The "Basket Bowl"
(or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 3-Point Bomb")

A Fictional Account of a Yearly NBA vs. ABA
Professional Basketball Championship Game

Written and contributed by Cort Reynolds


NEW YORK-In 1968, the fledgling American Basketball Association crowned its first champion in the Pittsburgh Pipers. In the established National Basketball Association the Boston Celtics grabbed their ninth title in 10 seasons in the 24th season in league history. Taking a cue from their professional football counterparts, the hoops world decided to stage their own professional basketball showdown between the two major leagues.

Football had been highly successful with the Super Bowl between the NFL and AFL and now basketball hoped to follow in its footsteps. After searching for the proper name for such an event, ABC-TV executives named it "Basket Bowl" after considering Super Ball and the NBA/ABA Professional Basketball Championship Game. Now all they had to do was get the teams to play a competitive game.

The Celtics had been dethroned after eight consecutive league titles in 1967 by the Philadelphia 76ers, who were being hailed as the NBA's new dynasty. In 1968 the 76ers beat Boston by eight games in the regular season for the East Division title. But in the playoffs, aging Boston roared back from a 3-1 deficit to upset the 76ers and then beat old rival Los Angeles 4-2 to recapture the championship. While Bill Russell and Sam Jones neared retirement and the Celtic starting lineup averaged just over 30 years old, they knew how to win and gladly accepted a new challenge from the upstart league. Former sixth man John Havlicek was now the team's top player and he scored 26 points per game to lead Boston to the title. Player-coach Russell also contributed 14 points and 23 rebounds while Jones added 20.5 points a game in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the ABA entered its first season with no dynasty, but in the end a team led by a player illegally banned from the NBA ascended to the first title. Connie Hawkins, a 6-8 New York City legend who was wrongly implicated in the college point shaving scandals of the early 1960s, had bounced around from the Globetrotters to the short-lived American Basketball League before hooking up with the Pipers at the age of 25 in 1967. He carried the team to a 54-24 record, averaging 26.8 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists while playing 45 minutes per game. High-scoring 6-5 NBA castoff Art Heyman (20.1 ppg) combined with Hawkins to form a potent one-two punch that powered Pittsburgh to the ABA finals against New Orleans. Trailing 3-2 in the title series versus the Buccaneers, who featured future coaches Doug Moe and Larry Brown, the Pipers rallied to win the last two games as Hawkins averaged 30 points and 12 rebounds a game.

After a one-week layoff following the playoffs, the Celtics and Pipers met in Basket Bowl I at Madison Square Garden. Nearly 20,000 fans and a skeptical national TV audience tuned in to see the battle between the regal, established Celtics and the unknown upstart Pipers. The key matchup pitted the 33-year old defensive master Russell against the acrobatic Hawkins, a hometown legend.

Boston jumped out to a quick 14-2 lead as Pittsburgh appeared intimidated by the trappings of the event and the Celtic aura. They had been accustomed to playing in front of small crowds and no television. Boston's veteran guards Sam Jones and Larry Siegfried fleeced the quick and careless Piper guards for easy hoops while Havlicek placed the clamps on Heyman. Hawkins managed 10 first quarter points to keep Pittsburgh alive but took 11 shots to do it as Russell harassed him into a 25-14 Boston lead. It was more of the same in the second quarter as Havlicek tallied a dozen points to take a 62-44 lead at intermission.

In the second half, Piper guards Chico Vaughn and Charlie Williams took advantage of the ABA rules (30-second clock and the three-point line) in effect for the second half to augment a pressing game that quickly led to a 12-2 Piper run, slicing the deficit to 64-56. Three-pointers by Vaughn and Williams made it 64-62 but the Celtics answered with eight quick points to restore the lead to 10 heading into the final period.

The Pipers' only chance to win, according to coach Vince Cazzetta, was to foul out Russell by going to Hawkins as much as possible. Through three periods Hawkins was held to nine of 22 shooting from the field, mainly by the Celtic center. But two quick fouls on Russell early in the fourth sent him to the bench with five personals as Pittsburgh pulled to within six at 78-72 with 10:24 left. The underdog-loving New York crowd, also motivated by frequent Knick failures at the hands of the hated rival Celtics, spurred the Pipers on with chants of "DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE".

Havlicek and Jones kept Boston ahead with several baskets but Hawkins took advantage of Russell's absence to score on four straight possessions and cut the lead to 84-80 with 6:23 left. Russell made his return shortly thereafter and Hawkins greeted him with a one-handed stuff to cut the lead to two as the crowd howled its support. And then came the biggest play of the game. Havlicek drove and missed, but Russell grabbed the rebound and pitched it out to Sam Jones on the right wing. Jones fired in his patented bank shot from 25 feet for the first NBA three-pointer to restore the lead to five. Havlicek stole the ball from Heyman and drove in for a layup and foul to make it 90-82 Boston. On the next Piper possession, Russell rejected a Hawkins drive to start a Celtic break ending in a Bailey Howell layup and a safe 10-point lead. Pittsburgh guards Vaughn and Williams pushed the panic button and tried to bring the Pipers back with a barrage of three-pointers but missed six straight instead while Boston stretched the final margin to 118-99.

Much like the Packers in the first Super Bowl, the Celtics wore down their overmatched fledgling league opponents with superior depth and teamwork. Six players scored in double figures, led by Havlicek with 29, Bailey Howell with 23 and Sam Jones with 22. Hawkins tallied 28 to pace the Pipers. Russell grabbed 22 rebounds and blocked seven shots to anchor the Celtic defense, which made the difference.

Boston shot 48 percent from the field while limiting the Pipers to just 36 percent. They also out-rebounded Pittsburgh 68-58. Russell was voted MVP of the inaugural Basket Bowl game for his defensive effort and 16 points, nosing out Havlicek and Hawkins for the honor.

