By the time he landed in Milwaukee before the 1970-71 season, Oscar Robertson had an MVP, a triple-double season and countless other accolades in tow. But what he didn’t have was an NBA title, something he’d finally earn thanks to a young, dominating center.
In one of the league’s great single-season, big man/point guard combos, Robertson teamed with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to power the Bucks to new heights. Thanks to that duo — as well as solid play from recently acquired veterans Bob Boozer and Lucius Allen — Milwaukee racked up 66 wins and breezed past San Francisco and the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs to clinch a Finals berth in just its third year of existence.
Baltimore surprised many by defeating New York in a seven-game slugfest in the East finals. But, the Bullets entered The Finals hobbled by injuries to Earl Monroe, Gus Johnson and Wes Unseld and became the second Finals sweep victim in NBA history.
The season also brought about three expansion teams — the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and Buffalo Braves — and the league went to an Eastern and Western Conference format after being the Eastern and Western Division since the NBA’s inception. Also new were the divisions within each conference: the Atlantic and Central Divisions in the East and the Midwest and Pacific Divisions in the West.
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.
Abdul-Jabbar led the league in scoring, averaging 31.7 points and 16 rebounds per game. Robertson was among the assist leaders, averaging 8.3 per game. Abdul-Jabbar, the Finals MVP, racked up his first of six career regular-season MVPs in this season as well.
Eastern Conference semifinals
New York defeated Atlanta (4-1)
Baltimore defeated Philadelphia (4-3)
Western Conference semifinals
Milwaukee defeated San Francisco (4-1)
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Chicago (4-3)
Eastern Conference finals
Baltimore defeated New York (4-3)
Western Conference finals
Milwaukee defeated Los Angeles Lakers (4-1)
Milwaukee defeated Baltimore (4-0)
Points — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks (31.7)
Assists — Norm Van Lier, Cincinnati Royals (10.2)
Rebounds — Wilt Chamberlain, Los Angeles Lakers (18.2)
FG% — Johnny Green, Cincinnati Royals (58.7)
FT% — Chester Walker, Chicago Bulls (85.9)
Most Valuable Player — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks
Rookie of the Year — Dave Cowens, Boston Celtics; Geoff Petrie, Portland Trail Blazers
Coach of the Year — Dick Motta, Chicago Bulls
All-Star Game MVP — Lenny Wilkens, Seattle SuperSonics
Finals MVP — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks