Golden Basketball Magazine
NBA Finals - Game 7
1957: St. Louis Hawks @ Boston Celtics
The NBA had two changes in franchises following the 1955-56 season.
  • The Baltimore Bullets folded.
  • The Milwaukee Hawks moved to St. Louis.

The 1956-57 NBA season ended with these results.

Eastern Division
Team W L % GB
Boston Celtics 44 28 .611 --
Syracuse Nationals 38 34 .528 6
Philadelphia Warriors 37 35 .514 7
New York Knicks 36 36 .500 8
Western Division
Team W L % GB
Fort Wayne Pistons 34 38 .472 --
St. Louis Hawks 34 38 .472 --
Minneapolis Lakers 34 38 .472 --
Rochester Royals 31 41 .431 3
  • No team in the Western Division finished with a winning record.
  • The 82-game season ended in a three-way tie for first.
  • Since the playoff schedule called for the second and third place teams in each division to meet in a best-of-three series with the victor facing the first place team for a berth in the finals, the three squads had to break the tie.
  • The Hawks defeated both the other teams to earn the #1 seed.
  • Minneapolis won back-to-back tight games over Fort Wayne to qualify to play the Hawks for the Western Division crown.
  • St. Louis swept the Lakers to earn a berth in the finals.

Meanwhile, the Eastern playoffs didn't produce anywhere near the drama the West did.

  • Bolstered by rookie Bill Russell who joined the club in December after playing in the Olympics, the 44-28 Celtics won their first division crown by six games over the Syracuse Nationals.
  • Syracuse eliminated the Philadelphia Warriors 2-0.
  • Continuing to mirror what happened in the West playoffs, Boston took three in a row over the Nats: 108-90 in Boston, 120-105 in Syracuse, and 83-80 back in Beantown.

So the Celtics met the Hawks in the best-of-seven finals.