"We just wanted to make Hawkins work for everything he got," said Russell afterward. "We know he is a great player and it is a shame he can't play in our league. John did a good job on Heyman and we just wore them down," he added. "We did not face defense like that in the ABA," said Hawkins, "but I think we proved we could play with them."

Basket Bowl I
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
May 30, 1968
MVP- Bill Russell, Boston

1968 BOSTON CELTICS (NBA Champions) Coach: Bill Russell
Bailey Howell 8-14 7-9 23, John Havlicek 11-20 7-8 29, Bill Russell 6-11 4-8 16, Sam Jones 9-19 3-4 22, Larry Siegfried 5-10 2-2 12, Tom Sanders 2-7 1-3 5, Don Nelson 4-8 3-4 11, Wayne Embry 0-2 0-0 0, Tom Thacker 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS 45-92 27-38. 3-point field goals: S. Jones 1

1968 PITTSBURGH PIPERS (ABA Champions) Coach: Frank Cazzetta
Tom Washington 3-11 2-4 8, Art Heyman 5-16 5-6 15, Connie Hawkins 12-29 4-6 28, Chico Vaughn 4-14 2-3 12, Charlie Williams 6-20 2-2 16, Jim Jarvis 3-5 0-0 6, Leroy Wright 2-6 1-2 5, Steve Vacendak 1-3 0-0 3, Craig Dill 1-1 0-0 2, Arvesta Kelly 2-4 0-0 4. T

Total fouls-Boston 28, Pittsburgh 31. Rebounds-Boston 68 (Russell 23), Pittsburgh 58 (Washington 12). Assists-Boston 22 (Siegfried, Russell 4), Pittsburgh 16 (Hawkins 4). Deadball rebounds-Boston 5, Pittsburgh 4. Attendance-19,591. Referees-Rudolph, Strom.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 Final
Boston 25 37 20 36 118
Pittsburgh 14 30 28 27 99


SAN FRANCISCO-In 1969, game two of the surprisingly successful Basket Bowl series took place between the NBA champion Boston Celtics and the triumphant Oakland Oaks of the ABA before a partisan Bay-area crowd. The Celtics had once again surprised everyone by winning their 11th title after finishing a distant fourth in the East regular season standings. But they upset first-place Baltimore and then took out the up-and-coming Knicks to meet their familiar rivals from the west in the NBA Finals, the LA Lakers. But this time LA had added Wilt Chamberlain to Jerry West and Elgin Baylor to give the Lakers the most formidable trio in history. Yet the Celtics rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to win the series, capped by a seventh game 108-106 win on the Laker home floor. Following the win, Russell and Sam Jones, who had combined for 10 NBA titles, each announced their retirement. But they had one more game to play.

The Oaks had blitzed through the ABA with a 60-18 record. NBA great Rick Barry jumped to Oakland and led the league in scoring at 34 points per game to become the only player ever to lead both the NBA and ABA in points average. While a knee injury sidelined Barry for the playoffs, the Oaks still rolled to the title with a 12-4 playoff record. Rookie Warren Armstrong scored 29 points a game while Gary Bradds took Barry's spot and scored 20 points a night in the post-season.

The aging but seemingly ageless Celtics asked for an extra two weeks to rest and prepare for the showdown with Oakland following their grueling playoff run. The Oaks were only too glad to oblige them since the extra rest would allow Barry to recover in time to play. He especially wanted revenge against the NBA for forcing him to sit out a season after jumping to the ABA.

The game took place in the city by the bay of San Francisco, near the home of the Oaks. The crowd rooted for the ABA but still booed Barry spurning the Warriors for the Oaks upon his introduction. Oakland, a smart team, was anchored by future coaches in point guard Larry Brown, small forward Doug Moe and Barry. Brown led the ABA in assists per game and scored double figures while directing the offense, Moe hustled his way to 19 points a game, and rookie Armstrong became one of the top guards in the ABA.

Barry returned for his first game in months and hungrily drained back-to-back three-point goals as Oakland jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Boston methodically chipped away at the lead as Havlicek tossed in 11 first quarter points to finish the period down only 29-26.

The Celtics flexed their veteran muscle in the second period, controlling the boards behind Russell and Don Nelson to wrest the lead from Oakland as Barry tired. But Warren Armstrong overpowered Sam Jones with 10 straight points as the Oaks forged a 50-50 halftime tie before the partisan ABA crowd.

Oakland coach Alex Hannum, who won the only NBA titles with St. Louis (1958) and Philadelphia (1967) from 1957-69 besides Boston, had told Oakland what to expect from his old nemesis and they were well-prepared. Moe and Havlicek battled nose-to-nose while Armstrong outplayed the aging Jones. But they had no answer for the defense and rebounding of Russell. He scraped the boards for 11 rebounds and five blocks in the third quarter alone to trigger the vaunted Boston fast break and spark them to an 82-71 lead entering the final quarter.

But Russell went to the bench tired and the Oaks, energized by his absence and the crowd, scored 12 unanswered points to open the fourth quarter and took the lead 83-82. Havlicek tied the game with a free throw but Barry answered with a three-pointer and a steal and layup to lead 88-83. The teams traded baskets to reach 98-93 when Russell re-entered the game with 4:03 remaining, determined not to end his career on a losing note to the upstart league. He immediately tipped in a Jones miss, blocked a Moe drive, and assisted on a Nelson layup to make it 98-97. Barry connected on a pair of free throws but Jones nailed a three-pointer to tie it at 100 with 2:58 remaining. Barry and Havlicek each missed for their teams but Armstrong gave Oakland the lead with a post-up jumper with 2:12 left. Russell missed a hook and Barry buried a 20-footer to give Oakland a 104-100 lead at the 1:32 mark. Havlicek hit a 15-footer to slice it to two but Brown fed Moe for a backdoor layup that seemed to give Oakland a win, but Russell blocked it to Siegfried, who triggered the break to Havlicek for the tying layup with 54 seconds left. Oakland cleared out for Barry, guarded by Havlicek. He drove and drew a foul from Hondo with 40 seconds left. He hit both free throws to send the crowd into a frenzy. But Sam Jones, one of the great clutch shooters, answered with a bank shot to tie it at 106-106 with 20 seconds left. Brown fed Barry for a last-second shot, but Russell and Havlicek harrassed him into a miss and the game went into overtime.

