Today in Sports History: May 5th

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(Spiderman 2 briefly joined forces with Major League Baseball. Photo by AP)

5/05/1969 - Celtics hold on to beat L.A.

Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell meet for the final time in their careers as the Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-106, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke had arranged for thousands of balloons to fall from the rafters when the Lakers inevitably won. Instead, the Celtics became the first team to ever win Game 7 of the Finals on the road.

Fueled by the arrogance of Cooke, and motivated to win one last time for the retiring Bill Russell and Sam Jones, the Celtics got out to a big league and led 91-76 after three quarters. But the aging Celtics didn't have the stamina to blow away the Lakers. Los Angeles made a furious comeback, sparked by the play of Jerry West, who totaled 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in spite of a serious hamstring injury.

With less than a minute-and-a-half to go, the Lakers had cut the lead to 103-102. The Lakers had shut down the Celtics' offense and the momentum was entirely in their favor. But the Celtics got an absolute gift, as forward Don Nelson shot the ball from the foul line. In one of the most famous shots in league history, Nellie's attempt hit the back end of the rim, bounced high in the air, and fell straight through the bottom of the net. It was all they needed to secure the win. The Game 7 victory gave the Celtics their 11th title in 13 years, with Jones and Russell having been there for all of them.

The Celtics dropped off the following season but quickly became competitive again, thanks to upstarts such as Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, and Paul Silas. Winning the Finals MVP in 1969 was Jerry West, who averaged an impressive 38 points per game -- it was the only time in the 20th century that a player on the losing team would win the Finals MVP.

The loss was a tough one for the Lakers, who were the big favorites to win it all. Wilt Chamberlain's night had ended at the five minute mark when he left the game with a twisted ankle. He asked L.A. coach Bill Van Breda Kolff to reinsert him, but the team had gone on a run, and Breda Kolff stuck with substitute Mel Counts. Chamberlain finished with 18 points and 27 rebounds -- Russell, who was acting as player/coach at the time, ended his career with six points and 21 rebounds.

Back then, a Celtics-Lakers series was almost an annual event with Russell and Chamberlain at the helms. But with Russell's retirement, it wasn't until 1984 -- with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson -- that the two teams met again in the Finals.

5/05/1978 - Rose gets 3,000th hit

With a single off Steve Rogers of the Montreal Expos, Pete Rose becomes the 13th player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits. Rose would be just the second player to get 4,000 hits in his career and eventually passed Ty Cobb for the most all time. Later that season, Pete Rose made the first legitimate charge at Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak; it would end after 44 straight games, still 12 shy of the single-season record.

5/05/1981 - Bird hits flip layup


In a career full of impressive shots, Larry Bird hits one for the ages. In Game 1 of the 1981 NBA Finals, Bird missed an 18-foot shot from the right wing. Seeing that it was going to carom to the right, Bird raced to the end line and leaped into the air to catch the ball. Fading out of bounds, Bird grabbed the rebound, switched the ball to his left hand and flipped it up and in.

"That is the greatest play I've ever seen," Red Auerbach said of the shot. "Larry Bird is a player of destiny."

In his NBA Finals debut, Bird had a hell of a game: 18 points, 21 rebounds, nine assists. He led the Celtics down the stretch and carried them to a 95-92 victory over the Houston Rockets. They would capture the series in six games to win their 13th championship in franchise history.

5/05/2004 - MLB announces Spiderbase ads

I'm sure by now, many of you have forgotten one of baseball’s most regrettable forays in the world of advertising. Major League Baseball reached a deal with Columbia Pictures to advertise the Spiderman 2 movie during interleague games from June 11-13. In the tie-in, no marketing device was more noteworthy and perceived horrible than the image above: an actual red Spiderman web right on the center of the base, to be used in the games.

Needless to say, the baseball purists were outraged and managed to get the base-ads removed within a week of the announcement. The world can do without another advertisement, although with the popularity of NASCAR and the development of 3D, less evasive ads will continue to find their way to the ballpark.

Further reading:

MLB, Sony Scale Back Spider-Man 2 Promotion [AdWeek]

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