Today in Sports History: April 30th

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(Russell hugs Celtics coach Red Auerbach. Photo courtesy of AP Photos)

4/30/1956 - Hawks trade Bill Russell

The St. Louis Hawks trade Bill Russell, who they had selected with the No. 2 pick in the draft, to the Boston Celtics for Ed Macauley, the Celtics' star bigman, and Cliff Hagan, who was serving in the military and had yet to play for the Celtics. The deal proved to have enormous dividends for Boston, as Russell fit perfectly into coach Red Auerbach's offensive system.

Over the course of his 13-year career, Russell averaged a superb 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds a game, while his Celtics won the NBA title 11 times -- including eight in a row at one point. Russell would leave the game as the greatest winner and the greatest defender the NBA ever saw; he finished his career as a player/coach and would later coach the Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings.

But the deal was not a total loss for the St. Louis Hawks, as both Macauley and Hagan wound up being Hall of Famers. The team would make the playoffs in all but one season until 1973, and in 1958, they even beat Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Of course, the Celtics won 11 championships with Russell, so there's no doubt who got the better end of the deal.

4/30/1993 - Crazy fan stabs Seles

The career of tennis superstar Monica Seles takes a major detour as an obsessed fan of Steffi Graf attacks her with a kitchen knife. Monica would be okay physically, however it would take a few years for her to recover mentally.

To read more about this story, click here for an in-depth Inhistoric article:

4/30/1998 - Brawl leaves Van Gundy hanging

For the second straight year, Miami Heat met the Indiana Pacers in the postseason -- this time in the best-of-five first round. And for the second straight year, a giant brawl decided everything.

The New York Knicks beat the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the series, 90-85, and evened the series at 2-2. But with 7.4 seconds remaining in regulation, with the same score, the action came to a complete halt. Knicks forward Larry Johnson and Heat center Alonzo Mourning -- two former teammates in Charlotte -- had been fighting for position when, out of nowhere, their pushing turned into punching. As Larry Johnson attempted a haymaker at Mourning's face, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy wrapped himself around Mourning's leg and tried to keep the two of them apart.

"Fortunately for these guys," TNT analyst Doc Rivers said of Johnson and Mourning, "they are both awful fighters."

The footage of Van Gundy dangling on Mourning's leg like a misguided Three Stooges skit was laughable, though neither team was in a jolly mood when the suspensions came down the next day. Johnson and Mourning were both suspended from the fifth and final game, as was Knicks forward Chris Mills, who had wandered onto the court during the skirmish. It was an eery repeat of their matchup in 1997, when suspensions from a brawl kept Larry Johnson and John Starks from playing in Game 7.

This time, the Knicks were again down to just nine players, and with Patrick Ewing already sidelined from a wrist injury, their roster was even more depleted than it was a year ago. But unlike last year, there was an equalizer. Alonzo Mourning, the Heat's best player, was out as well, and the absence of Zo proved to be too great for the Heat to deal with. The Knicks cruised to a 98-81 road victory in Game 5 and advanced to the second round against the Indiana Pacers. It was only the fourth time a No. 7 seed defeated a No. 2 seed.

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(Kobe beats the Suns in Game 4. Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images)

4/30/2006 - Kobe game-winner beats Suns

Kobe Bryant puts his stamp on Game 4 of the Lakers' first round series against the Suns. He scored the game-tying layup with just a few seconds remaining in regulation and then, in overtime, he hit the game-winning buzzer beater to give the Lakers a 99-98 victory. The win increased the Lakers' series lead to three games to one.

It was a devastating loss for the Phoenix Suns, who were in complete control for most of the fourth quarter. They had a five-point lead with just 12.6 seconds left in the final period, and had the ball with the lead with only 6.1 seconds left in overtime. But in regulation, a three by the Lakers' Smush Parker and a turnover by Nash cost them their lead; in overtime, Nash held the ball believing that a foul would be called. Instead when Luke Walton and Lamar Odom wrapped their arms around him, a jump ball was called instead. The Lakers won the tip and Bryant hit the shot.

"I was just kind of playing the moment over in my head before the tip," Bryant said. "Once I got it, I took my time and got the look that I wanted."

"It’s a tough loss," Nash said. "It wasn’t meant to be. So many things went against us. We feel like we played great. Our backs our against the wall now and we have nothing to lose."

With Andrew Bynum just a rookie and relegated to the bench, and Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza a few years from joining the team, the Lakers, in the first years of the post-Shaq era, were essentially the Kobe Bryant show. But in this series, other L.A. players had been stepping up. Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom were playing fantastic, and the #7-seed Lakers appeared to be on the verge of a major upset.
Teams leading a series 3-1 were 96% likely to close out the series, however, the Lakers would fail to win another game.

Further reading:

Mourning After [Sports Illustrated]

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