Season by Season
1968 to 1969
Russell Runs into Sunset with
an Improbable 11th Title
The Knicks had long been a league doormat, making the Playoffs just once from
1956 to 1966. But a couple of interesting developments had occurred in
New York during the 1967-68 season that would have an impact down the
road. Red Holzman, the former Hawks coach in Milwaukee and St. Louis,
replaced Dick McGuire as Knicks coach in midseason and took the 15-22
Knicks to a 28-17 mark the rest of the way. Rhodes Scholar Bill Bradley
of Princeton, Walt Frazier of Southern Illinois and Phil Jackson of North
Dakota all made their rookie debuts. And in December, the Knicks made
another important addition, obtaining Dave DeBusschere from Detroit for
Walt Bellamy and Howie Komives.
Russell ended his playing
career with his 11th championship in 13 seasons.
But attention was focused on a much bigger trade, with Wilt Chamberlain
going to the Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff
prior to the season. Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke figured the addition
of Chamberlain to the tandem of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor would surely
bring him a championship in the 14-team league, which had welcomed Milwaukee
and Phoenix as expansion franchises. But it wasn't to be in 1969. The
Celtics, widely written off due to advancing age, won just 48 games
in the regular season, finishing fourth in the East. But they dumped
Philadelphia, took the Playoff neophyte Knicks in six games, and stunned
the basketball world by pulling out one last Championship, defeating
the Lakers in seven games--the finale a two-point win in Los Angeles,
as hundreds of balloons which had been held in netting near the ceiling
in anticipation of a Lakers victory celebration never got a chance to
be unleashed. It marked the Celtics' 11th championship in 13 seasons.
HAYES, UNSELD MAKE IMPRESSIVE DEBUTS
Two impressive frontcourtmen made their debuts in 1968: Elvin Hayes
and Wes Unseld. Hayes, a powerfully built forward for the San Diego
Rockets, won the league scoring title as a rookie with 28.4 points and
also averaged 17.1 rebounds.
Unseld, the second pick (after Hayes) in the 1968 NBA Draft by Baltimore,
became only the second player in NBA history to win both the Most Valuable
Player and Rookie of the Year awards simultaneously, following in Chamberlain's
footsteps. Unseld averaged 13.8 ppg and was second in the NBA to Chamberlain
with 18.2 rpg.
NBA History Season by Season
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