The NBA Time Machine: 1965

Published January 14, 2023

The NBA Time Machine:

Ways of Wilt

Return to Philly

After his first Finals trip, Wilt Chamberlain‘s relationship with the San Francisco Warriors soured quickly. They failed to continue building around him to improve, and he did not get along with ownership. Couple these factors with ongoing health issues that put him in a bad place, and he eventually reached a point of frustration that prompted a trade request.

Chamberlain had become the first superstar to attempt forcing his way out of a city, and he unsurprisingly succeeded. He was traded during the All-Star Break to the Philadelphia 76ers, which placed him in a better organization that had recently relocated to his hometown.

The entire ordeal placed emphasis on how coveted Chamberlain truly was, but it also left a sour impression of him being stubborn – a rare trait for a franchise player.

Change Lanes

Much like George Mikan in his first few years, Wilt Chamberlain was painfully dominant. The league saw his exceptional statistics as a talking point for changing the rules of the game once more, and therefore chose to widen the foul lane from twelve feet to sixteen.

Doing so forced Chamberlain further out of the paint, as the defensive three-seconds rule meant he could not roam in there for longer than that duration. The star center was completely unfazed, though – he may have scored a career low 34.7 points per game, but that was still good for first in the league.


The league aimed to involve itself more with others for the sake of exposure and growth – ABC began televising its Sunday “Game-Of-The-Week”, and a sponsorship deal with General Motors begun.

Standout Players

Bill Russell

The second sixty-win season once again happened under the leadership of Bill Russell, who was awarded his fifth M.V.P. award. The seven-time champion also eclipsed five assists for the first time in his career, seemingly solidifying himself as the best passing big man of all-time.

Oscar Robertson

The reigning M.V.P. had himself another legendary season, averaging career highs in assists and minutes. The Royals didn’t quite replicate their fifty-win season this time around, but they maintained their status as a top-tier team anyways.

Jerry West

At this point, the general consensus is that the West Virginian phenomenon was destined to be the leader of Los Angeles. He reached new peaks in scoring, efficiency, and usage, all the while bringing the Lakers atop the Western Division once more.

Wilt Chamberlain

Chamberlain’s season was a bit odd – he became the first superstar to get traded mid-season (to the 76ers) due to conflicts with Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli. Both the Warriors and 76ers were on pace to be slightly better teams with Chamberlain, but not by much. Regardless, he led the league in scoring for the sixth straight time, despite efforts to hinder his effectiveness.

Jerry Lucas

In his sophomore season, the coveted Royals star became the third player in NBA history to average twenty points and rebounds for the entire year. His efficiency dipped slightly due to a larger scoring responsibility, but remained a top-tier option in that regard.

Sam Jones

While a late bloomer, Jones had become the All-NBA-caliber guard the Celtics envisioned when drafting him. He was a top-five ranked scorer with staggering efficiency for somebody dependent on jump shooting. This was the first example of his true offensive potential – he had sacrificed his role in previous years to manifest success, but ’65 Jones was the best version yet.

Around the League

Team Standings

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

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Boston Celtics*6218Los Angeles Lakers*4931
Cincinnati Royals*4832St. Louis Hawks*4535
Philadelphia 76ers*4040Baltimore Bullets*3743
New York Knicks3149Detroit Pistons3149
San Francisco Warriors1763

Fun Facts

  • The Boston Celtics mustered their second sixty-win season, remaining the only franchise to accomplish one at all.
  • Despite having mediocre personnel, the San Francisco Warriors had All-Star Nate Thurmond to be excited about – after Wilt Chamberlain‘s departure, he anchored them to a top three defense that simply suffered from a lack of shot creation.
  • The Baltimore Bullets still possessed a losing record, but managed to see the first post-season in their four years of existence.
  • For the first time since 1961, less than half of the teams finished with a winning record.

