The 1968-1969 Boston Celtics found themselves in pretty much uncharted territory at the end of the regular season – They were seeded fourth in the Eastern Division heading into the playoffs, with a record of 48-34. While for most teams that would be desirable, the Celtics were accustomed to finishing at the top of the Division, and anything less was a letdown.
The Celtics were an aging crew in 1969. The sun was setting on Bill Russell and Sam Jones’ careers, and the 1968-1969 season would prove to be the last season for both those Celtics legends.
While they were aging, the Celtics did not lack championship mettle. Though they had poor seeding heading into the playoffs, the Celtics had the toughness and experience that winning ten of the previous twelve NBA championships had provided. They went into the playoffs still confident with the belief they would still win the title.
And win it they did. Though the Celtics were old, though they had their worst regular season in years, they somehow won the title. While all the other titles were amazing, the last title of the Russell Era exemplified the term “Celtic Pride”. The Celtics did not win the championship in 1968-1969 because they had the most talented team; instead, they won it because they were winners and because the players were all willing to sacrifice their individual statistics for the good of the team.
They pummeled the Philadelphia 76ers four games to one in the first round, ruining the 76ers 55-27 season. Next, they tore apart the New York Knickerbockers, four games to two, to reach the finals. In the finals, the Celtics prevailed over the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers, four games to three. The Lakers had three of the best players to ever play basketball, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jerry West, but the Celtics still had the best team.