This was an important transition year for the league and its top team. Maurice Podoloff, the only President/Commissioner the league ever had, retired before the season began and was replaced by J. Walter Kennedy, who had earlier served as publicity director. Podoloff and Kennedy would never be forgotten thanks to the Most Valuable Player trophy being named after Podoloff and the Citizenship Award being named after Kennedy.
Warriors big man Nate Thurmond and Royals forward Jerry Lucas, both future Hall of Famers, made their debut. Lucas, the Rookie of the Year, was an All-Star in his first season while Thurmond helped San Francisco to the top of the West standings.
Meanwhile, in Boston, the Celtics began a season for the first time since 1950 without Bob Cousy. In franchise shifts, the Chicago Zephyrs moved to Baltimore and became the new Baltimore Bullets, while the Syracuse Nats moved to Philadelphia, vacated by the Warriors a season earlier, and became the Philadelphia 76ers.
Alex Hannum became coach at San Francisco, where he instilled a defensive philosophy to the Wilt Chamberlain-led team. The Warriors led the NBA by allowing just 102.6 ppg, and won the West by two games over St. Louis. The Warriors fought off a spirited challenge from Bob Pettit’s Hawks to win the West in seven games, but were no match for Boston’s depth as the Celtics polished them off in five games for a sixth straight title.
Boston’s sixth straight title was one of its easiest, and the question started to be asked whether Boston would ever lose again. Their sixth straight title broke the major professional sports record of five straight, shared by MLB’s New York Yankees (1949-53) and the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens (1956-60).
Coach Red Auerbach had no problem, though, basking in the titles.
“The thrill never goes from winning,” he said. “But maybe the reasons change. First, it was just trying to win a title. Now it is a question of going down as the greatest team of all time. That stimulates you.”
Eastern Division semifinals
Cincinnati defeated Philadelphia (3-2)
Western Division semifinals
St. Louis defeated Los Angeles Lakers (3-2)
Eastern Division finals
Boston defeated Cincinnati (4-1)
Western Division finals
San Francisco defeated St. Louis (4-3)
Boston defeated San Francisco (4-1)
Points — Wilt Chamberlain, San Francisco Warriors (36.9)
Assists — Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals (11.0)
Rebounds — Bill Russell, Boston Celtics (24.7)
FG% — Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals (52.7)
FT% — Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals (85.3)
Most Valuable Player — Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals
Rookie of the Year — Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals
Coach of the Year — Alex Hannum, San Francisco Warriors
All-Star Game MVP — Oscar Roberston, Cincinnati Royals