The NBA tried to lessen the impact of big men — specifically Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell — by widening the foul lane from 12 to 16 feet. In addition, a major trade that took place at the NBA All-Star break would have far-reaching implications for years to come.
Chamberlain, in the midst of his greatness at 28 years old, was dealt by the San Francisco Warriors to the Philadelphia 76ers for Paul Neumann, Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer and cash.
The immediate results: San Francisco went from 48-32 the season before to 17-63, while Philadelphia improved from 34-46 to 40-40. More importantly, Chamberlain was back in the Celtics’ division, and would have to be dealt with even before the NBA Finals.
Still, Chamberlain’s move to the East couldn’t stop Boston from dominating the NBA once again.
Although Celtics founder Walter Brown died in August, 1964 — which put more of the team’s administrative load on coach Red Auerbach — Boston seemed unaffected. It broke its own league record with 62 victories despite the retirements of Frank Ramsey and Jim Loscutoff.
The Lakers won the West with 49 wins as West (31.0) and Baylor (27.1) finished in the top five in scoring. While the Lakers defeated Baltimore in six games in the West Finals, the East Finals between Boston and Philadelphia was a classic, with the home team winning each of the first six games.
Boston won Game 7 by a point, with John Havlicek’s deflection producing the famous “Havlicek stole the ball!” radio call from Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most.
Still, the seventh game of the East Finals provided some hope for the rest of the league that the Celtics might be beaten one day soon. If Philadelphia had been able to convert in the last five seconds, the Celtics dynasty would have been halted at six straight titles and Chamberlain and the 76ers might have begun their own dynasty.
But Havlicek deflected the inbounds pass of Hal Greer to Sam Jones, who dribbled out the five seconds and preserved the dynasty for another year.
The Finals were less exciting, with Boston closing out the Lakers, who were without the injured Elgin Baylor, in five games.
Eastern Division semifinals
Philadelphia defeated Cincinnati (3-1)
Western Division semifinals
Baltimore defeated St. Louis (3-1)
Eastern Division finals
Boston defeated Philadelphia (4-3)
Western Division finals
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Baltimore (4-2)
Boston defeated Los Angeles Lakers (4-1)
Points — Wilt Chamberlain, S.F. Warriors-Philadelphia 76ers (34.7)
Assists — Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals (11.5)
Rebounds — Bill Russell, Boston Celtics (24.1)
FG% — Wilt Chamberlain, S.F. Warriors-Philadelphia 76ers (51.0)
FT% — Larry Costello, Philadelphia 76ers (87.7)
Most Valuable Player — Bill Russell, Boston Celtics
Rookie of the Year — Willis Reed, New York Knicks
Coach of the Year — Red Auerbach, Boston Celtics
All-Star Game MVP — Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals