The Los Angeles Lakers had the Boston Celtics right where they wanted them in the 1969 NBA Finals. They were home for a winner-take-all Game 7. The Celtics had won nine of their last 10 championships and the Lakers, led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, the Lakers were hungry to dethrone their rivals .
West had the game of his life. He amassed 42 points, hauled 13 rebounds and dished out 12 assists. He walked away as the MVP of the series. West also admitted that the game was the “low point of my career.”
Jerry West and the LA Lakers had their chance against the Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics dynasty was nearing its end, but it wasn’t quite dead. In the past 12 years, the Celtics have played in the NBA Finals 11 times. You have won 10 championships.
The rivals met in the 1969 NBA Finals, and the Lakers had a chance to seal the deal at home in Game 7. In the previous six games of the series, the home team won. LA had a golden opportunity.
Jerry West had it good for the Lakers, but the Celtics, led by John Havlicek and Sam Jones, held a seven-point lead late in the game and Chamberlain, LA’s dominant center, left the team with a knee injury. With Chamberlain on the bench, the Lakers hit a run and cut the deficit to 103-102.
At the time of his injury, Chamberlain had 18 points and 27 rebounds. His counterpart, Bill Russell, had six points and 21 rebounds. According to the book by Robert Cherry Wilt: Larger than life, Chamberlain iced the knee and told coach Butch van Breda Kolff he was ready to get back on the pitch. Chamberlain never returned. The Celtics won 108-106.
Despite the loss, West was the star. He made 14 of 29 shots from the floor and hit 14 of 18 shots from the free throw line for his 42 points. Despite the devastating loss, he was named the series’ MVP.
West said losing that game was the low point of his career
The MVP trophy meant very little to West. He didn’t want a consolation prize. It didn’t matter that his 42 points set a Finals record. He would happily trade the car he won for winning the MVP for the thrill of winning a championship.
The loss hit West hard. It was the sixth time in his career that West lost to the Celtics in the championship round. Usually, the MVP of the final also lifts the championship trophy. That was not the case for West, who was hitting rock bottom in his basketball career despite being the best player on the court.
“That was the low point of my career,” West said, per Cherry. “I didn’t want to play anymore. I felt like I gave everything I could. It looked like a win was on the cards for us. I was as low as I could be as a player.”
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