The NBA saw its greatest dynasty from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. I'm talking about Bill Russell's Boston Celtics, who won 11 titles in 13 years, including right straight.
This is an incredible stat that will never be duplicated. Russell's Celtics reached the NBA Finals in 12 of the 13 years as well.
Do you know what team was the only team to defeat Russell's Celtics in the NBA Finals?
The answer to the question would be the St. Louis Hawks, and they were led by their star player, Bob Pettit.
Bob Pettit And The St. Louis Hawks
Many fans today probably don't remember Bob Pettit, and that's a problem. Pettit was arguably the first great scorer the league has ever seen, and his play has earned him a spot on the NBA's top 75 greatest players list.
This isn't just a statement, as Pettit became the first player in league history to score 20,000 points.
Pettit's skills were so good that he lifted his team to the 1957 NBA Finals to face the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics.
The Celtics held the home-court advantage in the series, but despite this, the Hawks stole Game 1 with a 125-123 victory.
The Hawks would push the Celtics to seven games, but they ultimately fell in Game 7 by a score of 123-125.
Game 7 went to two overtimes, and Pettit dominated with a game-high 39 points while grabbing 19 rebounds. But it wasn't enough to overtake the mighty Celtics.
The 1958 NBA Finals
The following season, the Hawks, and Celtics would find themselves meeting in a rematch in the Finals.
The Celtics held the home-court advantage, as they did the previous year, and like what happened in the previous year, the Hawks stole Game 1 in Boston.
The Hawks won 104-102 and Petite had a solid game with 30 points and 19 rebounds.
The Celtics would bounce back in Game 2, blowing the Hawks out by a score of 136-112. Petite scored 19, but he struggled shooting, going 8-20 in the game.
Game 3 would be the turning point in the series. This wasn't because of the Hawks winning 111-108 over the Celtics, but because of the ankle injury suffered by Bill Russell.
Russell would go on to miss Game 4, where the Celtics won 109-98, and Game 5, where the Hawks won 102-100.
This set up Game 6 in St. Louis, and one of the greatest Finals performances in NBA history.
Bill Russell returned to the Celtics lineup, coming off the bench to play 20 minutes. He didn't have his normal dominant game, scoring only 8 points and grabbing 8 rebounds.
The star of the game would be Bob Pettit. He scored 31 points in the first three-quarters of the game, helping the Hawk hold onto a 78-77 lead.
But Pettit wasn't done. He stepped his game up to another level in the fourth quarter. Pettit scored 19 out of the Hawks' final 21 points of the game.
Once again, Pettit wouldn't be done. He made a tip-in with 15 seconds remaining, pushing the Hawks lead to three. The Hawks would end up winning the game 110-109.
Bob Pettit scored 50 points on 19-34 shooting and 12-15 from the free-throw line. Pettit also grabbed 19 rebounds as he led the Hawks to their first and only championship in franchise history.
Pettit finished his career averaging 26.4 points per game, good enough to be the eighth-greatest scoring average in league history.
So, if fans don't remember Bob Pettit for the incredible scoring talent he was, they should at least remember him for being the only player to beat Bill Russell in an NBA Finals series.
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