The retirements of Jerry West and Oscar Robertson left their teams weakened, and the Lakers and Milwaukee each fell to the bottom of their divisions. This spelled opportunity for hungry young teams in the Western Conference, and nobody was hungrier than the Golden State Warriors. Al Attles, a fixture with the Warriors since 1960 as a player and a coach, had developed an 11-deep roster of role players to go with high-scoring forward Rick Barry, still in his prime at 30. Attles had acquired young center Clifford Ray for the aging Nate Thurmond, obtained scrappy guard Butch Beard and drafted forward Jamaal (then Keith) Wilkes from UCLA and guard Charles Johnson from California. This unlikely group won 48 games to top the Western Conference, defeated Bill Russell's Seattle team in six games and used its endless hustle and desire to beat a more talented Chicago Bulls team in seven games to reach the Finals.

The Washington Bullets had won 60 games in the East but had a tough time dispatching the Buffalo Braves, led by NBA scoring champ Bob McAdoo (34.5) in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Celtics had also won 60 games and blew past Houston in five games to meet Washington. The Bullets had the inside-outside combination of Elvin Hayes and Phil Chenier working brilliantly, and turned back the Celtics in six games. The Bullets were heavily favored to beat the Warriors, but Golden State stunned the basketball world by winning four straight close games to post only the third sweep in the 29-year history of the NBA Finals.

The Bullets had an experienced team in 1975, with powerful Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld up front joined by feisty forward Mike Riordan, with quick Kevin Porter and sharpshooter Phil Chenier in the backcourt. On paper, the Bullets were far superior to the Warriors. But as the old saying goes, games aren't played on paper. And when the Warriors swept, Rick Barry could afford to celebrate.

"It has to be the greatest upset in the history of the NBA Finals," Barry said. "It was like a fairy-tale season. Everything just fell into place. It's something I'll treasure for the rest of my life."