In the extra session, the Celtic savvy and refusal to lose took over as they scored the first eight points. Havlicek led the charge with six points but Brown and Barry each hit three-pointers to make it 114-112 with under a minute left. Russell then split a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left. Oakland rushed it up for a last-ditch three-pointer. Barry was double teamed and Gary Bradds was left open for the tying shot. But his attempt fell short and Boston escaped with the 115-112 win. Havlicek was voted the game's MVP, while Russell and Sam Jones could finally retire as champions.

Basket Bowl II
The Cow Palace
San Francisco, CA
June 3, 1969
MVP-John Havlicek, Boston

1969 NBA Champion BOSTON CELTICS (48-34, 12-6 playoffs) Coach: Bill Russell
John Havlicek 12-23 5-6 30, Bailey Howell 6-13 4-6 16, Bill Russell 4-10 4-7 12, Sam Jones 10-21 3-4 24, Emmette Bryant 3-8 0-0 7, Larry Siegfried 4-9 2-2 11, Don Nelson 7-14 1-2 15. TOTALS 46-98 19-27 115. 3-point goals: Jones 1, Havlicek 1.

1969 ABA Champion OAKLAND OAKS (60-18, 12-4 playoffs) Coach: Alex Hannum
Doug Moe 5-13 3-5 13, Rick Barry 13-30 6-6 35, Ira Harge 2-4 0-0 4, Warren Armstrong 11-24 7-11 30, Larry Brown 4-9 2-2 11, Gary Bradds 6-14 2-4 14, Jim Eakins 2-4 1-1 5, Henry Logan 0. TOTALS 43-98 21-29 112. 3-point goals: Barry 3, Armstrong 1, Brown 1.

Total fouls-Boston 32, Oakland 30. Rebounds-Boston 60 (Russell 27), Oakland 56 (Harge 11). Assists-Boston 34 (Bryant 9), Oakland (Brown 11). Deadball rebounds-Boston 4, Oakland 3. Attendance-15,025. Referees-Rudolph, Strom.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 OT Final
Boston 26 24 32 24 9 115
Oakland 29 21 21 35 6 112


BOSTON-In 1970 the New York Knicks captured the imagination of the basketball world with precision passing, defense, outside shooting and teamwork en route to their first-ever NBA championship. The Knicks put together a record 18-game winning streak to start the season and then beat the Lakers 4-3 in the NBA Finals despite a knee injury to center Willis Reed. In the ABA, the Indiana Pacers swept to their first title by also beating an LA team (the Stars) with a balanced scoring attack.

Reed's serious injury, suffered in Game 5 of the Finals, would not be sufficiently healed in time for the showdown. However, he valiantly played key minutes as he did to inspire his teammates in Game 7 over the Lakers of Wilt, Elgin and Jerry. The Pacers and Knicks played in two hotbeds of basketball and their fans eagerly awaited the third Basket Bowl in Boston. The key matchup was Pacer center Mel Daniels against the hobbled Reed. Other important matchups were Indiana's high-scoring Roger Brown and cerebral Knick sharpshooter Bill Bradley, wacky Pacer power forward Bob Netolicky and solid Knick Dave DeBusschere, and Indiana guard Freddie Lewis against the thievery of stylish Knick ace Walt "Clyde" Frazier.

The Pacers and Knicks battled through a tough first quarter. Reed attempted to reproduce his early heroics of Game 7 vs. LA when he scored the first two baskets, but he struggled through a scoreless period while Daniels controlled the boards and Brown scorched the nets for 10 points. Indiana pulled into a 23-19 lead after one stanza as the Knicks offense misfired from the perimeter.

New York went to a small lineup with 6-6 DeBusschere, and the 6-5 Bradley and Cazzie Russell on the frontline to combat the Pacer size with quickness. But the move backfired as Netolicky and Daniels dominated down low while Pacer point guard Billy Keller drilled a trio of three-point bombs when the Knicks double-teamed the low post. Only the scoring of Frazier kept the Knicks from being blown out as Indiana stretched their lead to 51-40 at the half.

Reed came out determined in the second half and got the first Knick basket on a 15-footer, but the Pacers continued to exploit his weakness with the strong inside play of Daniels and Netolicky. Frazier and DeBusschere kept the Knicks close and Russell came off the bench to score eight points to close the deficit to 73-66 at the close of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Dick Barnett posted up the smaller Pacer guards for three quick hoops to bring the Knicks within 75-72. Frazier then picked Freddie Lewis' pocket for a steal and three-point play to knot the score at 75. Frazier then doubled down to steal the ball from Daniels when Indiana forced it in against Reed. A three-point jumper form the corner by Bradley put the Knicks ahead and they continued on a 17-3 run to lead 83-76 with 5:43 left.

But the Pacers were not done. Lewis and Keller hit consecutive three-pointers sandwiched around a Frazier basket to pull within three at the four minute mark. Brown then scored on a pull-up jumper to make it 85-84. The Knicks then worked the ball to an open Reed who buried a clutch 17-footer as the shot clock expired to build the lead to three again. Keller tried to tie with a three but missed and Frazier scored on a breakaway to put the Pacers away. Frazier and Bradley connected on all eight of their free throws down the stretch to give the Knicks a hard-fought 97-90 win.

