Season by Season
1977 to 1978
Walton Injury Opens Door for
Two violent incidents cast a shadow over the game. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
punched Milwaukee rookie center Kent Benson, breaking his hand and
drawing a $5,000 fine from Commissioner O'Brien. Abdul-Jabbar missed
20 games, hurting the Lakers chances in the Playoffs. Benson missed
fewer games, but he never fulfilled the promise he'd shown as a collegian
at Indiana. An even more serious incident occurred in December. Kermit
Washington, a powerfully built forward for the Lakers, got into a
fight with Houston center Kevin Kunnert. As Houston's star forward
Rudy Tomjanovich ran toward the combatants, Washington turned and
swung his fist, inflicting massive injuries to Tomjanovich's jaw,
eye and cheek. Washington was fined and suspended for two months,
costing him more than $50,000 in salary.
Portland had won a league-high 58 games during the season, but saw its
Playoff chances dwindle with injuries to several players, most notably
Bill Walton. Instead, two Cinderella teams, Washington and Seattle,
neither of which had won its division, advanced to the Finals. The Bullets
franchise, which had been to the NBA Finals twice before without winning
a single game, rebounded from a 3-2 deficit to defeat Seattle in seven
MOTTA, HAYES JOIN FORCES TO HELP
BULLETS LAND TITLE
Hard-driving coach Dick Motta and 10-time NBA All-Star Elvin Hayes were
vastly different personalities, but in 1978, the two compromised their
different basketball philosophies enough to secure the only NBA title
in Bullets history. It proved to be the only NBA Championship for Hayes,
who played in 1,303 NBA games, and Motta, who coached in 1,719 NBA games.
"We had such diverse talent on that team," Hayes said. "We
had Mitch Kupchak, Larry Wright, Charles Johnson and Greg Ballard all
coming off the bench. Any one of those guys would have been a great
starter on another team. For starters, we had Unseld, (Kevin) Grevey,
Tommy Henderson, Bobby Dandridge and myself. From the bench to the starters,
we had great balance."
NBA History Season by Season
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