1. NBA FINALS, April 13, 1957, BOSTON CELTICS vs. ST. LOUIS HAWKS, Boston Garden
During the second OT, long-legged Celtics rookie Bill Russell disentangled himself from the basket support after missing a layup, ran upcourt and blocked a shot by the Hawks' Jack Coleman. "Greatest play I ever saw," said Tom Heinsohn. Established stars Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman made only five of 40 shots, but the kids ( Russell had 19 points and 32 rebounds, Heinsohn 37 and 23 rebounds) led the way to a 125-123 victory.
2. NBA FINALS, May 5, 1969, BOSTON CELTICS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS, the Forum
Before the game the Celtics' John Havlicek got his hands on a script that described plans for a postgame Lakers celebration, including a rendition of Happy Days Are Here Again to be played by the USC band. When the Celtics walked out, they saw 5,000 balloons suspended in nets from the ceiling. Talk about the best-laid plans. Don Nelson's jump shot, which bounded off the back rim straight up into the air and down into the basket, was a key shot in a 108-106 Celtics' win.
3. EASTERN DIVISION FINALS, April 15, 1965, BOSTON CELTICS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS, Boston Garden
With the Celtics clinging to a 110-109 lead—coach Red Auerbach had lit his traditional victory cigar when it was 110-103—the Sixers' Hal Greer tried to inbound the ball to Chet Walker under his own basket. But John Havlicek anticipated the play and was immortalized with Johnny Most's gravelly voiced call: "Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! It's all over!"
4. NBA FINALS, May 8, 1970, NEW YORK KNICKS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS, Madison Square Garden
True, the game wasn't really close, with the Knicks dominating 113-99 behind Walt Frazier, who scored 36 points and handed out 19 assists. But there's probably not a basketball fan alive who hasn't seen the film of Willis Reed hobbling out on an injured right thigh just before tip-off. Once he made his first two jump shots, he really wasn't that effective, but the morale boost jump-started the Knicks.
5. WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS, May 19, 1990, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS vs. SAN ANTONIO SPURS, Memorial Coliseum, Portland
Call it Willis Reed Redux. Though the hoops world in general doesn't remember Blazers center Kevin Duckworth emerging from the locker room to start the game after missing the previous six with a broken hand, it's remembered in Portland. The Duck provided the emotional lift, but the Blazers, who had trailed 97-90 with 2:32 left in regulation, needed five free throws from Clyde Drexler in the final 26.2 seconds of OT to prevail 108-105.
6. EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS, May 22, 1988, BOSTON CELTICS VS. ATLANTA HAWKS, Boston Garden