1970: Willis Reed's dramatic entrance
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1969: Bill Russell wins final championship
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Willis Reed
Bill Russell
Madison Square Garden was a living monster. The house would shake with withering "Dee-fense" chants and Eddie Layton's organ, and the roof would rise whenever Clyde stole the ball. So just imagine the din when Willis Reed hobbles through the tunnel seconds before the Game 7 tip. Reed had torn a thigh muscle in Game 5 and sat out Game 6 while Wilt Chamberlain put up 45 points and 27 boards. Now Reed steps in against Wilt, hits the first two Knicks hoops, and the rest is history: New York's first NBA championship.
– John Papanek
How clutch was Bill Russell? He was 21-0 in loser-goes-home games in his college, Olympic and NBA career. He was 10-0 in Game 7s in the NBA, with seven of those wins by four points or less. He was the ultimate "winner," and his final game wasn't going to be any different, especially after the Lakers suspended thousands of balloons from the Forum rafters in anticipation of victory. Russell grabbed 21 rebounds, held Wilt Chamberlain to 18 points, and the Celtics held off the Lakers, 108-106.
– David Schoenfield