With the retirements of Jerry West and Oscar Robertson, hungry young teams in the Western Conference seized the opportunity to step up. The Golden State Warriors, led by Rick Barry (30.6 ppg), came together with Clifford Ray, Butch Beard and rookies Charles Johnson and Jamaal (then Keith) Wilkes, who would emerge as Rookie of the Year.
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 Barry, still in his prime at 30. The Warriors used that to defeat coach Bill Russell’s Seattle team in the Western Conference semifinals and top the talented Chicago Bulls in seven games to reach The Finals.
In the East, the Washington Bullets got past the the Buffalo Braves, who were led by scoring champion Bob McAdoo (34.5 ppg), in seven games. The Celtics, who won 60 games, blew past Houston in five games to meet Washington. With Elvin Hayes and Phil Chenier leading the charge, the Bullets turned back Dave Cowens and the Celtics in six games.
The Bullets had an experienced team in 1975, with Hayes and 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 Golden State, which won 48 games during the season, stunned Washington by winning four straight close games for only the third sweep in the 29-year history of The Finals. After the stunning upset, 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.”
Eastern Conference first round
Houston defeated New York (2-1)
Western Conference first round
Seattle defeated Detroit (2-1)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Boston defeated Houston (4-1)
Washington defeated Buffalo (4-3)
Western Conference semifinals
Golden State defeated Seattle (4-2)
Chicago defeated Kansas City/Omaha (4-2)
Eastern Conference finals
Washington defeated Boston (4-2)
Western Conference finals
Golden State defeated Chicago (4-3)
Golden State defeated Washington (4-0)
Points — Bob McAdoo, Buffalo Braves (34.5)
Assists — Kevin Porter, Washington Bullets (8.0)
Rebounds — Wes Unseld, Washington Bullets (14.8)
Steals — Rick Barry, Golden State Warriors (2.85)
Blocks — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks (3.26)
FG% — Don Nelson, Boston Celtics (53.9)
FT% — Rick Barry, Golden State Warriors (90.2)
Most Valuable Player — Bob McAdoo, Buffalo Braves
Rookie of the Year — Jamaal Wilkes, Golden State Warriors
Coach of the Year — Phil Johnson, Kansas City-Omaha Kings
All-Star Game MVP — Walt Frazier, New York Knicks
Finals MVP — Rick Barry, Golden State Warriors