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

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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.