Frazier tallied 34 points and dished out 11 assists while accumulating six steals to run away with game MVP honors. But it was the sharp shooting (54 percent) and stifling Knick team defense, holding Indiana to just 17 fourth-quarter points, that made the difference. The NBA, despite struggling in the past two games, was now 3-0 in these spectacles and fans began wondering if the ABA would ever win in this series.

Basket Bowl III
Boston Garden
Boston, MA
May 29, 1970
MVP-Walt Frazier, New York

1970 NBA Champion NEW YORK KNICKS (60-22, 12-7 playoffs) Coach: Red Holzman
Bill Bradley 7-11 0-0 15, Dave DeBusschere 6-13 4-6 16, Willis Reed 3-7 1-2 7, Dick Barnett 6-12 2-3 14, Walt Frazier 14-25 5-6 34, Cazzie Russell 5-9 0-0 10, Dave Stallworth 0-1 1-2 1, Phil Jackson 0, Mike Riordan 0-2 0-0 0.
TOTALS: 41-78 13-19 97.
3-point goals: Bradley 1, Frazier 1.

1970 ABA Champion INDIANA PACERS (59-25, 12-3 playoffs) Coach: Bob Leonard
Roger Brown 9-18 2-3 21, Bob Netolicky 7-15 3-5 17, Mel Daniels 8-18 2-5 18, Freddie Lewis 4-9 2-3 10, Billy Keller 4-12 2-2 13, Art Becker 1-3 0-0 2, John Barnhill 2-3 2-3 6, Tom Thacker 1-3 0-0 3. TOTALS: 36-81 13-21 90. 3-point goals: Keller 3, Brown 1, Thacker 1.

Total fouls-New York 19, Indiana 20. Rebounds-New York 45 (DeBusschere 12), Indiana 47 (Daniels (16). Assists-New York 27 (Frazier 11), Indiana 21 (Keller 7). Team rebounds-New York 5, Indiana 4. Deadball rebounds-New York 2, Indiana 2. Attendance-15,320. Referees-Rudolph, Garretson.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 Final
New York 19 21 26 31 97
Indiana 23 28 22 17 90


LEXINGTON-The Milwaukee Bucks, in just their third year of existence as an NBA expansion franchise, combined the talents of dominating second-year center Lew Alcindor and the all-around skills of the great veteran guard Oscar Robertson en route to the league title. Milwaukee registered a 66-16 record with a then-record 20-game win streak before a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Bullets (who upset the Knicks in the East final playoff) in the NBA finals.

In the ABA the Stars, last year's runner-up from LA, moved to Utah and upended the defending champion Pacers in seven games in the semifinals before dispatching the Kentucky Colonels and Dan Issel in a six-game finals. Utah head coach Bill Sharman, a veteran of the NBA wars with six Celtic title teams, now took his team to war against his old league.

But in this fourth installment of the game for pro basketball supremacy, the Stars would have no answer for the lethal one-two, outside-inside punch of Robertson and Alcindor. To make the Bucks of coach Larry Costello even more lethal, when the Stars keyed on the dynamic duo, forward Bobby Dandridge and sharpshooting guard Jon McGlocklin killed them with a collection of long jumpers and pull up drives.

Milwaukee jumped out to a double figure lead after one period and stretched the lead to 62-42 at the half as the four aforementioned Bucks each hit double figures. The Bucks shot a sizzling 61 percent from the floor in the first half to build an insurmountable bulge.

Utah, led by ex-NBA center Zelmo Beaty and underrated forward Willie Wise, made its only threatening run in the third period by outscoring Milwaukee 18-6 to start , reducing the deficit to 68-60. But Milwaukee responded with a run of its own to pull ahead 84-70 heading into the final period. Thereafter, Milwaukee never led by less than 15 in the first true blowout of the four-game series, now losing interest because of the NBA's dominance. The Bucks shot 55 percent from the floor and 71 percent from the line while Utah managed just 40 percent from the field and 64 percent from the charity stripe. The Bucks also won the battle of the boards 55-49 behind Alcindor's game-high 15 boards. Beaty led the Stars with 13 caroms and Wise added 10.

The 33-year old Robertson was named game MVP to cap his brilliant career. He posted a triple double with 21 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds while Alcindor tallied 30 points and 15 caroms. Utah was led by Beaty and Wise with 19 each. Milwaukee set a Basket Bowl game record for field goal shooting at a blistering 55 percent (49 for 89) and controlled the boards to key the win.

Basket Bowl IV
Rupp Arena
Lexington, KY
June 1, 1971
MVP-Oscar Robertson, Milwaukee

1971 NBA Champion MILWAUKEE BUCKS (66-16, 12-3 playoffs) Coach: Larry Costello
Bob Dandridge 9-17 2-3 20, Greg Smith 4-8 3-5 11, Lew Alcindor 13-21 4-6 30, Jon McGlocklin 7-13 2-2 17, Oscar Robertson 9-16 3-4 21, Bob Boozer 4-8 0-0 8, Lucius Allen 3-6 0-0 6. TOTALS: 49-89 14-20 113. 3-point goal: McGlocklin 1.

1971 ABA Champion UTAH STARS (57-27, 12-6 playoffs) Coach: Bill Sharman
Willie Wise 8-18 2-3 19, Red Robbins 4-9 2-4 10, Zelmo Beaty 7-19 5-8 19, Merv Jackson 4-13 2-3 13, Glen Combs 5-11 2-3 14, Ron Boone 8-17 0-0 18, George Stone 0-3 1-2 1. TOTALS: 36-90 14-22 94 3-point goals: Jackson 3, Combs 2, Boone 2, Wise 1.

