Boston Celtics

Ranking Celtics' top 10 moments in NBA Finals history

This was a hard list to narrow down to 10.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Boston Celtics are no strangers to the NBA Finals.

On Thursday, the franchise will take part in the league's championship series for the 23rd time when it hosts the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals.

Only the Los Angeles Lakers (32) have played in more NBA Finals. Both the Lakers and Celtics have won 17 titles, the most of any team.

Those title-winning series (and even some of the losses) have produced many memorable moments for the Celtics, but which ones stand alone as the best?

Here are the 10-best NBA Finals moments in Celtics history so far.

10. 2008 NBA Finals Game 6

  • Kevin Garnett completes crazy and-1 play, screams "Anything is possible" as C's end drought

The most memorable play of the game happened in the second quarter when Garnett got shoved to the floor by Lamar Odom and still made the shot, plus the foul, to boost Boston's lead to 20. The crowd and Boston's bench went wild, and from that point on there was nothing the Lakers could do to stop the Celtics' coronation. The Celtics won by 39 points to claim their first title since 1986 and 17th overall.

After the game, Garnett gave his legendary "Anything is possible!" interview with ABC's Michele Tafoya. It was the perfect ending to one of the most impressive Celtics seasons in team history.

9. 1986 NBA Finals Game 6

  • Larry Bird gives his greatest performance

Bird's championship-clinching performance against the Rockets in Game 6 is one of the best in playoff history. He posted a triple-double with 29 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. He also played phenomenal defense with three steals and several other great plays that don't show up in the box score.

Bird had a massive impact on every single facet of the game. It was pure domination and a clinic of basketball fundamentals.

The most memorable moment came in the fourth quarter when Bird received a behind-the-back pass from Bill Walton under the basket. Instead of trying to score at the rim as the shot clock wound down, Bird dribbled out to the 3-point line, drilled a shot from beyond the arc, and raised his fist in the air in celebration. It was a fitting way for the league's greatest team of all time to finish a remarkable season.

8. 1969 NBA Finals Game 4

  • Sam Jones hits game-winner to even series

The Celtics trailed the Lakers 88-87 with seven seconds left in Game 4 at the old Boston Garden. Facing a potential 3-1 series deficit, Celtics legend Sam Jones hit a game-winning shot from 20 feet out. The Celtics evened the series with a 89-88 win and eventually won the championship in Game 7 (see below).

7. 1984 NBA Finals Game 7

  • Larry Bird dunks on fast break as C's beat Lakers

The Celtics won the first ever Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson playoff matchup with a dramatic Game 7 victory at the old Boston Garden. Bird's dunk on a fast break is one of the most memorable plays of the series (watch a replay here) and increased the Celtics' first-half lead.

The Lakers made a run in the second half, but Bird and the Celtics finished the job to clinch the franchise's 15th championship.

6. 1962 NBA Finals Game 7

  • Bill Russell scores 30 points with 40 rebounds as C's win in OT

Just twice has a Game 7 of the NBA Finals gone to overtime, and the Celtics have won both of them. The Celtics beat the St. Louis Hawks in double-overtime in 1957 for their first championship, and they beat the Lakers in overtime in 1962 for their fifth title (fourth in a row).

Bill Russell dominated in this Game 7 with 30 points and 40 rebounds to complete one of the greatest performances in playoff history.

5. 2008 NBA Finals Game 4

  • Celtics complete incredible comeback

The Celtics won the first two games of the 2008 Finals at home, but lost Game 3 in Los Angeles. They were headed for another defeat when the Lakers went up by 24 points in the second quarter of Game 4.

A tremendous second-half run, during which so many players -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, James Posey, P.J. Brown, Leon Powe, etc. -- made clutch plays, helped the Celtics take their first lead at 84-83 with 4:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. The C's won 97-91 to take a commanding 3-1 series advantage.

Boston's 24-point comeback is the largest in an NBA Finals game since 1971.

4. 1969 NBA Finals Game 7

  • Don Nelson hits memorable shot; Russell motivates Celtics

Before the game, the Lakers made it known how they were going to celebrate winning the title, including the songs that would be played by the USC band, balloons falling from the rafters and the order of postgame interviews. Russell got the script and read it to the players in the locker room and told them the Lakers absolutely could not beat them

The Celtics held off the heavily favored Lakers with the help of a memorable shot from Don Nelson in the fourth quarter. Nelson's shot hit the back of the rim, sending the ball high in the air and down through the net for a crucial two points. This shot gave the C's a 105-102 lead with just over a minute remaining. The C's ultimately prevailed 108-106 as Russell retired with 11 championships in 13 years.

In this edition of our Miller Lite Moments as we celebrate 75 years of Celtics basketball, Bill Russell and Sam Jones lead the C's to victory in Game 7 of the 1969 Finals, both players' final career game.

3. 1976 NBA Finals Game 5

  • C's win triple overtime thriller vs. Phoenix Suns

This is one of the greatest games ever played, filled with many memorable moments.

John Havlicek's 15-foot bank shot put the Celtics ahead 111-110 with one second left in the second overtime. The Suns didn't have a timeout, but they called one anyway, giving the C's a technical free throw but also allowing them to advance the ball. With one second left on the clock, Gar Heard hit an amazing turnaround shot to force a third overtime, where the Celtics prevailed 128-126 to take a 3-2 series lead.

Glenn McDonald came off the bench in the third OT and scored six points, cementing his place as a C's playoff hero. The Celtics won the championship in Game 6 in Phoenix a few days later.

In this edition of our Miller Lite Moments as we celebrate 75 years of Celtics basketball, JoJo White scores 33 points while playing 60 minutes in a 3OT win for the Celtics vs. the Suns in Game 6 of the 1976 NBA Finals.

2. 1984 NBA Finals Game 2

  • Gerald Henderson's steal saves Celtics

The Celtics were trailing 113-111 with less than 30 seconds left in Game 2 of the Finals against the rival Lakers. Facing a possible 0-2 series hole, Gerald Henderson stepped up with one of the greatest steals in playoff history. He intercepted a pass by James Worthy and made a layup to tie the game and force OT. The Celtics won in overtime to even the series.

In this edition of our Miller Lite Moments as we celebrate 75 years of Celtics basketball, Gerald Henderson reflects back on his unforgettable play in Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals

1. 1981 NBA Finals Game 1

  • Larry Bird follows his own shot

Larry Bird's first Finals game became a memorable one when he made a brilliant play to follow his own shot, jump for the rebound and score from a very difficult angle along the baseline. Bird knew right away that the shot wasn't going in, so he went to where he thought the rebound would go.

“That is the greatest play I’ve ever seen. Larry Bird is a player of destiny,” Celtics legend Red Auerbach once said of the play, per

The Celtics won the series opener and eventually eliminated the Houston Rockets in six games for Bird's first career title.

Contact Us