Basketball Classic Seasons Preview: 1965-66 and 1967-68 (ABA)

No Time Like the Past with Strat-O-Matic’s Latest Classic Pro Basketball Seasons
By Glenn Guzzo
            The Windows version of Strat-O-Matic Pro Basketball becomes more irresistible each year with the latest releases of classic NBA and ABA seasons. This time, there’s an especially strong sense of history with the forthcoming 1965-66 NBA and 1967-68 ABA.
            The ’65-66 NBA completes the Boston Celtics’ run of eight straight championships. The streak nearly ended this year as Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers came that close.
            The ’67-68 ABA was the wacky rival league’s first season with such debuts as a 3-point shot, a red-white-and-blue ball and Connie Hawkins.
            This may be the year to discover the wonders of pro basketball’s all-time greats and Strat-O-Matic’s great simulation.
            Enough floor play. Here are the details:
1965-66 NBA: Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers came ever closer to unseating the Boston Celtics, but the Celtics won the last of their eight straight NBA championships with Bill Russell still at his rebounding (22.8 rpg) and shot-blocking best.
            A furious regular-season finish (Philly won its final eight games while Boston won its final six) gave the Sixers a 55-25 record and the Eastern Division title by one game over the Celtics, who had won the division every year since Russell’s arrival in 1956.
            Chamberlain led the league in scoring (33.5 ppg) and rebounding (24.6 rpg) while adding 5.2 assists per game. He had help from Hal Greer (22.7 ppg), Chet Walker and rookie Billy Cunningham, while Russell relied on teammates Sam Jones (23.2 ppg) and John Havlicek (18.8 ppg).
            Thirteen players averaged a double-double this season and most of the names are legendary: Chamberlain and Russell; Oscar Robertson (31.3 ppg, 11.1 apg) and Jerry Lucas (21.5 ppg and 21.1 rpg) in Cincinnati; Walt Bellamy (23.2 ppg, 16 rpg) and Willis Reed (15.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg) in New York; rookie Rick Barry (25.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg) and Nate Thurmond (16.3 ppg, 18 rpg) in San Francisco; Gus Johnson (16.1 ppg, 13 rpg) in Baltimore; Dave DeBusschere (16.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg) and Ray Scott (20.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg) in Detroit; and Zelmo Beatty (20.7 ppg 13.7 rpg) and Bill Bridges (13 ppg, 12.2 rpg) in St. Louis.
            Jerry West (31.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.1 apg) led the Los Angeles Lakers (45-35) to the Western Division title.
1967-68 ABA: The inaugural season of the American Basketball Association completes the set of ABA seasons re-created by Strat-O-Matic. The high-scoring league (all 11 teams averaged at least 103 points) with the three-point-shot and the red-white-and-blue ball had 10 regulars who averaged more than 20 points per game.
            No star shined brighter than Pittsburgh’s Connie Hawkins, who had been banned by the NBA but led the new league in scoring (26.8 ppg), was second in rebounding (13.5 rpg) and third in assists (4.6 apg). Hawkins, guard Charlie Williams (20.8 ppg), former Duke star Art Heyman (20.1 ppg after being acquired in a mid-season trade) and NBA castoff Chico Vaughn (19.9 ppg) led the Pipers to the ABA’s best record (54-24) and three playoff series victories to claim the first ABA championship.
            Pro basketball fans will recognize the Indiana Pacers (with future ABA legends Roger Brown and Freddie Lewis, plus college stars Jimmy Rayl and Oliver Darden), the Denver Rockets (future NBA great Byron Beck), and the Kentucky Colonels (Louie Dampier). They may recall the Dallas Chaparrals (former NBA star Cliff Hagan and former Duke star Bob Verga) and the Oakland Oaks (Levern Tart averaged 26.9 points after a mid-season trade).
            But only students of the sport could come up with the Pittsburgh Pipers, Minnesota Muskies (future MVP Mel Daniels averaged 22.2 ppg and led the ABA with 15.6 rpg), New Jersey Americans, New Orleans Buccaneers (the ABA runner-up with future coaching stars Doug Moe, who averaged 24.2 ppg, and Larry Brown, who led the league with 6.5 apg), the Houston Mavericks (Willie Somerset averaged 21.7 ppg) and the Anaheim Amigos.
            Several of these franchises were not long for the ABA, but in 1967-68 they produced two competitive divisions for 78 or 79 games each. Pittsburgh’s 54 wins were only four games better than Minnesota’s. In the Western Division, New Orleans won with a 48-30 record, barely ahead of Dallas (46-32) and Denver (45-33).