  • The series would follow the 2-2-1-1-1 format starting in Boston since the Celtics had the better regular season record.
  • The teams had met nine times during the regular season with these results:
    @St. Louis: Boston 2 wins, St. Louis 2 wins
    @Boston: Boston 4 wins, St. Louis none
    Neutral court: Boston 1 win
  • You can see why the oddsmakers established the Celtics as 1-3 favorites.
1954 St. Louis Hawks
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
6 Cliff Hagan F 6-4 210 Kentucky 1
9 Bob Pettit C 6-9 205 LSU 3
12 Jack Coleman F 6-7 195 Louisville 8
21 Jack McMahon G 6-1 185 St. John's 5
22 Slater Martin G 5-10 170 Texas 8
26 Irv Bemoras F 6-3 185 Illinois 2
32 Med Park G 6-2 205 Missouri 2
33 Willie Naulls F-C 6-6 225 UCLA 1
50 Ed Macauley F 6-8 185 St. Louis 8
70 Chuck Share C 6-11 235 Bowling Green 6
Player-Coach: Alex Hannum
1957 Boston Celtics
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
6 Bill Russell C 6-10 215 San Francisco 1
14 Bob Cousy G 6-1 175 Holy Cross 7
15 Tom Heinsohn F 6-7 218 Holy Cross 1
16 Jack Nichols F 6-7 222 Washington 8
17 Andy Phillip G 6-2 195 Illinois 10
18 Jim Loscutoff F 6-5 220 Oregon 2
19 Arnie Risen C 6-9 200 Ohio State 9
20 Dick Hemric F 6-6 220 Wake Forest 2
21 Bill Sharman G 6-1 175 USC 7
23 Frank Ramsey G 6-3 190 Kentucky 2
Head Coach: Red Auerbach
1957 St. Louis Hawks
RESULTS OF FIRST SIX GAMES
# Date Place Winner Loser Winning Team
High Scorer
Losing Team
High Scorer
1 Mar.30 Boston Hawks 125 Celtics 123 Pettit 37 Sharman 36
2 Mar.31 Boston Celtics 119 Hawks 99 Cousy/Ramsey 22 Macauley 19
3 Apr. 6 St. Louis Hawks 100 Celtics 98 Pettit 26 Sharman 28
4 Apr. 7 St. Louis Celtics 123 Hawks 118 Cousy 31 Pettit 33
5 Apr. 9 Boston Celtics 124 Hawks 109 Sharman 32 Pettit 33
6 Apr.11 St. Louis Hawks 96 Celtics 94 Pettit 32 Heinsohn 28
The Hawks surprised the Celtics by taking 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the Series.
  • Game One: Bob Pettit (37) and Easy Ed Macauley (23) scored almost half the Hawks' points as the visitors won in double OT. St. Louis got more balanced scoring with five players in double figures. But after Bill Sharman's 36 and 26 from Tom Heinsohn, another rookie sensation, and Bob Cousy, the Celtics had no one with more than nine points. It was the Hawks' first win in Boston all season.
  • Game Two: Facing a must win on their home floor, the Celtics jumped out to a 62-43 halftime lead and coasted. Pettit had an off day, sinking only three FGs.
  • Game Three: The talk after the game was as much about a pregame incident as anything that happened during the 48 minutes. Boston coach Red Auerbach punched St. Louis owner Ben Kerner in the face, cutting his lip. The incident began when Auerbach protested that the basket was too high and asked the officials to measure the height of the rims. Kerner rushed onto the floor and berated Red, who said afterward that Ben called him an unprintable name. That brought the packed house of 10,048 to a fever pitch that inspired the Hawks. Trailing by three entering Q4, St. Louis outscored the Celts 31-26 to secure the victory. Pettit shook off his subpar Game 2 performance to lead the home team with 26 points.
  • Game Four: Once again, the Celtics desperately needed a victory to even the series. Known more for his defense and rebounding, Russell had his best game so far, tallying 17 points and leading all rebounders with 20. The Hawks bounced back from a cold-shooting Q2 when they were outscored 35-17 but could never take the lead in the second half.
  • Game Five: Forty-five minutes after Game 5, Hawks G Jack McMahon was still sitting in the dressing room in full uniform asking, "What can I do to stop him?" "Him" was Bill Sharman, whose 32 points led the Celtics to their first lead in the series as a raucous throng of 13,909 looked on. Boston may have been asking the same question about Pettit, who topped Sharman's total by one.
  • Game Six: Now the Hawks were the desperate team. The lead changed hands 23 times, and the score was tied 20 times. St. Louis took possession of the ball with the score tied at 94 and 0:12 left. Everyone in the arena knew Pettit would get the ball. Bob started a drive, stopped, and fired a long one-hander from the corner that missed. But Cliff Hagan deftly shoved the ball in the basket to give the Hawks their third last-minute two-point victory in the series as the crowd went mad.

Celtics C Bill Russell
Bill Russell

Hawks Coach Alex Hannum
Alex Hannum


Bob Pettit


Tom Heinsohn


Bill Sharman (21)

Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy
Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy


Ben Kerner


That set up a Saturday afternoon matchup for all the marbles.
  • 13,909 jammed Boston Garden to see if the Celtics could give the city its first major pro sport title since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1941.
  • The game was televised in the Northeast and, under a last-minute arrangement, back to St. Louis.
  • Included in the crowd were members of the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, whose exhibition game that afternoon had been cancelled because of temperatures in the 30s. Also on hand were the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadians, who would meet in their playoff clash Sunday night.
  • Actor Danny Kaye, a Celtics good luck charm who had missed only one playoff game - a loss, watched the first half but had to leave for his appearance at the Colonial Theater. He had a radio backstage and squirmed through the rest of the game.
  • Right before the game, Auerbach shook hands with St. Louis owner Ben Kerner, whom he had bopped before Game 3. I'm sorry, apologized the Boston coach. Forget it, Red, replied Ben.
The two teams waged one of the greatest basketball games ever played, a fitting ending to arguably the greatest NBA finals series to this day.
  • Quarter 1
    Slater Martin set a record when he took the court for his 77th playoff game.
    The Celtics led by five at one point but the visitors rallied to take a two-point lead.
    Hawks 28 Celtics 26