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
Detroit Pistons
Baltimore Bullets
Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Lakers
St. Louis Hawks
San Francisco Warriors
Cincinnati Royals
Boston Celtics
New York Knicks
Jim Barnes
Joe Caldwell
Gary Bradds
Luke Jackson
Walt Hazzard
Jeff Mullins
Barry Kramer
George Wilson
Mel Counts
Willis Reed


June 18, 1964Terry DischingerBaltimore BulletsTradedDetroit Pistons(20.8p/8.3r/2a)
June 18, 1964Bailey HowellDetroit PistonsTradedBaltimore Bullets(21.6p/10.1r/2.7a)
June 18, 1964Don OhlDetroit PistonsTradedBaltimore Bullets(17.3p/2.5r/3.2a)
January 15, 1965Wilt ChamberlainSan Francisco WarriorsTradedPhiladelphia 76ers(38.9p/23.5r/3.1a)

Other Personnel

August 8, 1964Coach Slick LeonardBaltimore BulletsResignedRecord: 31-49
August 8, 1964Coach Buddy JeannetteBaltimore BulletsHiredRecord: 37-43
December 27, 1964Coach Harry GallatinSt. Louis HawksFiredRecord: 17-16
December 27, 1964Player-coach Richie GuerinSt. Louis HawksHiredRecord: 28-19
January 3, 1965Coach Eddie DonovanNew York KnicksReassignedRecord: 12-26
January 3, 1965Coach Harry GallatinNew York KnicksHiredRecord: 19-23


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Clyde LovelletteMinneapolis Lakers
Cincinnati Royals
St. Louis Hawks
Boston Celtics
3x Champion
1x All-NBA
4x All-Star
Dolph SchayesPhiladelphia 76ers1x Champion
12x All-NBA
12x All-Star
1x Rebounding Leader
Kenny SearsNew York Knicks
San Francisco Warriors
2x All-Star
Frank SelvyBaltimore Bullets
Los Angeles Lakers
St. Louis Hawks
New York Knicks
Syracuse Nationals
2x All-Star
Gene ShuePhiladelphia Warriors
New York Knicks
Detroit Pistons
Baltimore Bullets
2x All-NBA
5x 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 (34.7)
Jerry West (31)
Oscar Robertson (30.4)
Elgin Baylor (27.1)
Sam Jones (25.9)
RPGBill Russell (24.1)
Wilt Chamberlain (22.9)
Jerry Lucas (20)
Nate Thurmond (18.1)
Willis Reed (14.7)
APGOscar Robertson (11.5)
Guy Rodgers (7.2)
K.C. Jones (5.6)
Lenny Wilkens (5.5)
Bill Russell (5.3)
FG%Wilt Chamberlain (51%)
Walt Bellamy (50%)
Jerry Lucas (49%)
Jerry West (49%)
Bailey Howell (49%)
FT%Larry Costello (87%)
Oscar Robertson (83%)
Howard Komives (83%)
Adrian Smith (83%)
Jerry West (82%)



East / Philadelphia 76ers beat Cincinnati Royals, 3-1
While the 76ers were significantly worse in the regular season than Cincinnati, it was unwise to bet against a team with Wilt Chamberlain. The Royals stupidly let their guard down – they collapsed in the second half of Game 1, letting Philadelphia force an overtime that they eventually took advantage of.

The Royals won Game 2 behind a strong bounce-back from Oscar Robertson, but they could not capitalize further. Even with Chamberlain scoring a measly seventeen points a couple days later, the 76ers pushed through behind Greer’s acrobatic scoring – they remained in control to the final moments of the series, handing Cincinnati their first semifinals exit since 1962.
West / Baltimore Bullets beat St. Louis Hawks, 3-1
Baltimore’s first post-season appearance went far better than expected. They demolished St. Louis in the opening match, taking advantage of Hawks star Bob Pettit’s poor performance.

While the Hawks blew the Bullets out two nights later, they quickly lost control of the momentum. They were held well below their typical points average two times in a row, and suddenly looked scarier than predicted. With four All-Star-caliber players – Walt Bellamy, Gus Johnson, Don Ohl, and Bailey Howell – Baltimore emerged as an unlikely contender and gentleman’s swept an aging opponent.

