June-5-1977: Blazermania Reigns Supreme
The 1976-77 NBA season was the first season following the merger with the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the ABA quickly made its mark in the new league. Of the three teams to win 50 or more games, one was the ABA’s Denver Nuggets and the other was the Philadelphia 76ers led by the ABA’s marque star Julius Erving.
Several key factors, however, led to them to the NBA title.
- A new coach, Jack Ramsay, fresh from having built the Buffalo Braves into playoff contenders;
- A healthy Bill Walton, who played 65 games which was only one of three occasions he played over 60 games (the other two were later in career as a sixth-man with the Celtics); and
- The addition of ABA refugees Maurice Lucas who led the Blazers in scoring and guard Dave Twardzik
Ramsay instilled a team concept in the Blazers and they finished just four games behind the league leading Los Angeles Lakers. The Blazers would sweep the Lakers to get to the NBA Finals against heavily favored Dr. J and the Sixers. The Sixers won the first two games, but the Blazers rallied to win the last four and claim Portland’s first and only major professional championship.
One point worth noting – while Bill Walton was essential to the Blazers success and none of the games won in the playoffs was he the leading scorer.
The Blazers were the youngest team to ever win an NBA title (and remain so today). For a moment, it seemed as if a dynasty was born as the Blazers began the following season 50-10 (.833) before injuries to Walton and others led the team to unravel.
The Blazers returned to the NBA Finals twice under Coach Rick Adelman during the Terry Porter-Clyde Drexler era, but lost to the Pistons (1990) and Bulls (1992) respectively.
Averages for NBA Finals