An offseason development would have major ramifications on the entire decade of the 1980s. Larry Bird, a junior eligible from Indiana State, was chosen as the sixth pick of the 1978 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. Although Bird elected to remain in school, Red Auerbach, who had for years found players by extraordinary means, had done it again.

Washington won a league-high 54 games and took the Atlantic Division, while San Antonio, behind repeat NBA scoring champion George Gervin, won the Central. Kansas City, in its first year under feisty Cotton Fitzsimmons, qualified for the Playoffs for only the second time since moving from Cincinnati by winning the Midwest, and Seattle, brimming with confidence after reaching the Finals, took the Pacific. Only Kansas City, victimized by a high-scoring Phoenix club led by Paul Westphal and Walter Davis, failed to advance to the Conference Finals. Washington fell behind San Antonio 3-1, but won three straight games by a total of 14 points to keep their hopes of two straight titles alive. Seattle won the first two against Phoenix, dropped three straight, then came back to take the last two games by a total of five points to set up a rematch with the Bullets.

Washington took Game 1 by two points when Larry Wright made two free throws with no time remaining. But the SuperSonics, behind NBA Finals MVP Dennis Johnson, won four straight to bring Seattle a title and some overdue respect.

SILAS KEY PIECE IN SONICS CHAMPIONSHIP PUZZLE
Dennis Johnson won the Most Valuable Player award in the 1979 NBA Finals, Gus Williams led the SuperSonics in scoring, Jack Sikma in rebounding and "Downtown" Fred Brown in improbable perimeter bombs. But the man Coach Lenny Wilkens pointed to as a key member of the squad was 35-year-old ex-Celtic forward Paul Silas, who averaged just 5.6 points and 7.0 rebounds that season.

"Look anywhere on our team, and you'll see Paul's influence," Wilkens said. Silas was in his 15th season as a player, and he would retire to coaching after one more season. But he had spread a little Celtic magic to the Northwest corner of the NBA map.