The NBA Time Machine: 1964

Published January 4, 2023

The NBA Time Machine:

New to Northeast

Baltimore, Philly

With the Warriors’ relocation to California, Philadelphia was devoid of an NBA team. Investors Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman saw this as a significant opportunity, opting to purchase the Syracuse Nationals and get them established in Philly. Syracuse had the smallest market of any team in the league, and clearly lacked sustainability for a professional basketball franchise – thus came the Philadelphia 76ers, who retained their history.

The Chicago Zephyrs also continued to struggle with their identity. Ownership eventually settled in Maryland and re-branded as the Baltimore Bullets, paying homage to the championship-winning franchise of the league’s infancy. This version of the Bullets was considered entirely separate and did not claim the 1948 trophy.

With these movements, all teams besides the San Francisco Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers were now based in their own independent state.

Walter Kennedy

For the first time in league history, the NBA saw a change in presidency. Maurice Podoloff had led the professional basketball hotspot since its conception, but his retirement led to the appointing of Walter Kennedy.

Kennedy was noticeably upfront and strict regarding behavioral issues – he fined Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach in a pre-season game for inappropriate conduct.

Don’t Forget the Coaches!

Coaches began to receive accolades for their leadership, with the new Coach of the Year award being integrated into the NBA. The inaugural winner was Alex Hannum of the San Francisco Warriors, who led the team to the first seed in the Western Division and a seventeen-win improvement.

Standout Players

Oscar Robertson

The “Big O” had his best year to date with a new career high scoring average. He was .1 rebound short of averaging a triple double again, and led the Royals to their first fifty-win season since 1950. These accomplishments earned Robertson his first M.V.P. award, making him the first guard to claim one in eight years.

Wilt Chamberlain

Chamberlain terrorized the NBA, arguably having his most successful year yet. Under coach Alex Hannum’s vision, The Big Dipper dedicated his game to equal effort on both ends of the ball, as well as improved playmaking. The end result was a first seed for the Warriors.

Bill Russell

While Russell’s scoring involvement declined, he reached a career high in rebounding average and led the league in that department for the first time since the 50s. He became one of the top ranked passers as well, which aided in the Celtics’ fifth-straight fifty-win season.

Jerry West

For the first time in his career, West looked like the best player on the Lakers. That isn’t to diminish the excellence of Elgin Baylor, but “Mr. Outside” led the team in scoring, assists, and overall efficiency as a volume shooter. There was no doubting his game-changing offense.

Bob Pettit

As St. Louis’ roster continued to improve, there was less of a scoring burden on Pettit. This didn’t stop him from remaining one of the top scorers – and rebounders – and developing another excellent season for the Hawks.

Jerry Lucas

The high school and college phenomenon was selected to his hometown with a territorial pick, and the impact he had on games was immediately clear. The Royals jumped to a mid-to-high-tier defense with Lucas around, and he finished top two on the team in all three major statistics. His talents were baffling for a rookie.

Around the League

Team Standings

An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Boston Celtics*5921San Francisco Warriors*4832
Cincinnati Royals*5525St. Louis Hawks*4634
Philadelphia 76ers*3446Los Angeles Lakers*4238
New York Knicks2258Baltimore Bullets3149
Detroit Pistons2357

Fun Facts

  • This season saw the end of the Detroit Pistons fourteen-year streak of playoff appearances, which was tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for the longest in the NBA.
    • Above anything, this can be attributed to the Western Division finally having a steady slew of contenders.
      • The St. Louis Hawks and San Francisco Warriors both had uncharacteristically poor campaigns in the past two seasons, and them thriving in tandem with the Los Angeles Lakers pushed Detroit far out of the playoff window.
  • After moving to Maryland, the Baltimore Bullets saw their first season above thirty wins and last place in the Western Division.
  • Ball-stopping continued to be the key to success – all of the top four teams in record also ranked as the top four defenses.

Notable Movement


The player stats listed are based on their last tenure, whether it be with their former team or the previous season.
Name(s) under the “Top Draft Picks” section with a plus (+) opted to play in another league instead of the NBA this season.