Total fouls-Milwaukee 16, Utah 24. Rebounds-Milwaukee 55 (Alcindor 15), Utah 49 (Beaty (13). Assists-Milwaukee 27 (Robertson 12), Utah 19 (Combs 6). Team rebounds-Milwaukee 7, Utah 4. Deadball rebounds-Milwaukee 2, Utah 2. Attendance-21,345. Referees-Jake O'Donnell, Mendy Rudolph, Earl Strom.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 Final
Milwaukee 30 32 22 29 113
Utah 17 25 28 24 94


CHICAGO-After nine NBA Finals losses, the Los Angeles Lakers finally got the gorilla off their backs with a record-setting championship campaign in 1972. LA swept to a record 33-game winning streak, posted a league best-ever 69-13 mark and avenged their 1970 Finals loss to New York with a 4-1 triumph over the Knicks. Only one more goal lay ahead to cap a perfect season--a win in Basket Bowl V over the ABA champion Indiana Pacers, back for their second Basket Bowl in three years.

The Lakers had to guard against a letdown. Superstar guard Jerry West finally had his NBA title after 12 frustrating seasons in which he had finished second eight times. Ironically, West had played his greatest basketball in Laker defeats, even being named MVP of the 1969 NBA playoffs despite playing on the losing team. But in the 1972 playoffs he played some of his worst basketball (for his standards) as the Lakers rolled to the title. Perhaps it was a testament to the Laker team that they could still win in spite of this. Gail Goodrich emerged as a great scorer, Wilt Chamberlain dominated defensively and on the boards, and Happy Hairston and Jim McMillan teamed to form a solid forward tandem. Laker coach Bill Sharman, who had piloted Utah to the ABA title the previous year, was hailed as a genius for getting the Lakers over the hump without retired great Elgin Baylor.

Indiana, meanwhile, had knocked off defending champion Utah in the ABA semifinals before downing surprising upstart New York and Rick Barry 4-2 in the finals. They had added 6-8 strongman George McGinnis to their title team of 1970 which fell to the Knicks in Basket Bowl III and strengthened their bench, but they faced a tall order in toppling the 1972 Lakers.

Playing in the Chicago Stadium, Indiana rode a home area crowd/underdog advantage to a 24-20 first quarter lead. McGinnis and company led the Pacers and the bench play of sharpshooter Rick Mount and former starter Bob Netolicky spurred Indiana to a 54-46 halftime lead over the seemingly disinterested Lakers, who shot just 37 percent in the first half.

But the Lakers, and West in particular, who had suffered through a four-point first half, came out determined not to let Indiana cast a final pall over their magnificent season. West drilled seven straight jumpers, including a trio of three-pointers, to pull LA into a 77-74 lead after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter Wilt dominated the interior, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking five shots to effectively shut down the Pacers and trigger several easy fast breaks for Goodrich and West. In the end, LA won going away by a 112-100 score for the fifth straight NBA win of the Basket Bowl series. West was named MVP, atoning in his own mind for his subpar play in the 1972 playoffs. He tallied 33 points, including 29 in 20 minutes during the second half, and led all players with nine assists.

Basket Bowl V
Chicago Stadium
Chicago, IL
June 3, 1972
MVP-Jerry West, Los Angeles.

1972 NBA Champion LOS ANGELES LAKERS (69-13, 12-3 playoffs) Coach: Bill Sharman
Jim McMillian 6-13 3-4 15, Happy Hairston 5-10 1-2 11, Wilt Chamberlain 7-10 3-8 17, Jerry West 14-24 4-5 33, Gail Goodrich 11-23 2-2 25, Pat Riley 3-7 0-0 6, Jim Cleamons 1-2 0-0 2, Leroy Ellis 0, Flynn Robinson 2-5 1-1 5. TOTALS: 48-94 14-22 112. 3-point goals: West 1, Goodrich 1.

1972 ABA Champion INDIANA PACERS (47-37, 12-8 playoffs) Coach: Bob Leonard
Roger Brown 7-17 3-4 18, George McGinnis 7-21 5-8 19, Mel Daniels 7-16 3-5 17, Freddie Lewis 5-15 3-4 14, Billy Keller 5-10 3-3 15, Rick Mount 5-10 0-0 12, Bob Netolicky 2-6 1-3 5, Darnell Hillman 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS: 38-97 18-27 100. 3-point goals: Keller 2, Lewis 1, Mount 2

Total fouls-LA 21, Indiana 25. Rebounds-LA 64 (Chamberlain 21), Indiana 54 (Daniels, McGinnis 11). Assists-LA 25 (West 9), Indiana 18 (Keller 8). Team rebounds-LA 10, Indiana 7. Deadball rebounds-LA 3, Indiana 1. Attendance-20, 583. Referees-Earl Strom, Richie Powers, Mendy Rudolph.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 Final
Los Angeles 20 26 31 35 112
Indiana 24 30 20 26 100


PHILADELPHIA-As 1973 rolled around, interest was waning in the five-year old Basket Bowl series. The NBA was unbeaten and seemingly expanding the gap in the matchup of the two major pro leagues. But the Indiana Pacers, in their third and final shot at the title, were determined to finally provide the ABA and the series with a much-needed shot in the arm against the savvy NBA champion New York Knicks.

The Knicks had sneaked their way to a second NBA crown in four years. They finished the regular season 57-25, 11 games behind the rebuilt Celtics of Havlicek, Dave Cowens and Jo Jo White. But an injury to Havlicek in their Eastern Conference showdown helped New York grab a 4-3 win. In the finals, they upset the defending champion Lakers, who were hobbled by an injury to forward Happy Hairston, 4-1.

Meanwhile, the Pacers had won their second straight ABA crown and third in four years to cement their status as the junior circuit's first dynasty. They had edged rival Kentucky 4-3 in the ABA Finals but only a Basket Bowl win by the ABA would keep series interest alive as they trailed 5-0 in the competition.