  • Quarter 2
    Boston went nine in front and twice led by six after that.
    But in the final three minutes before halftime, the Hawks picked up 10 points with Hagan scoring six of them. Boston could counter with only an Arnie Risen hook.
    Hagan ended the half with 17 points but would contribute only seven more.
    Hawks 53 Celtics 51

Cousy passes.
  • Quarter 3
    Once again the Celts raced to a lead only to have it wiped out by the never-quit Hawks.
    A unit of Jack Nichols, Heinsohn, Andy Phillip, Russell, and Cousy changed the score from 68-66 against them to 73-68 in their favor.
    The period ended with a beautiful Cousy-to-Nichols pass and bucket.
    Boston's lead could have been larger except that Heinsohn missed eight straight freebies in the second half.
    Celtics 83 Hawks 77

Russell shoots over Charlie Share.
  • Quarter 4
    The period opened with Phillip converting a Cousy pass on a clever give-and-go maneuver. Then two FTs by Bob followed by a Nichols FG when he guided Cousy's feed into the hoop put Boston in front 85-77 - their largest lead of the afternoon.
    Just when it looked like the Celtics were finally pulling away, the Hawks came back with nine straight. Hagan, Macauley, Pettit, and Martin all contributed to the outburst.
    From there to the finish, the customers were put through an emotional wringer.
    Not playing like a rookie, Heinsohn rammed in four of the next six Boston two-pointers.
    Down 101-97 with 1:40 to play, the Celts scored six in a row - two freebies by Cousy, one by Ramsey, a clever turn-around basket from the pivot by Russell with 22 seconds to go, and another FT by Cousy ten seconds later. However, Bob missed his second try. St. Louis rebounded and took time out.
    Not surprisingly, Hannum called for the ball to go to Pettit, who drove on Russell and was fouled in the act of shooting. With the capacity house screaming, Bob calmly sank two FTs to tie the game with 0:07 left.
    The Celtics had the last shot, but Sharman's jumper rolled around the rim and came out.
    Celtics 103 Hawks 103

Cousy shoots over Med Park (32) and Slater Martin (22).
  • OT 1
    Boston fell behind 109-105, but two goals by Ramsey tied the game halfway through the OT.
    The teams traded baskets to remain tied. The Hawks lost Hagan when he committed his sixth foul with 0:55 remaining. But Ramsey missed both tries.
    Coleman did the same with 0:44 on the clock. Heinsohn pushed in a rebound with 25 seconds to go. But Coleman, guarded by Tommy, leaped for the equalizer with nine ticks left.
    Again, Sharman took a jump shot to win and again rimmed the hoop.
    Celtics 113 Hawks 113

  • OT 2
    Tommy scored the first two Boston baskets. But the visitors jumped in front again, 120-117. Russell and Heinsohn scored from the floor to take a one-point advantage. But Heinsohn fouled out on Martin, whose FT tied it. Macauley committed his sixth foul on Ramsey, who sank a free one. With four Hawks disqualified, Hannum put himself in at F for his first action of the series.
    After Russell blocked Coleman's shot, Frank took a pass from Cousy and put it in with 75 seconds left. It marked the 31st lead change.
    Shortly afterwards, Frank sank a 25' jumper for a 124-121 lead. It was the clutch Kentuckian's ninth and tenth points in OT.
    The Hawks kept battling. Martin converted a FT with 50 seconds left. Then Slater stole the ball from Ramsey and fed Med Park, who was fouled by Phillip. Park made the first FT but missed a chance to tie the game with the second. But the ball bounced deep, and Hannum corraled the rebound. The player-coach called time out to set up the game-winning basket. The ball ended up in his hands in the corner, but his shot went around the rim and out. The scrap for the rebound resulted in the ball going out of bounds off the Celts with 0:17 on the clock. After the throw in, Phillip blocked Park's shot, and Hannum was called for traveling as he tried to control the loose ball. Eight ticks remained.
    The ball came in to Sharman who got rid of it to Loscutoff. Jim was double-teamed and fouled by Hannum with one second to play. Jungle Jim made the FT to make it 125-123.
    But the excitement still wasn't over. Hannum called another time out to set up a seemingly impossible play. He stood on the baseline and fired the ball all the way to the other end off the backboard. The ball bounded to Pettit, as planned, and Bob jumped and threw the ball at the goal but it rolled off the rim. The Hawks leading scorer, who hurt his wrist on the opening tap of the second OT, failed to scratch in the final five minutes.
    Celtics 125 Hawks 123