Name(s) under the “Top Draft Picks” section with an asterisk (*) were selected with a territorial draft pick.
p – points
r – rebounds
a – assists

Top Draft Picks

New York Knicks
Baltimore Bullets
San Francisco Warriors
Detroit Pistons
Cincinnati Royals
St. Louis Hawks
Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Lakers
Boston Celtics
New York Knicks
Art Heyman
Rod Thorn
Nate Thurmond
Eddie Miles
Tom Thacker*
Gerry Ward
Tom Hoover
Roger Strickland
Bill Green
Jerry Harkness

Other Personnel

May 21, 1963Coach Charles WolfCincinnati RoyalsResignedRecord: 42-38
May 21, 1963Coach Charles WolfDetroit PistonsHiredRecord: 23-57
June 18, 1963Coach Jack McMahonCincinnati RoyalsHiredRecord: 55-25
July 15, 1963Player-coach Dolph SchayesPhiladelphia 76ersHiredRecord: 34-46
August 6, 1963Coach Alex HannumSan Francisco WarriorsHiredRecord: 48-32


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Bob CousyBoston Celtics6x Champion
1x MVP
12x All-NBA
13x All-Star
2x All-Star Game MVP
8x Assists Leader
Walter DukesNew York Knicks
Minneapolis Lakers
Detroit Pistons
2x All-Star
Hot Rod HundleyLos Angeles Lakers2x All-Star

League Leaders

If a stat is not listed, it was not recorded at the time. As time goes on, this section will begin to include steals per game, blocks per game, etc.


PPG – points per game
RPG – rebounds per game
APG – assists per game
FG% – field goal percentage (percentage of shots that hit)
FT% – free throw percentage (percentage of foul shots that hit)

PPGWilt Chamberlain (36.9)
Oscar Robertson (31.4)
Jerry West (28.7)
Bob Pettit (27.4)
Walt Bellamy (27)
RPGBill Russell (24.7)
Wilt Chamberlain (22.3)
Jerry Lucas (17.4)
Walt Bellamy (17)
Bob Pettit (15.3)
APGOscar Robertson (11)
Guy Rodgers (7)
Jerry West (5.6)
Johnny Egan (5.4)
K.C. Jones (5.1)
FG%Jerry Lucas (52%)
Wilt Chamberlain (52%)
Walt Bellamy (51%)
Terry Dischinger (49%)
Bill McGill (48%)
FT%Oscar Robertson (85%)
Jerry West (83%)
Hal Greer (82%)
Tom Heinsohn (82%)
Richie Guerin (81%)



East / Cincinnati Royals beat Philadelphia 76ers, 3-2
The difference between these two crews was immense. Almost twenty regular-season wins separated them, and therefore the Royals were clear favorites. Oscar Robertson backed his place in the M.V.P. discussion by generating half of their points in Game 1, and Jerry Lucas grabbed twenty-five boards.

There was strong potential for a sweep, as the 76ers just looked so much less menacing – however, they won Game 2 due to the Royals playing some uncharacteristically selfish basketball. Close contests between the two eventually resulted in a Game 5 in Cincinnati, which the Ohio club won behind a 32/10/18 stat-line from Robertson.
West / St. Louis Hawks beat Los Angeles Lakers, 3-2
Much like their series last year, home court advantage determined everything. Road wins were avoided like the plague, which resulted in eventual triumph for St. Louis in the comforts of the south.

Every player performed to their relative expectations, but Elgin Baylor in particular scored on very inefficient splits. The L.A. legend managed to impact games in other ways – namely defense and playmaking – but it was not enough to limit a St. Louis core that had the perfect mixture of veterans and young talent.

Division Finals

East / Boston Celtics beat Cincinnati Royals, 4-1
Since the 1960s begun, the Celtics had been better than every other Eastern Division team by a solid margin. The Royals had closed that gap this year, amassing the most victories in franchise history and only trailing Boston by four wins. For that reason, this matchup was expected to be one of the, if not the most competitive of the entire playoffs.

