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The Los Angeles Lakers had the Boston Celtics right where they wanted them in the 1969 NBA Finals. They were home for a winner-take-all Game 7. The Celtics had won nine of the last 10 championships, and the Lakers, led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, and Elgin Baylor, the Lakers were hungry to dethrone their rivals.

West had the game of his life. He put up 42 points, pulled down 13 rebounds, and dished out 12 assists. He came away as the MVP of the series. West also admitted the game was the “low point of my career.”

Jerry West and the LA Lakers had their chance against the Boston Celtics

Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers walks off the court after the Boston Celtics beat the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at The Forum on May 5, 1969, in Los Angeles, California. West scored 42 points in the 108-106 loss. | Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

The Boston Celtics dynasty was nearing its end, but it wasn’t quite dead yet. For the previous 12 years, the Celtics played in the NBA Finals 11 times. They won 10 championships.

The rivals met in the 1969 NBA Finals, and the Lakers had a chance to seal the deal at home in Game 7. In the previous six games of the series, the home team won. LA had a golden opportunity.

Jerry West had it going for the Lakers, but the Celtics, led by John Havlicek and Sam Jones, held a seven-point lead late in the game, and Chamberlain, LA’s dominant center, left with a knee injury. With Chamberlain on the bench, the Lakers made a run, cutting the deficit to 103-102.

At the time of his injury, Chamberlain had 18 points and 27 rebounds. His counterpart, Bill Russell, had six points and 21 rebounds. According to Robert Cherry’s book, Wilt: Larger than Life, Chamberlain iced the knee and told coach Butch van Breda Kolff he was ready to head back on the court. Chamberlain never returned. The Celtics won 108-106.

Despite the loss, West was the star. He made 14 of 29 shots from the floor and connected on 14 of 18 shots from the free-throw line for his 42 points. He was named the series MVP despite the crushing loss.

West said losing that game was the lowest point of his career

While West was the best player on the court in Game 7, the Celtics pulled out the two-point win. The victory was the 11th championship for Russell.

The MVP trophy meant very little to West. He didn’t want a consolation prize. It didn’t matter that his 42 points set a Finals record. He’d gladly trade the car he won for winning MVP for the thrill of winning a championship.

The loss hit West hard. It was the sixth time in his career that West fell to the Celtics in the championship round. Usually, the MVP of the Finals also hoists the championship trophy. That wasn’t the case for West, who hit rock bottom in his basketball career despite being the best player on the court.

“That was the low point of my career,” West said, per Cherry. “I didn’t want to play anymore. I felt I had given everything I could. It looked like it was in the cards for us to win. I was as low as I could be as a player.”


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