    Heinsohn swarmed by the crowd.
When the final buzzer sounded, spectators, almost as tired as the players, swarmed on the court and provided a shoulder ride to the dressing room for the winners.
  • The two teams combined for 37 missed FTs.
  • Russell had 32 rebounds for a total of 244 in the playoffs to explode the old mark of 107 by George Mikan in 1952. Heinsohn added 23 boards.
  • Cousy's 11 assists raised his series total to 93, breaking the old mark of 90 established by Dick McGuire in 1952.
  • Sharman hit 61 of 64 FTs, bettering the previous mark of 41 of 44 made by Cousy in 1955.
  • The Celtics won despite extremely cold shooting by Sharman (3 for 20) and Cousy (2 for 20).
ST. LOUIS HAWKS
  Min FG FT Rebs Ast Fouls Points
Bob Pettit 56 14-34 11-13 19 3 4 39
Slater Martin 56 6-16 11-12 7 7 3 23
Cliff Hagan 40 7-15 10-14 16 0 6 24
Jack McMahon 37 3-10 0-0 5 5 6 6
Jack Coleman 36 4-12 2-5 5 7 6 10
Ed Macauley 21 2-3 5-8 8 1 6 9
Med Park 21 3-5 1-2 4 1 1 7
Chuck Share 21 0-6 5-7 6 0 4 5
Alex Hannum 2 0-1 0-0 0 0 1 0
Total 290 39-102 45-61 71 24 37 123
BOSTON CELTICS
  Min FG FT Rebs Ast Fouls Points
Bob Cousy 58 2-20 8-10 3 11 4 12
Bill Russell 54 7-17 5-10 32 2 5 19
Bill Sharman 48 3-20 3-3 1 3 3 9
Tom Heinsohn 45 17-33 3-10 23 2 6 37
Frank Ramsey 28 6-13 4-7 8 1 2 16
Arnie Risen 20 6-12 4-7 10 0 6 16
Jim Loscutoff 18 0-4 3-3 2 0 5 3
Andy Phillip 10 2-2 1-2 1 3 3 5
Jack Nichols 9 4-7 0-0 1 0 3 8
Total 290 47-128 31-52 81 22 37 125


Jack McMahon


Jim Loscutoff


Slater Martin


Cliff Hagan


Red Auerbach


Heinsohn fires away.


Russell hooks over Pettit.


Celtics celebrate their first
championship with their owner
and doused coach

 