As always, the Celtics were completely oblivious to outside noise – they tore apart the Royals for three straight games, and none were nail-biters. They feasted on intangibles and strategic offense, limiting Robertson and taking advantage of their opponents’ poor wing defense.

The Royals managed to avoid a sweep thanks to sixty-four combined points from Robertson and Jack Twyman in Game 4. Their exciting season came to an end shortly after, as the Celtics wrapped things up 4-1 behind twenty points and thirty-five rebounds from Bill Russell.
West / San Francisco Warriors beat St. Louis Hawks, 4-3
The battle between these two Western contenders was an exciting one. The Hawks generally looked like the better team – after adding six-time All-Star Richie Guerin to their lineup, their offensive firepower was unmatched. On the contrary, the Warriors’ defensive philosophy won them games, with Wilt Chamberlain and Guy Rodgers being the only star-caliber names.

While the series was close at every corner, San Francisco seemed slightly more in control. Chamberlain averaged well above his regular season average in points, something he had rarely done in past years. St. Louis had to bank on limiting his teammates to beat San Francisco, but that strategy was unstable – in the decisive Game 7, the Warriors shot nearly fifty-percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Hawks’ best performance was twenty-four Pettit points on seven-of-twenty-five shooting.

With this series victory, the Warriors were headed to their first Finals since their 1956 championship season in Philadelphia.


Boston Celtics beat San Francisco Warriors, 4-1
The highest stage of this year’s post-season was a much-awaited battle – the league’s top two physical specimens and former M.V.P.s, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, writing stories of their own. Would Russell extend the Celtics dynasty? Or would Chamberlain finally acquire his coveted first chip, defeating his rival in the process?

The first two games immediately implied the former was underway, with Chamberlain having a mediocre scoring night in Game 1. Meanwhile, Celtics sophomore John Havlicek had a breakout performance, scoring twenty-eight points and only missing five field goals. The Celtics’ dominance continued, with Chamberlain upping his production in Game 2 but not seeing the same from the Warriors’ supporting cast.

San Francisco proceeded to blow Boston out in their first home game, with Chamberlain looking unaltered by Russell’s presence. An upset commenced two days later and sent the Celtics home up 3-1 – Chamberlain had generally been besting his rival and playing out of his mind, but the green team had too many weapons.

Game 5 was a relatively anti-climactic outcome, with the Celtics maintaining a lead nearly the whole way. A steady team effort meant six straight World Championships for the Russell-led franchise, becoming the longest such streak in American sports history.
The Boston Celtics win the 1964 NBA championship!


Name(s) under the “All-Stars” section with an asterisk (*) were listed as the MVP of the All-Star Game that year. Those with “(IR)” next to their name were chosen to replace an injured star.

Major Awards

Rookie of the YearMVPCoach of the Year
Jerry LucasOscar RobertsonAlex Hannum


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
Oscar Robertson
Jerry West
Elgin Baylor
Bob Pettit
Wilt Chamberlain
Hal Greer
John Havlicek
Tom Heinsohn
Jerry Lucas
Bill Russell


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Len Chappell
Wayne Embry
Tom Gola
Hal Greer
Tom Heinsohn
Sam Jones
Jerry Lucas
Oscar Robertson*
Bill Russell
Chet Walker
Elgin Baylor
Walt Bellamy
Wilt Chamberlain
Terry Dischinger
Bailey Howell
Don Ohl
Bob Pettit
Guy Rodgers
Jerry West
Lenny Wilkens
East beats West, 111-107


All-Rookie Team
Art Heyman
Gus Johnson
Jerry Lucas
Rod Thorn
Nate Thurmond

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

The Baltimore Bullets (1947-1954) won the championship in 1948, but are defunct. As a result, they are not listed.

Celtics71957, 1959
1960, 1961
1962, 1963
Lakers51949, 1950
1952, 1953
Warriors21947, 1956

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