Glenn Guzzo


Are You Ready for This?


Basketball Gamers Anticipate Classic Matchups:



Bird-Magic Rookies



By Glenn Guzzo


            As historic-season offerings go, this year’s Strat-O-Matic basketball lineup probably is the most appealing ever.


            Both the 1966-67 and 1979-80 seasons have enormous star power and historical significance. Both offer seasons never before created in Strat-O-Matic’s current player-card format (though they are for the computer only).


            The 1966-67 season, featuring Wilt Chamberlain’s then-record, 68-win Philadelphia Sixers, is the earliest ever offered by the game company. Gamers had long wondered whether they would ever see a season this old, because the National Basketball Association didn’t keep a variety of statistics (offensive rebounds, steals, blocked shots, etc.) that are important to Strat-O-Matic ratings. But without a season of this vintage, Strat players wouldn’t experience the likes of Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Jerry Lucas, Rick Barry and other NBA greats in their primes.


            The 1979-80 season marked a new era of popularity for the NBA, with rookies Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It extends the reach of the SOM computer game to all seasons from 1979-80 forward. The following season was the first in current Strat-O-Matic format.


            And in a case of wonderful coincidence, Boston Celtics fans can experience both the 2007-08 NBA champions and the 1979-80 finalists – two teams that rebounded from sub-30-win seasons to the league’s top echelon.





            In 2007-08, Golden State scored a league-best 111.0 ppg. In ’66-67, the league’s worst offensive team, Detroit, averaged 111.3. The champion 76ers averaged 125.2.


            Welcome to the 10-team, shoot-‘em up NBA of 40 years ago, when teams routinely had six or seven players who averaged double-figure scoring and when rebounders needed more than 20 per game to lead the league.


            The last season before major NBA expansion, 1966-67 is a season gamers have been craving because it offers the first or best seasons in SOM form so far for many NBA legends:


            Chamberlain (24.1 ppg, 24.2 rpg), Bill Russell (13 ppg, 21 rpg), Oscar Robertson (31 ppg, 11 apg), Jerry West (29 ppg), Elgin Baylor (27 ppg, 13 rpg), scoring leader Rick Barry (35.8 ppg), Nate Thurmond (19 ppg, 21 rpg), Jerry Lucas (18 ppg, 19 rpg), Guy Rodgers (18 ppg, 11 apg), Hal Greer (22 ppg), Sam Jones (22 ppg) and such other NBA legends as John Havlicek, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere and Gus Johnson.


            Philadelphia, which began the season 45-4 and cruised to the title, stars Chamberlain, Greer and top sixth-man Billy Cunningham (19 ppg, 7 rpg). It will have the most replay challenge from 60-win Boston, which had an all-star lineup of Russell, Havlicek, Sam Jones, 20-ppg man Bailey Howell and point guard K.C. Jones.





            With Rookie-of-the-Year Bird, the Celtics rebounded from a 29-win cellar-dwelling team to an NBA-best 61 wins. With Johnson joining league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Los Angeles, the Lakers won their first championship since 1972.


            Magic’s legend was secured in Game 6 of the finals against Philadelphia. With Jabbar out with an injury, the Lakers did the unheard-of. They turned their rookie point guard Johnson into a center. He scored 42 points and grabbed 15 rebounds – he also grabbed the playoff MVP award.


            With Larry Legend in Boston and the legendary Magic in LA, the Celtics and Lakers won every NBA title from 1980-88 but one.        


            This was another high-scoring season, with each of the NBA’s 22 teams averaging at least 102 points per game. San Antonio, led by league-leading scorer George Gervin (33.1 ppg), paced the NBA with 119.4 points per game – while surrendering 119.7.


            Shooting stars were everywhere. Boston had Bird, C Dave Cowens and flashy playmaking point guard Tiny Archibald. But the Celtics were only two games better than Philadelphia, which had Julius Erving (26.9 ppg), Bobby Jones and Doug Collins. Washington, only two years removed from an NBA championship, still had Elvin Hayes (23 ppg) and Wes Unseld (13 rpg).


            Atlanta won 50 games with a triple-threat offense of forwards John Drew and Dan Roundfield, plus guard Eddie Johnson. Houston was an exciting 41-41 with Moses Malone (25.8 ppg, 14.5 rpg), Calvin Murphy, Rick Barry and Rudy Tomjanovich. So was San Antonio with Gervin, Larry Kenon (20 ppg) and James Silas.


            In the West, Los Angeles was only four games better than defending-champ Seattle, which again had guards Gus Williams (22 ppg) and Dennis Johnson, plus C Jack Sikma. Phoenix was one game further back with Paul Westphal (22 ppg) and Walter Davis (21.5 ppg).


            Scoring machine Lloyd Free fired in 30 ppg for the San Diego Clippers. Other productive stars included Robert Parish in his final season with Golden State (before his trade to Boston), Milwaukee’s Marques Johnson (21.7 ppg), Detroit’s Bob McAdoo, Kansas City’s Otis Birdsong, Chicago’s Artis Gilmore and Reggie Theus, Utah’s Adrian Dantley (28 ppg) and Denver’s high-scoring trio of Dan Issel, David Thompson and Alex English.