On the occasion of their 70th anniversary, we caught up with Glenn McDonald to ask what he’s been reading these days and how his experiences as a ball boy shaped him into an icon.
Glenn McDonald, the Boston Celtics hero in the “Greatest Game Ever Played” is a retired professional basketball player. He was born on February 2nd, 1944 and died on December 31st, 2017.
Many consider Game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1976 between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns to be the “Greatest Game Ever Played.” On June 4, 1976, in the Boston Garden, it was a triple-overtime thriller. The series was deadlocked at three games each, and Game 5 had it all. Glenn McDonald, a Celtics reserve who averaged 4.2 points per game in his two seasons with the team, was named the game’s MVP.
McDonald was interviewed by Sportscasting this week on his involvement in the Celtics’ grueling 128-126 win.
Growing up, Glenn McDonald despised the Boston Celtics.
On June 5, 1974, Red Auerbach, president and general manager of the Boston Celtics, and head coach Tom Heinsohn sit with first-round selection choice Glenn McDonald.
When the Celtics chose him in the first round (17th overall) in the 1974 NBA Draft, McDonald stated he wasn’t overjoyed. He said that as a child, he was never a fan of the squad.
McDonald, who played collegiately at Cal State Long Beach, remarked, “I despised the Celtics growing up because they always won.” “When I was picked, I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Going from the West Coast to the Midwest, from the heat of Long Beach to the cold and snow of Minneapolis, was first a terrible experience.
His discontent gradually gave way to admiration for the Celtics and the city of Boston.
“After talking to Red (Auerbach) and seeing all the banners and retired jerseys, I understood I had a chance to acquire a ring,” he added. “The Celtics were a team that everybody looked up to. I enjoyed the fact that Boston is a sports town.”
McDonald joined a Celtics squad that included Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, JoJo White, Don Nelson, and Paul Silas, who welcomed him with open arms. He was a member of Tom Heinsohn’s team, who was not hesitant to get feedback from his players.
McDonald said, “I think he was fair.” “Of course, I felt like I should’ve played more,” says the player. I injured my foot or my shoulder fell out of its socket just as everything were starting to fall into place. (Heinsohn) listened to Nelson, Havlicek, and the other people. They provided him with inspiration. He was aware that he was in command, but he didn’t tell you that.”
In the ‘Greatest Game Ever Played,’ Glenn McDonald came up huge.
McDonald played 6.4 minutes per game in his debut season with the Celtics. By his second season, he had more than doubled that, playing 13.6 minutes per game. During Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, the 6-foot-6 athletic forward received some unexpected playing time. There were three overtimes in this game. The Celtics may have been better off losing the opening game. Silas requested a timeout, which the team lacked. Officials refused to recognize it. A technical foul would have been assessed if it had been called, allowing the Suns a chance to win the game.
McDonald recounted, “Silas called a timeout, and they disregarded it.”
Another timeout was used in the second overtime, which was not disregarded. With five seconds remaining, the Suns seized a one-point lead, but Havlicek ran the length of the court and banked in a jumper to give the Celtics a one-point advantage. Fans walked onto the floor believing the game was finished, but there was still one second remaining. Paul Westphal, a former Boston Celtic, then purposefully requested a timeout for the Suns, knowing his team didn’t have any.
Instead of moving the ball out from beneath their own basket, White’s technical foul was called on the Suns. The team that took the technical foul shot didn’t receive the ball back back then. The Suns currently have possession of the ball at midcourt, behind by two. Garfield Heard’s catch-and-shoot goal put the game in a third extra period.
McDonald’s name was called after many players fouled out. He scored six of his eight points in the last 1:35 of the game to lead the Celtics to victory in the NBA Finals’ longest game ever.
In the third overtime, McDonald remembers receiving a call from Heinsohn.
🚨 Tonight’s #ClassicCeltics: The Greatest Game?
Rewinding to 1976 and Boston’s insane triple-overtime Finals win over the Suns. Jo Jo White plays 60 minutes. The second OT is bananas. Coach Tommy! Glenn McDonald the unsung hero. pic.twitter.com/giw7CNqouz
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) April 5, 2020
With two minutes remaining in the third overtime, Silas became the fourth Celtics player to foul out. McDonald then went to 6-foot-8 power forward/center Steve Kuberski, who was on on the bench, and informed him he’d have his shot. McDonald instead heard Heinsohn cry “Mac.”
“I didn’t believe I was going in after Paul fouled out,” McDonald said. “I turned to Steve and told him, ‘Paul fouled out.’ Prepare yourselves.’”
In a game that was in its third overtime, Heinsohn wanted McDonald, who could outrun the opposition.
“‘Run ’em Mac,’ he murmured, looking at me. McDonald remarked of Heinsohn, “Run ’em.” “I used to be really fast, and I still like being out on the fast break.” I played a bit towards the conclusion of the first half, but I didn’t touch the court again after halftime.”
In the last 1:35, McDonald made two field goals and nailed a pair of clutch free throws. The Celtics won the game thanks to his fresh legs and calm demeanor. They won their 13th NBA championship two nights later, defeating the Suns in Game 6.
“When I was on the bench, I always made sure I was ready,” he remarked. “It’s an honor to be a part of such a game.” We may not have been champions if it hadn’t been for you, Dave Cowens often says. He claims you’re unaware of what you’ve done.”
Basketball Reference provided all statistics.
Greg Kite Dispels Myths About Former Boston Celtics Teammate Larry Bird RELATED: Greg Kite Dispels Myths About Former Boston Celtics Teammate Larry Bird