This article was taken from The Dazzler – an online publication to help assist those who play Strat-O-Matic Basketball – where you will find other articles on both the computer and board game. If you enjoy this article by Tom, you can find other material written by him on The Dazzler. http://www.somhoops.com/dazzler/
A Look Back: 1977-78 NBA Season Overview
By Tom Nahigian
The 1977-78 season was the second year after the ABA and NBA merged. The Portland Trailblazers won the NBA Championship in 1977 and they started the next season 50-10. They were led by Bill Walton, playing the best basketball of his career. The big redhead was a great defender, rebounder, shot blocker and passer. He could also score inside and he had a nice touch from the outside. Walton was named MVP for the 1977-78 season. After their great 50-10 start though, Walton broke his foot and his career as a Blazer was soon over. The Blazers went 8-14 the rest of the way and got bounced in their opening series of the playoffs by the Seattle Supersonics.
The Sports Illustrated Basketball Preview issue had a cover with the notation “The Enforcers” and showed the Blazers’ Maurice Lucas. The inside story showed enforcers Bob Lanier, Calvin Murphy, Dennis Awtrey, Kermit Washington and Darryl Dawkins. On December 9, 1977 in a game between the Rockets and Lakers, a melee ensued and Washington struck Rudy Tomjanovich with a hard punch by accident. This incident is recounted in a book by John Feinstein called, “The Punch.” Washington was fined $10,000 and suspended for 60 games. He joined the Celtics later that season and he played several more seasons as a fine power forward. Rudy Tomjanovich bravely came back the following season and played three more seasons. The NBA went through a difficult time with waning TV ratings and players starting to abuse cocaine.
Author Bill Simmons in his “Book of Basketball” calls the 1977-78 season “The Blown Tire.” He outlines five crises for the NBA: The drive-by shooting of the Blazers, cocaine, consecutive Bullets-Sonics concussions, the CBS problem and fighting.
On a lighter note, during halftime of NBA games shown by CBS, they showed a HORSE competition. Pistol Pete Maravich knocked off Bubbles Hawkins, George Gervin, Bob McAdoo and Kevin Grevey. These competition can be seen on YouTube for those interested – type in “Pete Maravich HORSE” to see these clips. Paul Westphal was to meet Pete Maravich in the final, but Pistol injured his knee and could not participate. Westphal was then declared the winner. In my humble opinion, Pistol Pete Maravich was the greatest HORSE player ever.
An interesting story was the amazing turnaround of the Seattle Supersonics, They started the season 5-17, then dismissed their coach, Bob Hopkins, and after they hired Lenny Wilkens went 42-18 the rest of the season. Then the following season they were the NBA Champions.
Prior to the 1974-75 NBA season, the New Orleans Jazz were born as an expansion team. They traded for Pistol Pete Maravich to boost attendance. The team won 23, 38 and 35 games the first three seasons. During the summer of 1977, Maravich lobbied for the team to sign a good forward and management obliged by bringing in Leonard “Truck” Robinson. Robinson had a great year, lead the league in rebounding and gave them more strength in the middle. With the Pistol and Truck leading the way, the team was gearing towards the playoffs, but unfortunately, the knee injury to Maravich ended their playoff hopes. The Jazz did win 39 games, missing the playoffs by only two games.
There was a great scoring race that went down to last day of the season. David “Skywalker” Thompson pumped in 73 points. Later that day, George “The Iceman” Gervin scored 63 points to take the title. Ice averaged 27.21 points per game, while The Skywalker averaged 27.15.
This was to be the last season for John “Hondo” Havlicek. In his final game, he showed what a great player he was by scoring 29 points. He was a fine all around player and he played on eight Boston Celtics NBA Championship teams, six playing with Bill Russell and two playing with Dave Cowens.
The Bullets were the NBA Champions, defeating the Sonics in seven games, winning the last game on the road. They had good inside muscle with The Big E Elvin Hayes at power forward and wide body Wes Unseld in the middle. Smooth Bobby Dandridge was a great small forward; he shut down the other team’s scoring forwards. Mitch Kupchak and Kevin Grevey were good role players and Tom Henderson was efficient at the point guard position. Guard Charles Johnson was a good role player for the 1974-75 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors as well as for the Bullets.
A fine crop of rookies entered the league too, Walter Davis, Marques Johnson, Bernard King, Norm Nixon and Jack Sikma.
With the release of both the 1971-72 ABA and the 1977-78, Strat-O-Matic now has every season of Julius Erving. One can now replay every season of his great career. He played in the ABA from 1971-72 to 1975-76 and he was a 76er from 1976-77 to 1986-87.
You can find a similar article on the 1971-72 ABA season at The Dazzler: