Prior to the season, four teams from the ABA--the New York Nets, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs--were admitted as NBA franchises for a fee of $3.2 million. The rest of the ABA players, including imposing 7-2 center Artis Gilmore of the Kentucky Colonels, were disseminated throughout the league in a dispersal draft. The NBA now had 22 teams, and the Playoff system was restructured so that 12 teams qualified and each of the four division winners received a bye through the First Round.

Portland, which had yet to post a .500 record in its first six seasons in the league, was greatly improved under Jack Ramsay, who had previously coached the 76ers and Buffalo Braves. Bill Walton, the 6-11 center from UCLA who had been hurt most of his first two seasons, now had a scoring and rebounding partner in 6-9 Maurice Lucas, who came in the ABA dispersal draft. The rest of the team was comprised of consummate role players like small forward Bobby Gross, point guard Dave Twardzik and shooting guard Lionel Hollins. Despite not winning their division, the Trail Blazers defeated Chicago, Denver the Lakers and the 76ers, who now had ABA superstar Julius Erving, to become the improbable NBA Champions.

"BLAZERMANIA" TAKES PORTLAND BY STORM
Before 1977, many fans barely acknowledged that Portland had been fielding a team in the NBA. The Trail Blazers didn't command respect, averaging 28 wins in six seasons and failing to earn a Playoff berth. But in just one magical season, NBA fans everywhere were introduced to "Blazermania."

The Pacific Northwest embraced the Trail Blazers and their decidedly unconventional red-haired center from California, Bill Walton. Portland played the team game which thrilled basketball purists and which had brought first the Celtics, and later the Knicks, NBA World Championship rings.