Postgame
  • Auerbach, senior coach in the NBA in terms of service, had finally directed a playoff winner. He was kept busy speaking into tape recorders but managed to puff his victory cigar between quotes. This is the greatest victory of my life. This was the greatest team. And these are the greatest bunch of fellows I've ever coached. ... Yes, Sharman was off, but he's still our best shooter. That's why I had him take the last shots of the fourth period and first overtime. It wound up okay, but I could have been a bum. This is a great team, one that never quit despite blowing some good leads during the series. Red brought Cousy over. Here's the guy. Here's my sidekick. He brought us this far, and the team carried through in the clincher. Cousy and I have been chasing this for seven years. My nervous system is shot. I thought we were goners there twice, and we both had the game won four or five times, but Hannum and I both blew it. Heinsohn and Loscutoff dragged their coach, sport coat and all, into the showers for the traditional dunking.
  • In a span of 12 1/2 months, Russell had been a member of an NCAA championship team, the gold medal U.S. Olympic team, and now the NBA titlists. He shaved off his goatee which he had vowed to keep until the team won the title. I guess it's all right to take it off now. If I have any grey hairs, I picked them up today. The suspense was terrific ... Mistakes in a game like this one can kill you because there's no tomorrow. Auerbach took a few swipes with the razor to help remove the "lucky" facial hair. Bill admitted that he turned to prayer to prepare for the final contest. I was sitting on my bed, saying my nightly prayers. I said a prayer for my family. Then I prayed I would play well. Then I thought I'd better say one for Lusky. After that, I thought I'd better not forget The Rook. Once I got going, I figured I'd better say one for Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman too. And then for the old boys, Arnie Risen and Andy Phillip. I wound up saying one for everybody. Everybody except the officials.
  • After playing all 58 minutes, Cousy was so exhausted he could hardly dress himself. Wiping a tear from his eye, Bob said, I've waited a long time for this. ... Imagine me missing that second FT that would have sewed it up. Just as I was about to shoot, I started to think about how I would throw it up there, and I didn't follow through. A player never should think when he goes up to that line - just throw it up automatically and you won't miss. It's been a great series but a tremendous strain because possession of the ball was always being contested, unlike during the regular season when you can coast here and there. I thought it was an unusually clean series - but, boy, I've had it.
  • Sharman praised Heinsohn, who would be announced as the Rookie of the Year the next day. Tommy played the greatest game under such terrific pressure of any rookie I have ever seen. He bailed us out at least half a dozen times. Did you ever see another series like this one? I never did in any sport. The mental strain was much worse than the physical. I only had one hour's sleep Thursday night after we dropped that two-pointer in St. Louis. Last night, I kept waking up so often I only had a couple of hours more. ... It was a long time coming. Maybe that's why it feels so good. It will feel good again, but never like this first time.
  • Loscutoff was still shaking after he had showered. Look at my fingers. It was a beautiful series, though, wasn't it? What a way to end it. Oh those rookies (Heinsohn and Russell). We never could have done it without 'em.
  • Ramsey: I don't even mind going back to the Army until Thursday.
  • Heinsohn was the last to leave the dressing room. Yes, I was really nervous before the game, but I was all right once it got under way. The toughest part of the afternoon for me was sitting on the bench when Red wanted to rest me. I was so excited on one of those occasions that I started for the dressing room before I realized what I was doing. Any athlete will tell you that it's much worse sitting on the bench in a game like today's than being in there playing. Frankly, I couldn't watch it while I was resting. I had to put my jacket over my head. Incidentally, I thought the officiating was the best of the seven games in the series. It was almost as tough on the officials as it was on us because a bad call could have cost either team the title. Yes, that Hagan is the toughest guy on the Hawks for me to handle ...
  • On the other side, Hannum kept the press outside the locker room for half an hour. A key hole peeper heard champagne corks popping. The Hawks deserved it, win or lose. When Alex finally spoke to the media, he was asked about inserting himself into the game. No one left but Balmoras and I. Couldn't put him on the spot. Concerning the key traveling call, he said, I didn't think I was, but what can you say. The play was to feed Pettit. We never got a chance. They're a great team - they had to be to beat my boys. They played their hearts out. ... That Tom Heinsohn really isn't a rookie. I know he's a first-year man, but he's got the poise and determination of a player with many years of experience. And what a competitor. His play in the series surprised us more than anybody else's on the Boston team.
  • Hannum, Martin, Park, and Coleman walked to the Celtics' dressing room to offer their congratulations. I'm very proud of the way my boys played throughout the series, said Alex. It took the greatest basketball team I have ever seen to beat them. Boston can be proud of a real champion.
  • Pettit criticized himself despite his great performance throughout the series. We fight all year for this chance, and then I have to blow the big shot at the end.
  • Ben Kerner visited the officials' dressing room to praise Mendy Rudolph and Sid Borgia for their excellent work.
  • 2,000 fans would gather at the St. Louis Airport that night to greet Kerner's Hawks.

Of the seven games, five ended with two-point margins of victory and two went into double OT.


1956-57 Boston Celtics
Participants in the 1957 NBA Finals who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame:
Hawks: Ed Macauley, Slater Martin, Bob Pettit
Celtics: Coach Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Andy Phillip, Frank Ramsey, Arnie Risen, Bill Russell, Bill Sharman