The new season brought with it three expansion teams in Buffalo, Cleveland and Portland and a new wrinkle--the advent of four divisions, two in each Conference. In 1965, nine teams had played 360 games in a league with 108 players. Just five years later, the NBA season opened with 17 teams playing 697 games in a 204-player league.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ruled the NBA with grace uncommon in a 7-footer. His sky-hook had become the most devastating weapon in the game, and he used it to lead the league in scoring (31.7 ppg) and also win the Most Valuable Player Award for the first time. Abdul-Jabbar was surrounded by a group of quality teammates, with Greg Smith and Bob Dandridge at forward and Lucius Allen and Jon McGlocklin assisting Oscar Robertson at guard. During his career, Robertson had led the NBA in scoring and in assists and had won the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, but he had never won an NBA title, and at 32, he knew the time was now.

Milwaukee won a league-high 66 games, brushed by San Francisco and Los Angeles in five games each in the Western Conference Playoffs, and prepared for the Finals. Baltimore surprised many by defeating New York in a slugfest seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Wes Unseld, Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson all sustained injuries during the series, and the Bucks swept to the Championship in four straight, only the second Finals sweep in NBA history.

Larry Costello had retired as a player after the 1968 season, and was hired to bring along a young Milwaukee Bucks expansion team. But all that changed when the Bucks signed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Sensing that an Abdul-Jabbar-led team could contend, Bucks management went out and traded for veterans Oscar Robertson, Lucius Allen and Bob Boozer. The group clicked almost immediately, due in part to the single-mindedness shared by Costello, Robertson and Abdul-Jabbar.

"Larry, Oscar and I have the same way about us," Abdul-Jabbar said. "We agree that being as efficient as possible cuts down on our chances for errors."

In 1971, Milwaukee avoided most errors, winning 66 games and going 12-2 in the Playoffs on its way to the NBA title.