1987, Magic Johnson was the Finals MVP, his “junior sky hook” proving to be the turning point of the series, giving the Lakers a 3-1 lead on the way to a six-game triumph.
And they haven’t played since. The Celtics haven’t won an NBA title since 1986, The Lakers won the title again in 1988, beating the Detroit Pistons. Los Angeles last won in 2002, completing a three-peat with a sweep of the New Jersey Nets.
Years from now, when sports historians look back on 2008, they’ll note that the four major championships were won by teams that have been around for awhile….a long, long while.
In October, the Philadelphia Phillies, who have been a National League member since 1883, won the second World Series in their history, the first since 1980.
The New York Giants, who have been an NFL franchise since 1925 (only the Bears and the Packers have been around longer), won their third Super Bowl and seventh overall NFL title in February.
Earlier this year, the Detroit Red Wings, one of the NHL’s Original Six and a team whose history dates back to 1926, won their 11th Stanley Cup.
And finally the Boston Celtics, along with the Knicks the only two remaining charter franchises of the NBA starting in 1946, captured their 17th title in June when they knocked off the Lakers.
The year that ushered in an area of expansion in North American professional was 1960, when the American Football League was created and the Dallas Cowboys joined the NFL.
Baseball began its growth from 16 teams the following year, while the NBA had only eight teams in 1960. The NHL featured the Original Six until the 1967-68 season when the league expanded to 12 teams.
Today there are 32 NFL teams, and 30 major league baseball, NBA and NHL franchises.
You have to go back to 1976 to discover the last time that four teams — the Reds, Steelers, Celtics and Canadiens — in existence in 1960 won championships in the same season..
Fifty years ago, two events changed the landscape of professional sports in America forever.
In 1958, the Dodgers and the Giants left New York behind, kicking off baseball’s presence on the West Coast and ushering in an era of expansion in baseball and eventually other sports. Shock waves were felt from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and from New York to San Francisco.
Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, frustrated in his attempts to get a new ballpark to replace Ebbets Field, decided to pick up and head West, taking owner Horace Stoneham and the Giants with him.
Fifty years later, Brooklyn has not forgotten. When O’Malley was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in July, some boos were heard throughout the Cooperstown crowd. Walter O’Malley may just be the most reviled figure in New York sports history.
Brooklyn native and the radio voice of the Dodgers Charley Steiner once observed: “Walter O’Malley was the guy in the black hat who led the wagon train out of town.”
Later that year, the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts staged a dramatic overtime game in Yankee Stadium that symbolized the rise of the NFL and the establishment of professional football as America’s leading pastime.
The Colts prevailed behind Johnny Unitas, 23-17, in what remains to this day the only overtime championship game in NFL history. A nationally televised NBC audience was captivated by the drama, capped by Alan Ameche’s winning touchdown, shown at right.
Some refer to it as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” It may not have been the greatest….but it may have been the most important game NFL history, for it signalled the rise and popularity of the sport in the national psyche.
Year of Dynasties
1958 was also a year of dynasties, past, present and future.
The Colts won the NFL championship that year, and would repeat in 1959, again knocking off the Giants.
But the real dynasty was rising in Green Bay, where Vince Lombardi, who left the Giants as an assistant coach following the 1958 playoff, led the Packers to a 7-5 record in 1959. A year later the Packers were in the NFL championship game; two years later they were NFL champions, starting a run of five NFL crowns in seven seasons, including the first two Super Bowls ever played.
In baseball, the New York Yankees, in the midst of winning 14 American League pennants and nine World Series in 16 years, rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Braves and win the World Series.
The Braves had beaten the Yankees in seven games in 1957, only to have the Yankees return the favor in 1958, to the delight of Casey Stengel, above, here with Braves manager Fred Haney following the seventh game.
Although the St. Louis Hawks won their only NBA title in 1958. defeating the Celtics in six games, Boston was on the verge of a major roll that started the following year. Beginning in 1959, the Celtics won eight straight NBA titles and 10 of 11 championships overall, a standard unapproached in professional sports history.
Finally, in 1958, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup for the third straight year, en route to an NHL record five straight titles. Les Habitants have won 23 championships; only the Yankees with 26 have more.
Incredibly, no Boston Celtic has ever won the NBA scoring title
The Celtics, along with the New York Knicks, are the only original NBA teams dating back to the Basketball Association of America (BAA) which began in 1946. The Philadelphia Warriors, who moved to California to become the Golden State Warriors in 1962, were also part of that inaugural BAA season.
Just before the start of the 1948-49 season, four teams from the National Basketball League (NBL) joined the BAA — the Fort Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons, Indianapolis Jets, Minneapolis (now Los Angeles) Lakers and Rochester Royals (now Sacramento Kings).
Before the 1949 season, the six remaining NBL teams — Anderson (Ind.), Denver, Sheboygan (Wis.), Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers), Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now Atlanta Hawks), and Waterloo (Iowa) — joined the BAA, along with the new Indianapolis Olympians, and became the National Basketball Association.
As for the two other original teams, the Knicks have had one scoring champion, Bernard King in 1985. The Warriors have had a number of scoring champs, including Joe Fulks, right, in 1947, Wilt Chamberlain (6), Neil Johnson (3) and Paul Arizin (2). However the Warriors have not had a scoring champ since Rick Barry averaged 35.6 points per game in 1967.
BTW, Lakers who led the league in scoring were George Mikan, three times with Minneapolis beginning in 1949, Jerry West in 1970 and Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.
Related NBA reading: Celtics-Lakers Would Be Historic NBA Final
Do the math. The Boston Celtics have won 16 NBA titles, the Los Angeles (nee Minneapolis) Lakers 14. When the 62nd NBA Finals are completed in a few weeks, the Celtics and the Lakers will have combined for 31 titles, exactly half of the 62 championships. This is their 11th meeting in the finals, another NBA record.
What about the other sports?. Who are the champions of championships?
It starts with the New York Yankees, the king of champions. The Yankees have won 26 World Series, the most in any of the North American team sports. That’s more than double the number of championships won by the St. Louis Cardinals (10) and Philadelphia-Oakland A’s (9).
In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers have each won five Super Bowls. The Green Packers have won nine total NFL titles and the Chicago Bears 7 since the first NFL championship game in 1933.
In hockey, the Montreal Canadiens, Les Habitants, are far away the ring-leaders with 23 Stanley Cups. The Habs are followed by the Toronto Arenas-St. Pats-Maple Leafs with 13 and the Detroit Red Wings with 11, including this year’s Stanley Cup.
UCLA has won 11 NCAA basketball championships and Kentucky seven since the advent of the NCAA tournament in 1939. Kentucky also won a national championship in 1933.
Notre Dame is the king of college football with 13 national championships, including nine since the polls were first instituted in 1936. In the so-called “early years” of college football (1869-1935), Yale won 18 championships and Princeton 17. All told, Alabama and USC have each won 10 total football championships, seven apiece since 1936.