A recurring knee injury to Knick center Willis Reed hampered his effectiveness and Pacer All-Star center Mel Daniels effectively neutralized the valuable Knick. The game was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than seven points the entire way. Knick guards Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe kept New York ahead with their offensive exploits against their outclassed Indiana counterparts, but the powerful Pacer frontline of George McGinnis, Roger Brown and Daniels kept the ABA alive. A three-point goal by Pacer veteran guard Billy Keller tied the game 102-102 with 10 seconds left in regulation. New York set up Bill Bradley for a final shot but his 20-footer from the corner rimmed out as time expired.

In the first overtime, Frazier connected on two free throws in the final seconds to knot the game 112-112 and force another extra session. Dave DeBusschere put New York ahead 123-121 on an 18-footer but McGinnis countered with a finger roll to make it 123-123 with 36 seconds left. Monroe was then called for a controversial travel on his patented spin move with 20 ticks left to give Indiana the final possession.

The Pacers cleared out the side for Roger Brown against Bradley and the New York native clinched the double overtime win with his favorite pull-up jumper as the buzzer sounded. The red, white and blue league finally had its first Basket Bowl win, although NBA supporters pointed out it was tainted by Reed's injury and the call on Monroe.

McGinnis led Indiana with 25 points while Brown contributed 24 and Daniels had 18 points and 18 rebounds. Frazier topped all players with 27 markers and a dozen assists, Monroe added 24 points, DeBusschere posted 21 and 15 caroms, while Bradley netted 20 and Reed added 14 points.

Basket Bowl VI
The Spectrum
Philadelphia, PA
June 2, 1973
MVP-Roger Brown, Indiana

1973 ABA Champion INDIANA PACERS (51-33, 12-6 playoffs) Coach: Bob Leonard
Roger Brown 11-23 3-4 25, George McGinnis 10-22 4-6 24, Mel Daniels 6-12 3-5 15, Donnie Freeman 5-11 3-3 14, Freddie Lewis 6-11 2-2 16, Billy Keller 4-9 2-2 12, Darnell Hillman 2-5 0-2 4, Don Buse 2-5 0-0 5, George Johnson 4-8 2-3 10 TOTALS: 50-106 19-27 125. 3-point goals: Keller 2, Lewis 2, Buse 1, Freeman 1.

1973 NBA Champion NEW YORK KNICKS (57-25, 12-5 playoffs) Coach: Red Holzman
Bill Bradley 8-16 4-5 20, Dave DeBusschere 9-19 3-5 21, Willis Reed 5-11 4-5 14, Earl Monroe 10-24 3-4 24, Walt Frazier 11-19 4-4 27, Jerry Lucas 3-6 3-3 10, Phil Jackson 1-3 0-2 2, Dean Meminger 2-5 0-0 4, Henry Bibby 0-1 1-2 1, John Gianelli 0. TOTALS: 49-104 22-30 123 3-point goals: Monroe 1, Frazier 1, Lucas 1.

Total fouls-Indiana 30, New York 32. Rebounds-Indiana 60 (Daniels (18), New York 58 (DeBusschere 15). Assists-Indiana 34 (Keller 11), New York 36 (Frazier 12). Team rebounds-Indiana 3, New York 2. Deadball rebounds-Indiana 4, New York 5. Fouled out-Reed. Technical foul-Leonard. Attendance-18, 276. Referees-Jake O'Donnell, Mendy Rudolph, Earl Strom.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 OT OT Final
Indiana 24 23 28 27 10 13 125
New York 26 28 24 24 10 11 123


INDIANAPOLIS-Once again the vaunted Boston Celtics returned to Basket Bowl for the first time in the post-Russell era (circa 1969) behind their trio of stars: John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and Jo Jo White. The Celtics defeated Milwaukee with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 4-3 in the NBA Finals with a never-say-die attitude. They won a record three road games in the Finals, including the seventh contest, to send superstar Oscar Robertson into retirement. The ABA champion New York Nets had cruised to the title by winning 12 of 14 playoff games behind league MVP Julius Erving, who was acquired from the Virginia Squires before the season. He teamed with fellow All-Stars Larry Kenon and Billy Paultz to form the top frontcourt in the ABA and one of the best in all of pro basketball.

A rejuvenated attitude brought about the ABA's first win in the Basket Bowl series the previous year gave the Nets confidence they could beat the Celtics as they played before a pro-ABA crowd in the home court of the Indiana Pacers. New York rode those waves to a 67-61 halftime lead as both teams shot over 55 percent from the field. Erving tallied 20 points in the first half while Cowens scored 16 to keep Boston close.

But the veteran Celtics crept back in the game during the third period. White and Havlicek combined for 21 points in the quarter to pull Boston within 95-94 entering the final stanza. A Paul Silas tip-in put the Celtics ahead 96-95 and they stretched the lead to 10 at 105-95 with a 12-0 run before Erving ended the Net drought on a stuff with 7:34 left. The Nets stayed within striking distance and when Paultz scored on a hook, John Williamson stole the ball to score on a breakaway and Kenon added a dunk, they pulled within 125-123 with 1:58 remaining. Havlicek responded with a 15-footer but Erving cut it back to two on a pair of free throws with 62 seconds left. But then came the backbreaker. With the shot clock nearly out on the next possession, JoJo White canned a 25-foot three-pointer to put Boston ahead 130-125 at the 34 second mark. Erving drove and scored on a flying finger roll and was fouled with 22 ticks remaining. He converted the free throw to make it 130-128 and the Nets were forced to foul. Cowens swished a pair of free tosses and then williamson forced up an ill-advised three-pointer that Silas rebounded and gave to Havlicek, who was fouled intentionally with seven seconds to go. Hondo sealed the verdict by canning both shots and the Celtics escaped with a 134-128 win.

