"Greatest Game Ever Played" in 1976 Showcases NBA at 65, 6-6-11
June 4, 1976, there are arguments that can be made that this game is better than this game, and so on and so on. There is little doubt by most NBA historians that the "Greatest Game Ever Played" in the NBA was and still is the triple-overtime thriller between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns held on a Friday night and early Saturday morning during Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals. Phoenix was given the the nickname "Sunderella Suns" because they were viewed as a Cinderella NBA story. They finished their regular season with a mediocre 42-40 record but made its way to the championship round vs. the leagues most celebrated franchise the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics won the historical Game-5 128-126 (3OT) and eventually won the series 4-2. The background of this game and this series is historical, and that adds to the mystic and legend to the entire event.
This is the only NBA Finals series to end on the day (6-6-76) that the NBA was founded on. The NBA was founded on June 6, 1946 in New York City at the old Hotel Commodore that is known now as the Grand Hyatt NY.
Game-4 of the series was an overtime affair won by the young upstart Suns 109-107. This tied the series at 2-2 with pivotal Game 5 to be played at the old Boston Garden. The game was played on June 2, 1976. This marked the first-time that any NBA game of any kind was played during the month of June. Now the NBA Finals has branded the month of June with its championship series.
The Suns knew that they had to win Game 5 because they didn't want to travel to Phoenix for Game 6, and then come to back to Boston for Game 7. The Celtics were the storied franchise that won 8-consecutive titles between 1959-66. They were looking for their 13 NBA Championship and they were confident that Phoenix would not come into "The Garden" and beat them on their iconic parquet floor.
Game-5 June 4, 1976 the second game-ever played during the month of June. The Celtics took an early 36-18 to end the first quarter. The Suns would battle the Celtics, the Boston fans, and the heat of the Boston Garden that wasn't air-conditioned.
Jo Jo White led Boston with 33 points and 9 assists. He would be named The 1976 Finals MVP.
Rickey Sobers and Paul Westphal led Phoenix with 25 points apiece.
The Celtics were down 109-110 in the second-overtime when John Havlicek made an incredible shot with :01 second left on the game clock. The time expired and the Celtic fans stormed the court but there was time remaining on the clock and the game wasn't officially over. The Celtics took the lead 110-109. Boston was issued a technical foul free-throw made by Jo Jo White because Paul Westphal signaled for a time-out. Phoenix didn't have any timeouts but under NBA rules they were allowed to move the ball from under their basket to half-court to set up for a higher percentage shot.
With the Celtics leading 112-110 after the technical free-throw Gar Heard made "The First-Shot Heard Around the World" (Michael Jordan the second in 1998) when he sank a turn-a-round jump-shot with time expiring to send the game into a third-overtime 112-112.
Boston would prevail in the third-overtime and win the game 128-126.
Game-6 June 6, 1976 the Boston Celtics traveled to Phoenix to beat a deflated Suns team 87-80 to capture their 13th NBA Championship. 6-6-76 was also the 30th Anniversary date of when the NBA was founded.
The NBA will be embarking on another historical milestone on June 6, 2011 when the league celebrates its 65th Anniversary. It will be a day to reflect on the world's greatest basketball league at it turns the ripe-age of 65. Just like a fine wine the NBA gets better with time.
The NBA announced 11-days later on June 17, 1976 that there would be an NBA/ABA merger. The league changed and moved forward to the more modern game that we have today.
The NBA/ABA merger will also be celebrating its 35th Anniversary on 6-17-11.
6-6-11 the NBA turns 65 during NBHHCM (National Basketball & Hip-Hop Culture Month) 2K11.