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Gerald Henderson calls his steal in ’84 Finals greatest play in Celtics history

Sep 19, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT

The Boston Celtics are one of the league’s most storied franchises, so any conversation that tries to identify the single greatest play in the team’s history is ultimately an exercise in futility, with the point being that there are far too many moments of greatness for there to be one that transcends all others.

But Gerald Henderson of the ’84 Celtics team that beat the Lakers in seven games to win a championship has a legitimate argument that his defensive play in Game 2 of that series should be included in the conversation.

The video clip above shows Henderson’s brilliance — Boston, already down a game in the series, was trailing by two points near the end of regulation. A loss would mean heading back to L.A. trailing 2-0, and the task of coming back would have been a daunting one.

Henderson, however, stole a pass from Magic Johnson in the back court, and laid it in with 13 seconds remaining to tie things up. The Celtics ended up winning in overtime, after a stunned Magic inexplicably dribbled the clock out as time expired in regulation.

Henderson is not shy about his accomplishment, and feels it should be recognized as the top play in the history of the franchise.

From Jay King of MassLive.com:

During a video message to John Karalis from the Celtics blog Red’s Army — who, during a recent post to commemorate the 26th anniversary of Larry Bird’s steal against the Detroit Pistons, labeled Bird’s theft “the best play in Celtics history” — Henderson suggested his own famous steal should be rated No. 1.

“Not too long ago, you called Larry Bird’s steal against the Pistons in ’87 the best play in Celtics history. Well, as you know, that’s not true,” said Henderson. “It was one of them. It was a fantastic play by The Legend, but you forget about my steal in Game 2 of the ’84 Finals. The Lakers were so stunned that Magic (Johnson) — Tragic Magic at the time — he ran out the final play, dribble, dribble, dribble.”

Bird’s steal against the Pistons will remain one of the team’s great plays, simply because it similarly saved the Celtics in a series where they appeared ready to fall behind by an insurmountable margin.

But Henderson has a point, because while Boston beat the Pistons in ’87 and made it to the Finals, they eventually lost to the Lakers. His play, however, helped guide his team to one of its 17 NBA titles.

  1. kb2408 - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    That play was a heartbreaker for all LAKERS fans!! There should be one more Championship banner hanging in the Staples Center!!

    • monsonka - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:37 PM

      If there should be another banner for LA, then there should be another 3 for Boston for 2010, ’87, and ’85

  2. monsonka - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    James Worthy threw the pass that Henderson stole, not Magic.

  3. haroldclark - Sep 20, 2013 at 5:03 AM

    I’ve been watching the Celtics since 1954 when my dad brought me to the cramped old Boston Arena (yup, they used to play some games there every year) to see the pre-Russell Cs, so with all due respect to Gerald Henderson for his brilliant steal, in Boston Celtics lore at least one play out-shines his great deed, truly saving the day and the dynasty: “Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball!”

    Besides preventing a possible dynasty-ending as well as game-ending successful play by Messrs Greer, Walker, and Chamberlain of the 76ers, number 17 also saved saved Bill Russell’s rear-end by breaking toward the in-bounds pass at the last possible moment and tapping the ball to Sam Jones, after Russell had just hit the basket’s support wire on a Boston under-the-basket in-bounds attempt several feet from Philly’s goal.

    Gerald, we luv ya man…but Havlicek stole the ball, and your thunder as well.

  4. paulhargis53 - Sep 20, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    You should be hanging in the Staples center, swinging from the rafters…..

  5. rgarritt - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:19 AM

    I had to see which player made that pass. Wow. The Lakers were either not ready or didn’t have the personnel in at the right time when that play occurred.

  6. papichulo55 - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:29 AM

    Havlicek stole the ball!

  7. Anoesis - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Hope Henderson didn’t pull a muscle patting himself on the back.

  8. imakcds - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Humility is a Holy trait, one that is absent in Boston.

  9. shockexchange - Sep 20, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    If it’s not then it’s darn close.

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