In 1971 neither of the preceding years’ finals participants made it back to the Championship Series. That year was the year of young 23 year old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who led the Bucks to a 66-16 regular season record, scoring 31.7 points per game and pulling down 16.0 rebounds per game.
Playing in his second NBA season he won the league MVP and had been joined in the off season by Oscar Robertson who had been traded to Milwaukee after ten seasons in Cincinnati.
Milwaukee was coached by Larry Costello and had besides Abdul-Jabbar, Robertson 19.4 ppg, Bob Dandridge 18.4 ppg, Jim McGlocklin 15.8 ppg and Greg Smith 11.7 rpg and had lost only two games in the playoffs defeating San Francisco and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Baltimore in contrast had only a 42-40 record and had to go seven games against the Knicks to get to the finals, winning the final game 93-91. They were coached by former Detroit star guard Gene Shue and featured Wes Unseld, 14.1 ppg 16.9 rpg, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe 21.4 ppg, Jack Marin 18.8 ppg and Gus Johnson 18.2 ppg.
The historic game one (because neither team had been to the finals before) took place in Milwaukee Arena and the Bucks led throughout the game as Washington was tired from having defeated the Knicks only two days earlier and bothered by injuries as star forward Gus Johnson did not play.
The 7’ 1” Abdul-Jabbar dominated with 33 points on 13 of 16 from the field and 17 rebounds against the 6’ 7” Wes Unseld. Oscar Robertson playing in the only championship series in his career, scored 22 points while Earl Monroe led Washington with 26 points.
Game two was in the Baltimore Civic Center and Washington could not find the range from the field and had only a .308 percentage compared to the Bucks’ .506. Monroe was 4 of 18 and Jack Marin led them with 22 points and Unseld had 20 rebounds.
Kareem again dominated with 27 points and 24 rebounds while Robertson had 22 points and 10 assists and the Bucks win 102-83 to take a 2-0 lead going back to Milwaukee.
Bob Dandridge stepped up to give Milwaukee a boost with 29 points while Abdul-Jabbar had 23 points and 21 rebounds and Oscar Robertson added 20 points and 12 assists to lead to a 107-99 victory.
Baltimore was led by Unseld with 20 points and 23 rebounds and Marin added 21 points as Washington goes down 3-0 with the series going back to Baltimore.
The fourth game followed the pattern of the previous three as the Bucks got out to an early first quarter lead and behind Robertson’s 30 and Abdul-Jabbar’s 27 closed out the series with a 118-106 win.
Fred Carter led the Baltimore with 28 points and Unseld had 23 rebounds as they lost in what be Baltimore’s only appearance in the NBA finals as the team would move to Washington and appear in the 1975 finals.
For Milwaukee it would be their only finals appearance and Oscar Robertson’s only basketball title in his collegiate and professional career.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be traded to Los Angeles and win five more NBA titles as well as five more MVP awards in his 20 year NBA career and retire as the all-time points leader with over 38,000 points. He along with Oscar Robertson, Wes Unseld, Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson would all be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Ron Griffitts a contribution columnist for the Daily Advocate