Times Wins Two Pulitzers; Lakers Lose, May 6, 1969
Otherwise, how do you explain the balloons?
In one of the oddest footnotes in modern professional sports, the Forum's rafters were filled with balloons that would be released when the Lakers won. "They might remain in their roost for some time to come," Mal Florence wrote in The Times after watching Boston's 108-106 victory.
There were plots and subplots galore.
--The Lakers were built around three superstars, with Jerry West leading the way despite an injured leg. He was named the final's most valuable player and got a car instead of a championship.
--Wilt Chamberlain injured his knee and left the game with about five minutes to play just as the Lakers were cutting into the Celtics' lead.
--Chamberlain wanted to get back in the game but was kept on the bench by Coach Butch van Breda Kolff: "I told him that we were doing well enough without him." The Lakers and van Breda Kolff would soon part company.
--Former Laker Don Nelson gave Boston a three-point lead with about a minute left when his shot from the free-throw line "as luck or fate would have it ... hit the front rim, bounced high into the air and then settled into the net," Florence wrote.
--West scored 42 points but took only one shot in the last four minutes.
--Parts of the game were far from pretty. Several players were in foul trouble and the Lakers missed 15 consecutive shots during one part of the third quarter.
You could feel the disappointment in The Times' coverage. Here's my favorite lead, from Chuck Garrity:
"The colorful balloons hung there in the dark rafters of the Forum. ... The USC Trojan band, hired to march around blaring "Happy Days are Here Again" quietly tucked their instruments back into their cases. ... The Lakers were non-champions of the world of professional basketball again."
The fourth quarter of Game 7 has survived on Youtube. Here's a section where the Lakers rally and Chamberlain hurts his knee.