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LEEInks list: Memorable Game 7s in Boston sports history

06.17.10 at 7:00 am ET

Is there anything more enticing than a Game 7? For fans, there’€™s no better drama. For players and coaches, there’€™s no higher stage. It’€™s the only game in basketball, baseball, and hockey that is for all the marbles, all or nothing, win or go home.

With the back-and-forth 2010 NBA finals coming down to a Game 7 on Thursday night, here is a list of the most memorable Game 7s in Boston sports history.

The Red Sox, who have had their share of disappointments in Game 7s, compile half the list, while the Celtics and their 7-0 record in Game 7 of the NBA finals complete the other half. Apologies to the Bruins, but no one needed to be reminded of their conference finals Game 7 loss to the Canadiens in 1979, despite the drama of that overtime thriller.

10. 2003 ALCS

We begin the list with a tough Game 7 to swallow for Red Sox fans. In a storybook season, Boston looked as if it would finally overthrow the rivaled Yankees and capture its first World Series since 1918. After defeating the Athletics in a decisive Game 5, the Red Sox forced Game 7 in the ALCS in New York. Infamously, manager Grady Little didn’€™t pull Pedro Martinez with five outs remaining, resulting in the Yankees summoning a rally to force the game into extra innings. The curse would not be lifted as Aaron Boone joined the likes of Bucky Dent with a walk-off home run in the 11th inning off Tim Wakefield. This Game 7 certainly was memorable, but one Red Sox fans would like to forget.

9. 1986 World Series

Though most remember this World Series for Bill Buckner‘€™s infamous error in Game 6, there was in fact a Game 7 played. It was delayed a day due to rain, allowing Boston to start Bruce Hurst. The Red Sox scored three runs in the third inning and were in good shape until the Mets scored six runs in the sixth and seventh innings to take the lead. Boston responded with two runs to close the deficit to one, but New York scored a pair of insurance runs to win 8-5. It would be the final World Series appearance for the Red Sox until 2004, when they would finally put an end to the heartbreak.

8. 1957 NBA finals

Boston’€™s first trip to the NBA finals in 1957 would also result in its first of 17 banners. The high-scoring series featured a lot of points and two double-overtime contests, in Game 1 and Game 7. After the teams split the first six games, Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn led the Celtics to a 125-123 win over the St. Louis Hawks. Heinsohn scored 37 points, while Russell scored 19 and pulled down a rookie-record 32 rebounds to help begin a dynasty that would include 11 championships in 13 years.

7. 1967 World Series

The Impossible Dream team came up one game short to the Cardinals of accomplishing a World Series win. Led by Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski and AL Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg, the Red Sox battled a St. Louis team that included NL MVP Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock, Roger Maris, Steve Carlton and eventual World Series MVP Bob Gibson. In Game 7, aces Lonborg and Gibson squared off, with Lonborg pitching on only two days of rest. He struggled and lost his first game of the series, allowing St. Louis to go on to win the World Series for the eighth time.

6. 1975 World Series

In one of the greatest World Series in history, the Big Red Machine edged Boston. After an exciting Game 6 win by the Red Sox, ending with Carlton Fisk’€™s famous home run down the left field line, Game 7 also proved dramatic. Boston took a 3-0 lead in the first three innings before the Reds scored the last four runs of the game to win the World Series. A single by Joe Morgan drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning before Will McEnaney closed out the Red Sox in the bottom half to hand Boston another disappointing finish to its season.

5. 1966 NBA finals

These finals marked Boston’€™s eighth consecutive championship, entrenching the Celtics as the greatest pro sports dynasty. After both teams scored over 100 points in each of the first six games of the series, Game 7 was a defensive struggle. Jerry West led the Lakers back from a 19-point deficit, but Boston was able to keep the Logo from capturing his first title with the help of Bill Russell, who grabbed 32 rebounds. Boston won the game 95-93 at the Garden to give Red Auerbach a championship in his final season as coach.

4. 2004 ALCS

After the late-game debacle in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, the Red Sox finally rid themselves of ghosts of the past 86 years with a World Series win in 2004. What made it better? Boston defeated the Yankees to become the first team in MLB history to win a series after being in a 3-0 deficit. The Red Sox continued their momentum into Game 7 to take an 8-1 lead after four innings on the strength of a Johnny Damon grand slam. Derek Lowe started for Boston on only two days of rest and pitched six innings of one-run ball to earn the win. The 10-3 victory vaulted the Red Sox into a World Series matchup with the Cardinals, whom they would sweep in four games.

3. 1969 NBA finals

The Lakers, led by Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, were heavily favored to defeat the Celtics, who were an old, veteran team that was considered past its prime. The finals were a classic, with only one game decided by more than 10 points. The title came down to a Game 7 in Los Angeles, with Lakers victory celebrations prematurely planned. Thousands of balloons were placed in the rafters of the Forum and were left hanging after Boston won 108-106 to mark the first time in finals history that a Game 7 was won by a road team. West averaged 38 points in the series and had an incredible triple double in Game 7 with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. He was named MVP of the series, making him the only player on a losing team in finals history to be given the award.

2. 1984 NBA finals

One of the greatest NBA finals in history, this series offered epic moments including Gerald Henderson‘€™s steal and Kevin McHale‘€™s clothesline on Kurt Rambis. After the teams played in 97-degree heat in Game 5 in Boston, Game 7 at the Garden was played with the temperature at 91 degrees. Cedric Maxwell scored 24 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished eight assists to lead Boston. Dennis Johnson hit two clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the 111-102 victory, and Larry Bird was named MVP of the series. Los Angeles, however, would get its revenge the next year on Boston’€™s home floor, clinching the title in Game 6.

1. 1962 NBA finals

This series was the second meeting between the Lakers and Celtics in the finals and produced one of the best Game 7s in finals history. There were many great performances by the likes of Russell (30 points, 40 rebounds), West and Baylor, but it was Frank Selvy‘€™s missed jumper at the end of regulation that was the biggest moment. Had Selvy sunk the shot, Los Angeles would have captured the title. Instead, the game went into overtime and Boston prevailed, 110-107. This game epitomized what Game 7s are about, with star performances and a closely contested contest on the biggest stage.

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