Season by Season
Kareem Rules the League
The new season brought with it three expansion teams in Buffalo, Cleveland
and Portland and a new wrinkle--the advent of four divisions, two in
each Conference. In 1965, nine teams had played 360 games in a league
with 108 players. Just five years later, the NBA season opened with
17 teams playing 697
games in a 204-player league.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ruled the NBA with grace uncommon in a 7-footer.
His sky-hook had become the most devastating weapon in the game, and
he used it to lead the league in scoring (31.7 ppg) and also win the
Most Valuable Player Award for the first time. Abdul-Jabbar was surrounded
by a group of quality teammates, with Greg Smith and Bob Dandridge at
forward and Lucius Allen and Jon McGlocklin assisting Oscar Robertson
at guard. During his career, Robertson had led the NBA in scoring and
in assists and had won the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, but he
had never won an NBA title, and at 32, he knew the time was now.
Milwaukee won a league-high 66 games, brushed by San Francisco and Los
Angeles in five games each in the Western Conference Playoffs, and prepared
for the Finals. Baltimore surprised many by defeating New York in a
slugfest seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Wes
Unseld, Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson all sustained injuries during the
series, and the Bucks swept to the Championship in four straight, only
the second Finals sweep in NBA history.
EFFICIENT BUCKS GEL TO CAPTURE TITLE
Larry Costello had retired as a player after the 1968 season, and was
hired to bring along a young Milwaukee Bucks expansion team. But all
that changed when the Bucks signed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Sensing that
an Abdul-Jabbar-led team could contend, Bucks management went out and
traded for veterans Oscar Robertson, Lucius Allen and Bob Boozer. The
group clicked almost immediately, due in part to the single-mindedness
shared by Costello,
Robertson and Abdul-Jabbar.
"Larry, Oscar and I have the same way about us," Abdul-Jabbar
said. "We agree that being as efficient as possible cuts down on
our chances for errors."
In 1971, Milwaukee avoided most errors, winning 66 games and going
12-2 in the Playoffs on its way to the NBA title.
NBA History Season by Season
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