Published March 11, 2023
The NBA Time Machine:
Twelve, YoU Say?
After the expansion Chicago Bulls team proved to be an initial success, the league continued to entertain growth in club size. This time around, the west coast got a couple more representatives – the Californian San Diego Rockets, and northwestern Seattle SuperSonics.
The choice for San Diego was inspired by a motivating love for sports in the area, particularly for hockey. With the San Diego International Sports Center considered, the potential for a franchise was high – profit presented itself at every corner.
Regarding other matters, a pair of Los Angeles businessmen – who happened to own the AFL’s San Diego Chargers – were awarded with an NBA franchise, inspiring the move to Seattle. The name “SuperSonics” was largely based on the city’s ties to the aviation industry.
With two new teams in the Western Division, the Detroit Pistons were moved to the East.
After the American Basketball Association (ABA)’s development in the past year, it finally begun play this season with bold goals of challenging the NBA. The opportunity to start anew excited many established talents, most notably Rick Barry of the San Francisco Warriors.
Due to a mouth-watering contract deal that involved profits exceeding over half a million dollars, Barry was convinced to join the ABA’s Oakland Oaks. This was an easy decision for the talented forward – not only did he have tension with Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli, but he could also play for his former coach and father-in-law Bruce Hale in the rival league.
Barry was ultimately held back from playing due to a one-year contract option exercised by the Warriors, but they had already lost his loyalty. That marked the second superstar in four years they gave up to stingy ownership, with the other being Wilt Chamberlain three years prior.
More and More Games!
The league made a decision to increase the game total from eighty-one to eighty-two games.
Playoff series were also expanded in size. Prior to this season, teams in the first round only needed three wins to advance – the total was increased to four to remain consistent with the Division Finals and Finals.
While the league pace hardly decreased, players were generally less productive. This can be attributed to the sixties’ favorite superstars aging, which influenced the reduction in ludicrous stat-lines. Nobody scored over thirty points per game for the first time since 1959, and nobody reached over ten assists per game for the first time since 1961.
As far as exciting statistical news went, though, Wilt Chamberlain became the first center of all-time to lead the league in total assists.
Chamberlain continued his reign as a newly refined player, continuing to raise his assist totals – this year, he led the NBA in total assists. This, in tandem with another great 76ers campaign, earned Chamberlain his third straight M.V.P.
With Jerry West missing over twenty games to injury, Baylor was forced to step up. He had silently accepted the “second option” role in the past few seasons, but this year proved he was still a superstar that could lead a successful team.
While the Royals continued trending downwards, Robertson was still phenomenal. The point guard became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in both scoring and assists averages, and he was the best free throw shooter as well. His status as a generational offensive talent was well beyond solidified.
Bing’s sophomore season was a much-embraced success by Pistons fans. He increased his points average by seven per game, while also greatly improving as a playmaker. His focus led Detroit to their first playoff appearance in five years.
Wilkens had always been a quality star, but his development into the Hawks’ commander was remarkable. He led St. Louis to an unprecedented fifty-six wins, which was a seventeen-game improvement and good for first in the West. His exceptional passing abilities elevated the play of everybody on the roster.
Russell continued to tread through the regular season silently, now putting up his worst numbers to date. He saw career low averages in scoring and rebounding, finishing with under twenty boards per game for the first time. Despite these struggles, the Celtics finished with the second seed in the East under his guidance as a player-coach.
Around the League
An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.