The NBA continued to evolve in the 1966-67 season, with a new team joining the fold and a significant change being enacted in the postseason. There were changes, too, to the league’s hierarchy as the eight-time champion Boston Celtics finally saw their reign end.
The Chicago Bulls were added as an expansion team and the Baltimore Bullets moved to the East. With two five-team divisions, the playoffs were changed so division winners no longer received a first-round bye.
Philadelphia, which had hired veteran Alex Hannum as coach, got off to a 46-4 start and never looked back, posting an NBA-best 68-13 record. Chet Walker and Billy Cunningham scored more as Wilt Chamberlain concentrated on rebounding, defense and playmaking. Chamberlain still finished third in scoring (24.1), but he also led the league in rebounding (24.2) and was third in assists (7.8).
That group guided Philly to its first Finals appearance since 1955 and once there, Chamberlain exacted revenge on his former team — the San Francisco Warriors — as the Sixers wrapped up the championship in six games.
The true Finals that season, though, were perhaps played in the East finals. It was there that Chamberlain faced his longtime nemesis, the Celtics, and finally ousted them. Though Philly topped Boston in five games, two of those games were decided by five points or less. But team-first play reminiscent of the Celtics’ own dominant style is what helped Chamberlain vanquish the defending champs.
“The whole season was just magical, something where a team played almost perfect basketball,” said Sixers guard Wali Jones. “We played as a team/family concept.”
Even the Celtics had to admit the 76ers were better.
“They’re playing the same game we’ve played for the last nine years,” said K.C. Jones, who had known nothing but NBA titles in his first eight seasons as a player. “In other words, team ball.”
Eastern Division semifinals
Boston defeated New York (3-1)
Philadelphia defeated Cincinnati (3-1)
Western Division semifinals
St. Louis defeated Chicago (3-0)
San Francisco defeated Los Angeles Lakers (3-0)
Eastern Division finals
Philadelphia defeated Boston (4-1)
Western Division finals
San Francisco defeated St. Louis (4-2)
Philadelphia defeated San Francisco (4-2)
Points — Rick Barry, San Francisco Warriors (35.6)
Assists — Guy Rodgers, Chicago Bulls (11.2)
Rebounds — Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 76ers (24.2)
FG% — Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 76ers (68.3)
FT% — Adrian Smith, Cincinnati Royals (90.3)
Most Valuable Player — Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 76ers
Rookie of the Year — Dave Bing, Detroit Pistons
Coach of the Year — Johnny “Red” Kerr, Chicago Bulls
All-Star Game MVP — Rick Barry, San Francisco Warriors