Division Finals

East / Boston Celtics beat Philadelphia 76ers, 4-3
No matter the division, Wilt Chamberlain was obliged to defeat his rival Bill Russell to hold a championship. In all five of his playoff runs, he had come across the Celtics – now partnered with a new franchise, the hope was for an upset and the start of the new era.

The teams traded wins constantly, usually involving high-scoring games from Sam Jones and Wilt Chamberlain. Bill Russell paled a bit in comparison to his competitor, but the Celtics’ intelligence and defensive intensity kept winning them games.

In Game 7 back in Boston, there was no clear dominant force. Jones and Chamberlain got theirs, Greer shot poorly but almost had a triple double, and Russell was two assists short of one as well. In the latest moments of the game, Russell attempted a cross-court inbound pass that resulted in a turnover, and as a result Philadelphia gained possession to attempt taking the lead.

Greer was chosen to inbound the ball, and failed to get it to Chamberlain due to some strong off-ball defense from Russell – he chose to pass it to forward Chet Walker, but the Celtics’ John Havlicek deflected the pass. Cheers erupted from the crowd and announcers, birthing a legendary call of “Havlicek stole the ball!” The Boston forward then got the ball to Sam Jones, who dribbled through the clock. This last-minute clutch play was instantly regarded as one of the greatest in playoff history, and saved Boston’s streak of Finals appearances.
West / Los Angeles Lakers beat Baltimore Bullets, 4-2
The Lakers went into this contest as distinct favorites, but an injury to Elgin Baylor at the very start of the first game rendered them underpowered. Jerry West stepped up greatly in his absence, leading Los Angeles to a 2-0 lead behind his average of 50.5 points per game at home.

He continued to carry the Lakers on the road, but the Bullets won consecutive matches in the comfort of Maryland. West closed out the series back in Los Angeles, managing to average forty points for the entire series. He became the second in NBA history to accomplish such, with the other being Baylor – he did so in the 1962 Finals.

West’s legendary performance opened up the gates for L.A. to see the Finals for the third time in four years, setting up yet another face-off against the Boston Celtics.


Boston Celtics beat Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1
The Celtics were prepared for their fourth Finals battle against the rival Lakers in NBA history. The odds seemed lopsided – they had already won in every instance, but with Elgin Baylor gone, the Lakers posed little to no threat in comparison.

Los Angeles only stood a chance with another West carry job, but Boston did a much better job of containing him than Baltimore did prior. A thirty-two-point blowout opened things up, and the Celtics still won in spite of a forty-five-bomb from West in Game 2.

The Celtics had a moment of weakness in their first road game, with only three players scoring in double digits. This was their only loss of the series, as they promptly handled business for the remainder of the Finals – it may have been the least competitive one of the sixties.
The Boston Celtics win the 1965 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
Willis ReedBill RussellRed Auerbach


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
Oscar Robertson
Jerry West
Elgin Baylor
Jerry Lucas
Bill Russell
Hal Greer
Sam Jones
Gus Johnson
Bob Pettit
Wilt Chamberlain


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Larry Costello
Wayne Embry
Johnny Green (IR)
Hal Greer
Tom Heinsohn
Luke Jackson
Sam Jones
Jerry Lucas*
Willis Reed
Oscar Robertson
Bill Russell
Elgin Baylor
Walt Bellamy
Wilt Chamberlain
Terry Dischinger
Gus Johnson
Don Ohl
Bob Pettit
Nate Thurmond
Jerry West
Lenny Wilkens
East beats West, 124-123


All-Rookie Team
Jim Barnes
Joe Caldwell
Luke Jackson
Wali Jones
Howard Komives
Willis Reed

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

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

Celtics81957, 1959
1960, 1961
1962, 1963
1964, 1965
Lakers51949, 1950
1952, 1953
Warriors21947, 1956

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