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Near the end of the overtime, with Auerbach waving his rolled-up program wildly, the Celtics had another shot at winning. Sharman again took it, that wonderful little jumper of his that had hit the front rim at the end of regulation play. He hit the front rim again. Double overtime.
That overtime, like the first, is a blur, except for the final second. I saw something then that is as clear to me now as it was 23 years ago. The Celtics seemingly had the game won, with a two-point lead, one second to go and no time-outs left for either team. Alex Hannum, the playing coach of the Hawks, took the ball out of bounds under his own basket and threw it the length of the court. His notion was to strike the far backboard and have the ball carom back to Pettit, who was all alone, standing perhaps 10 feet from the basket. With any decent rebound he could put it up easily, tie the game and send it into a third overtime.
The rebound was not only decent, it was terrifyingly perfect. Pettit had the ball with all the time in the world. I glanced at Auerbach, whose jaw had dropped. I looked back to Pettit, who was just about to shoot. I remember thinking, "He's surprised."
Bob Pettit, one of the greatest all-stars in the history of the NBA, took a 10-footer. He missed. The siren sounded. There was bedlam.
I raced to touch someone, something, to offer my fingertips in congratulations. White Celtic shirts bobbed about. Fearful of being trampled, I retreated to the sideline. I know I was weeping; it is my tendency.
At 7 p.m. I went back to the Bradford, filled with beer and joy. As I waited for the elevator, it dawned on me: the Celtics had won the seventh and final game by the same score, 125-123, that they had lost the first game and also in double overtime.
Excited by this amazing discovery, I raced up the six flights of stairs, impatient with the slow elevators, to get to Libby with the news. The room was empty and in order, strangely so in view of her untidiness. On her side of the bed, on her pillow, I found a note, written in pencil on Bradford Hotel stationery. It is a note that I have to this day.
"Dear heart," it began, which was an expression I'd never heard her use, "I am extremely, extremely happy for you. I have gone back to college with mixed feelings. I'll write you a long letter and will tell you everything. My congratulations to you and Red."
As it turned out, Libby's note, which I read and reread, standing in the middle of Room 620 of the Bradford Hotel, was our final correspondence. I never saw her again.