The NBA greeted two more expansion franchises, Seattle and San Diego, which were installed in the Western Division while Detroit moved to the East. The NBA was now a 12-team league, and played an 82-game schedule for the first time.

The prosperity that the professional basketball league was enjoying was not lost on several outside observers, who figured the time was right for a second, competing professional league. Thus, the ABA was born, with 11 teams playing a 78-game schedule. Major cities which had been unable to attract an NBA franchise like Dallas, Denver, Houston and Oakland now claimed pro teams in the new league. The league gained credibility with the naming of NBA legend George Mikan as its first Commissioner, and NBA star Rick Barry's decision to sign with the new Oakland franchise.

In the NBA, Detroit guard Dave Bing became the first guard to lead the NBA in scoring since 1948. But the real story was the return of the Celtics, who came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Eastern Finals over Philadelphia, then defeated the Lakers to take the NBA Championship back after a one-year hiatus. Bill Russell had proven a success as a coach--thanks largely to the presence of Russell the player out on the court.

Bailey Howell, a 6-7, 220-pound forward who was a five-time All-Star nearing the end of his career, arrived in Boston just in time to see the Celtics' eight-year reign atop the NBA end. But he was determined to bring a title back to Boston after Philadelphia's triumph the previous year.

"Everywhere we went, especially in Philadelphia, they had a chant: `Boston's dead. Boston's dead. The dynasty is over,'" Howell said. "Everywhere we went, the fans were real vocal. But it just made you more determined, really. It helped you to play. When you get some help like that from opposing fans, it's really a lift."