On this day 57 years ago, Bill Russell scored 30 points but recorded even more rebounds.
Russell hauled in 40 boards, tying the record he set two years previous in Game 2 of the 1960 NBA Finals for the most rebounds by an individual player in an NBA Finals game.
But it gets even better: not only did he do it in the Finals, it was in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
It was the second Finals meeting between the Boston Celtics and the Lakers in four years, the first since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles. A back and forth series sent it to Boston all squared up at three with the championship on the line.
The game was tight all the way through, but Boston ultimately prevailed, 110-107 in overtime, to win the organization’s four-straight championships and fifth in six seasons.
Contributions from Sam Jones and Frank Ramsey were important, notching 27 and 23, respectively, as the only other two Celtics who scored in double figures, and Bob Cousy helped facilitate, dishing nine dimes. But no one had near the impact Russell had.
Elgin Baylor was the biggest thorn in Boston’s side with 41 points and 22 rebounds of his own that would have surely taken the headlines had his team emerged in overtime. Jerry West added 35 points of his own, and Frank Selvy rounded out LA’s double-digit scorers with 10. Jim Krebs and Rudy LaRusso nabbed 13 and 11 boards, respectively.
1961-62 NBA Season
The Celtics finished with the league’s best regular season record of 60-20 and secured the top seed in the Eastern Division. The Lakers went 54-26, good enough for the No. 1 seed in the West. The Philadelphia Warriors, Syracuse Nationals, Cincinnati Royals and Detroit Pistons rounded out the playoffs.
The Warriors and Pistons got through the Nationals and Royals to face Boston and Los Angeles for spots in the NBA Finals. The Lakers dispatched Detroit in six games, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and dropping two before finishing the job in Game 6, 123-117, with 38-point performances from Baylor and West. It took the Celtics seven games to get by Wilt Chamberlain and Philadelphia, and it was almost as narrow as possible. Boston eked out Game 7, 109-107, with Russell and Tom Heinsohn putting up double-doubles and Jones scoring 28 points of his own.
Boston would take Game 1 of the Finals, 122-108, but Los Angeles would respond, stealing Game 2, 129-122, to take a tie back west. The Lakers continued their momentum, squeaking another close one, 117-115, in Game 3. But the Celtics avenged their home loss in Game 2, taking one in California to even the series, 2-2. The Lakers took Game 5, 126-121, as Baylor scored 61, along with 22 rebounds, and shot 17-of-19 from the free-throw line.
With their backs against the wall, the Celtics denied the Lakers the opportunity to win a championship on their home floor, defeating LA 119-105 in Game 6 with a balanced attack of six double-digit scorers. Then in Game 7, Russell’s record-tying performance on the glass helped Boston secure yet another NBA Championship for the storied franchise.
Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers and Celtics would play in seven NBA Finals against one another from 1959-69 (1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969), with the first meeting coming while the Lakers were still stationed in Minnesota. In total, the two franchises have met in the NBA Finals 12 times, with the others coming in 1984, 1985, 1987, 2008 and 2010.
Boston has won nine of the 12 NBA Finals series between the two. It wasn’t until 1985 that Los Angeles finally defeated its nemesis in the last round of the playoffs, losing the first eight. But the Lakers have won three of the last four, including the most recent showdown in 2010.
In total, Boston has 17 NBA championships in 21 NBA Finals appearances, while the Lakers have 16 titles in 31 NBA Finals showings.
In the 1962 NBA Finals, Russell averaged 22.9 points and 27.0 rebounds per game, both tops on his team. It was one of many outstanding performances he gave Boston during his 13-year NBA career. He ended with 11 NBA championships, five MVP awards, 11 All-NBA selections, 12 All-Star Games and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. For his career, Russell averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest.