Season Review: 1975-76

Take a look back at the 1975-76 NBA season, in which the Celtics emerged as NBA champions.


Just as the season was about to begin, the ABA’s two strongest teams, the New York Nets and Denver Nuggets, applied for admission into the NBA, signalling the beginning of the end for the upstart league. While ABA teams would not enter the NBA for another year, the NBA moved to facilitate the merger by naming as its third commissioner, Larry O’Brien, who replaced the retired Walter Kennedy.

O’Brien was a prominent political figure whose office as chairman of the Democratic National Committee had been the scene of the famed Watergate burglary, and who was renowned for his negotiating skills and political acumen.

On the court, the defending champion Warriors, whose title run in 1975 was considered a fluke by many, refuted that belief by winning a league-high 59 games. Boston, which had acquired shooting guard Charlie Scott from Phoenix for Paul Westphal, won 54 games to top the Eastern Conference.

A stunning trade took place, with Milwaukee sending Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Junior Bridgeman and Dave Meyers. While Abdul-Jabbar was named MVP again after averaging 27.7 points and a league-leading 16.9 rebounds per game, the Lakers went 40-42 and missed the playoffs. The Bucks made the playoffs, but lost in the first round to the Pistons.

The Celtics defeated Buffalo and Cleveland to reach the Finals in the East. In the West, upstart Phoenix, with Rookie of the Year Alvan Adams, beat Seattle and defeated heavily-favored Golden State in seven games to reach The Finals.

Boston won its second title in three years and 13th overall in a six-game Finals that is most remembered for a remarkable triple-overtime Game 5 won by the Celtics, 128-126.

At the close of the second overtime, John Havlicek hit a 15-foot jump shot for an apparent 111-110 victory. Jubilant Celtics fans swarmed the court, but the officials ruled one second remained on the clock. After clearing the court, Paul Westphal called a timeout the Suns didn’t have, which produced a technical free throw for Boston, but also moved the ball to halfcourt. Jo Jo White hit the foul shot to set up one of the most iconic moments in NBA history: Gar Heard’s 20-foot turnaound, stunning the Celtics and sending the game into a third OT.

Boston, however, won 128-126 as reserve forward Glenn McDonald scored six points down the stretch.

In Game 6, Cowens was quiet as White, Scott and Havlicek took control to give Boston its 13th championship.


Eastern Conference first round

Buffalo defeated Philadelphia (2-1)

Western Conference first round

Detroit defeated Milwaukee (2-1)

Eastern Conference semifinals

Boston defeated Buffalo (4-2)

Cleveland defeated Washington (4-3)

Western Conference semifinals

Golden State defeated Detroit (4-2)

Phoenix defeated Seattle (4-2)

Eastern Conference finals

Boston defeated Cleveland (4-2)

Western Conference finals

Phoenix defeated Golden State (4-3)

NBA Finals

Boston defeated Phoenix (4-2)


Points — Bob McAdoo, Buffalo Braves (31.1)

Assists — Donald “Slick” Watts, Seattle SuperSonics(8.1)

Rebounds — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers(16.9)

Steals — Donald “Slick” Watts, Seattle SuperSonics( 3.18)

Blocks — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Lakers (4.12)

FG% — Wes Unseld, Washington Bullets (56.1)

FT% — Rick Barry, Golden State Warriors (92.3)


Most Valuable Player — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Lakers

Rookie of the Year — Alvan Adams, Phoenix Suns

Coach of the Year — Bill Fitch, Cleveland Cavaliers

All-Star Game MVP — Dave Bing, Washington Bullets

Finals MVP — Jo Jo White, Boston Celtics