The Boston Celtics captured their third Basket Bowl triumph in as many contests by shooting 50 percent from the floor and out-rebounding New York 64-58. Cowens won game MVP honors by scoring 29 points and grabbing 19 rebounds, White added 27 markers and Havlicek 23 to pace the balanced Celtics. Second-year man Paul Westphal also bounced off the bench to tally 20 key points. Erving topped all scorers with 36 points and he also snared a team-high 15 rebounds. Williamson added 24 points, Kenon 23 and Paultz 18 points and 10 rebounds but it was not enough against the savvy Celtics, who always seem to find a way to win.

Basket Bowl VII
Market Square Arena
Indianapolis, IN
June 4, 1974
MVP-Dave Cowens, Boston

1974 NBA Champion BOSTON CELTICS (56-26, 12-6 playoffs) Coach: Tom Heinsohn
John Havlicek 9-20 4-5 23, Paul Silas 5-11 3-5 13, Dave Cowens 13-21 3-4 29, Jo Jo White 11-23 4-5 27, Don Chaney 4-9 0-0 8, Don Nelson 4-9 5-6 13, Paul Westphal 7-11 4-4 20, Henry Finkel 0-2 1-2 1. TOTALS: 53-106 24-31 134. 3-point goals: Westphal 2, Havlicek 1, White 1.

1974 ABA Champion NEW YORK NETS (55-29, 12-2 playoffs) Coach: Kevin Loughery
Julius Erving 14-26 7-9 36, Larry Kenon 10-21 3-4 23, Billy Paultz 8-15 2-3 18, Brian Taylor 5-12 2-3 12, John Williamson 9-23 3-5 24, Bill Melchionni 3-5 0-0 6, Mike Gale 2-4 0-0 5, Wendell Ladner 2-7 0- 1 4. TOTALS: 53-113 17-25 128. 3-point goals: Erving 1, Williamson 3.

Total fouls-Boston 26, New York 32. Rebounds-Boston 64 (Cowens (19), New York 58 (Erving 15). Assists-Boston 30 (Havlicek 8), New York 24 (Taylor 9). Team rebounds-Boston 4, New York 3. Deadball rebounds-Boston 3, New York 3. Fouled out-Paultz, Silas. Technical foul-Loughery 2. Attendance-15, 801. Referees-Earl Strom, Jake O'Donnell, Darell Garretson.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 Final
Boston 31 30 33 40 134
New York 33 34 28 33 128


INGLEWOOD-For the first time in the eight-year history of the Basket Bowl series, an ABA team was made the favorite heading into the contest. Las Vegas oddsmakers installed the Kentucky Colonels, led by 7-2 center Artis Gilmore, sharpshooting 6-9 forward Dan Issel and the league's all-time leader in points and assists in 6-0 guard Louie Dampier, as 3 1/2 point favorites over the upstart NBA champion Golden St. Warriors. The Warriors had swept the heavily-favored Bullets 4-0 in the NBA Finals behind the brilliant all-around play of Rick Barry, (now back in the NBA after a four-year stint in the ABA), rookie-of-the-year Keith Wilkes and a deep bench employed by coach Al Attles.

Kentucky, which won more games than any franchise in the nine-year history of the ABA, finally captured their first league title after several playoff disappointments. In 1972 they had won a league-record 68 games but were upset in the first round by a .500 New York Net team. In 1973 they fell to their arch-rival Indiana 4-3 in the finals and the following year they were swept by eventual champion New York and Julius Erving. But in 1975 they took no prisoners and won three successive series by 4-1 scores, exacting a measure of revenge against the Pacers in the championship series.

The Colonels, coached themselves by future NBA guru Hubie Brown, were well-prepared to take advantage of the Warriors' achilles heel, which just happened to be Kentucky's strongest point--center. Gilmore far out-classed the Warrior three-headed pivot monster of George Johnson, Clifford Ray and Derrick Dickey, powering his way to 42 points. When the Warriors double and triple teamed Gilmore down low, the sharpshooting Dampier and Issel punished them with three-point bombs and 20-footers.

Barry was valiant in defeat, scoring 34 points while Wilkes added 25, but the Warriors never led in the game. Kentucky blazed to a 63-52 lead at intermission on 58 percent shooting. Golden St. closed the gap to 90-86 after three quarters and Barry started the final stanza with a 20-footer to cut the deficit to two, but that was as close as they got. Kentucky answered and effectively ended the game with a 12-0 run behind four points each by their aforementioned trio of stars for the first convincing win by the ABA in the Basket Bowl series.

Basket Bowl VIII
The Fabulous Forum
Inglewood, CA
June 7, 1975
MVP-Artis Gilmore, Kentucky

1975 ABA Champion KENTUCKY COLONELS (58-26, 12-3 playoffs) Coach: Hubie Brown
Wil Jones 3-8 4-6 10, Dan Issel 13-20 4-5 30, Artis Gilmore 18-27 6-9 42, Ted McClain 4-11 2-3 10, Louie Dampier 8-18 2-2 21, Bird Averitt 2-4 0-0 4, Marv Roberts 2-5 0-1 4, Gene Littles 1-3 0-0 2. TOTALS: 51-96 18-26 123. 3-point goals: Dampier 3.

1975 NBA Champion GOLDEN ST. WARRIORS (48-34, 12-5 playoffs) Coach: Al Attles
Rick Barry 14-30 4-4 34, Keith Wilkes 11-20 3-4 25, George Johnson 2-5 1-2 5, Butch Beard 3-7 2-3 8, Charles Johnson 4-11 0-0 8, Phil Smith 6-11 2-3 14, Derrick Dickey 1-2 0-0 2, Jeff Mullins 4-8 5-6 13, Charles Dudley 1-1 1-2 3, Clifford Ray 0. TOTALS: 46-95 18-24 112. 3-point goals: Barry 2.

