The 1970 NBA Finals are best-known for Willis Reed’s inspirational moment when he limped out onto the floor at Madison Square Garden for Game 7 and scored New York’s first two baskets of the game, sparking the Knicks to a 113-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers for the franchise’s first NBA championship. But Game 3 of that series produced another memorable moment in NBA history, thanks to an amazing shot by Lakers guard Jerry West, who earned the nickname “Mr. Clutch” for his ability to perform in pressure situations.
After splitting the first two games, the teams moved to Los Angeles for Game 3 and the Lakers promptly grabbed a 56-42 halftime lead. The Knicks, led by Dave DeBusschere and Dick Barnett, chipped away at the margin in the third quarter and finally drew even at 96-96 with two minutes to play. The lead changed rapidly until Wilt Chamberlain made one of two free-throw attempts to tie the score again at 100 with 13 seconds left.
The Lakers were trailing 102-100 at the time after Dave DeBusschere had just given the Knicks the lead, and West simply had to get as far up the court as he could before chucking up his 60-foot prayer. With the Lakers down by two and needing to go the length of the court due to having no timeouts, a miracle was needed.
It just so happened that Jerry West was on the court at the time and received the pass near his own foul line before dribbling a little behind the half-court and throwing up the prayer. But it was only worth two points and the game would go into overtime. Had West’s shot been taken today it would have been worth three points and the Lakers would have won the game in regulation, which might well have changed the course of that series.