Total fouls-Kentucky 27, Golden St. 28. Rebounds-Kentucky 56 (Gilmore 17), Golden St. 46 (Ray 10). Assists-Kentucky 23 (Dampier 10), Golden St. 22 (Beard, Barry 6). Team rebounds-Kentucky 3, Golden St. 2. Deadball rebounds-Kentucky 3, Golden St. 2. Technical-Barry. Referees-Strom, Rudolph, Gushue.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 Final
Kentucky 34 29 27 33 123
Golden State 25 27 34 26 112


DENVER-Two victories in the past three Basket Bowls revived interest in the series and inflamed talks of a merger as the New York Nets and Boston Celtics met in a rematch of Basket Bowl VII at the mile high ABA city of Denver.

Boston had surprised many observers by winning their record 13th NBA title in 1976. They had the league's second-best record but superstar John Havlicek was 35 and the Celtics barely edged Buffalo before capitalizing on an injury to Jim Chones to beat Cleveland 4-2 in the East Finals. In the Finals, Boston faced upstart Phoenix, led by ex-Celtic Paul Westphal and top rookie Alvan Adams. The Suns had upset the defending champion Warriors in seven games to reach the finals, knocking out the team with the NBA's best record. The dogged Suns tied the series 2-2 before Boston prevailed in a 128-126 triple overtime classic that finally broke the underdogs' back and the Celtics went on to win in six. The Nets captured the final ABA title by upsetting Denver, the league's best regular season team, in the finals by a 4-2 count. The Nuggets were coached by Larry Brown and featured All-Stars David Thompson, Dan Issel and Bobby Jones but Julius Erving averaged 34.7 points a game in the playoffs to carry the Nets to the crown. They outscored Denver 34-14 in the final quarter of game six to pull out a 112-106 win despite 42 Thompson points.

Motivated by the possible merger and revenge for the close loss in their first meeting back in 1974, the New Yorkers jumped out to an early 11-point lead over the aging Bostonians, but the crafty Celtics rallied to grab an 89-85 lead heading into the final quarter. Boston had again overachieved by winning the NBA title and appeared poised to add their fourth Basket Bowl crown as well when they led 112-104 with two minutes left behind star center Dave Cowens.

But the partisan ABA crowd spurred the Nets on a decisive 13-2 run to finish the game as Julius Erving scored 10 of the points, including the clincher on a swooping dunk with six seconds remaining. Boston's Jo Jo White got off a three-pointer at the buzzer but Erving partially blocked it to secure the win, 117-114. His 44 points set a Basket Bowl record and he also added 12 rebounds. As it turned out, he also may have saved the flagging ABA as their third win in the last four showdowns embarrassed the staid NBA into a merger shortly thereafter, ending the Basket Bowl series as New York, Indiana, San Antonio and Denver joined the senior circuit to form one 22-team pro league.

Basket Bowl IX
McNichols Arena
Denver, CO
June 10, 1976
MVP-Julius Erving, New York Nets

1976 ABA Champion NEW YORK NETS (55-29, 8-5 playoffs) Coach: Kevin Loughery
Julius Erving 19-31 5-6 44, Rich Jones 4-9 2-4 10, Jim Eakins 2-4 2-2 6, Brian Taylor 6-10 2-2 14, John Williamson 11-25 4-6 28, Al Skinner 2-5 0-0 4, Tim Bassett 0-3 0-2 0, Kim Hughes 2-4 1-2 5, Ted McClain 1-3 0-0 2, Bill Melchionni 1-2 1-1 4. TOTALS: 48-96 17-25 117 3-point goals: Williamson 2, Melchionni 1, Erving 1.

1976 NBA Champion BOSTON CELTICS (54-28, 12-6 playoffs) Coach: Tom Heinsohn
John Havlicek 7-17 3-4 17, Paul Silas 4-11 3-6 11, Dave Cowens 13-23 4-5 30, Charlie Scott 7-15 3-4 18, Jo Jo White 9-20 4-5 23, Don Nelson 2-4 2-2 6, Kevin Stacom 1-3 0-0 2, Steve Kuberski 2-5 0-2 4, Jim Ard 1-2 0-0 2, Tom Boswell 0-1 1-2 1. TOTALS: 46-101 20-30 114 3-point goals: White 1, Scott 1.

Total fouls-New York 23, Boston 30. Rebounds-New York 56 (Erving 12), Boston 59 (Cowens, Silas 13). Assists-New York 21 (Taylor 9), Boston 24 (Havlicek 7). Team rebounds-New York 4, Boston 3. Deadball rebounds-New York 3, Boston 3. Attendance-17,667. Referees-Strom, Garretson, Powers.

Score by Quarters
1 2 3 4 Final
New York 31 26 28 32 117
Boston 28 28 33 25 114

[NBA 6, ABA 3]
1968-Boston (NBA) 118, Pittsburgh (ABA) 99 [MVP-Bill Russell, Boston Celtics]
1969-Boston (NBA) 115, Oakland (ABA) 112 OT [MVP-John Havlicek, Boston Celtics]
1970-New York Knicks (NBA) 97, Indiana (ABA) 90 [MVP-Walt Frazier, New York Knicks]
1971-Milwaukee (NBA) 113, Utah (ABA) 94 [MVP-Oscar Robertson, Milwaukee Bucks]
1972-LA Lakers (NBA) 112, Indiana (ABA) 100 [MVP-Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers]
1973-Indiana (ABA) 125, New York Knicks (NBA) 123--2OT [MVP-Roger Brown, Indiana Pacers]
1974-Boston (NBA) 134, New York Nets (ABA) 128 [MVP-Dave Cowens, Boston Celtics]
1975-Kentucky (ABA) 123, Golden State (NBA) 112 [MVP-Artis Gilmore, Kentucky Colonels]
1976-New York Nets (ABA) 117, Boston (NBA) 114 [MVP-Julius Erving, New York Nets]

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