Pro Basketball History 1976-79 (Part 5)

SWC75

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THE PLAYERS


LARRY KENON is barely remembered today, if at all. He was one of those Memphis State players that UCLA’s Bill Walton went 21 for 22 on in the 1973 NCAA final. He signed with the ABA New York Nets and became a major part of Julius Erving’s supporting cast, averaging 15.9 points and 11.5 rebounds and winning a championship of his own in 1974. A year later he was traded to San Antonio, where he became a major part of George Gervin’s supporting cast. Actually, he was more of a co-star, scoring 20+ four years in a row and getting about 10 rebounds a game. He was an active defender who set an NBA record with 11 steals in one game. They made the playoffs every year but were not yet the Spurs of this era and never got past the conference finals. His career began to decline in his late 20’s and he was traded to the bulls and played several years as a part-time player.

A 42 second tribute:
His record: Larry Kenon Stats | Basketball-Reference.com


GEORGE GERVIN, known as “the iceman”, was one of the great shooting guards ever. He was also one of the first tall ones at 6-7, beginning an era where the guards would be the size of forwards. He played his college ball at Eastern Michigan and first made a name for himself by punching an opposing player in the 1972 Division II Final Four. The incident was so serious he was suspended for the entire next year, then kicked off the team. He was notorious. But the ABA didn’t care what you’d done in the past so long as you could play and George started his pro career with the Virginias Squires as a teammate of Julius Erving. They would have made quite a duo but the Squires couldn’t afford two s tar salaries so they traded him to San Antonio in his second year, where he would be the star of the team in his own right.

“With Gervin as the centerpiece, the Spurs transformed from a primarily defense-oriented team into an exciting fast-breaking team that played what coach Bob Bass called "schoolyard basketball". Although the Spurs never won an ABA playoff series during Gervin's first three years there, their high-powered offense made them very attractive to the NBA, and the Spurs joined the more established league as part of the 1976 ABA–NBA merger.” (Wikipedia)

George became one of the great scorers in the game’s history, He scored 20 ppg twelve times and 30 ppg twice, with a high of 33.1 in the 1979-80 season. But his most famous achievement came when he was trying to hold onto what would be the first of his four NBA scoring titles in the face of a 73 point outburst of the last day of the 1977-78 season. Needing 58 points to take the title, he went out and scored 63 points in answer to Thompson and won the championship. But he never got a team title, college or pro. George wound up with 26,595 points, then 7th in pro history, (and still 16th). He averaged 25.1 ppg for his career, (10th best ever). He hit 50.4% of his career shots, although he was only a 27% three point shooter. He averaged only 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He was a scorer. “Gervin's trademark move was the finger roll, a shot in which one rolls the basketball along his or her fingertips. While others mimicked this style when shooting layups, Gervin was known to "finger roll" from as far as the free throw line.”

Highlights: Vintage George Gervin Highlights

His record: George Gervin Stats | Basketball-Reference.com


MARQUES JOHNSON is another somewhat forgotten star who never got to play on a championship team. He was the star of John Wooden’s last championship team at UCLA in 1975. He was drafted by the Bucks in the post-Jabbar era and played for them for most of his career, then the Clippers, then the Warriors, none of whom even made the finals in his career. . A 6-7 218 forward, he also had guard skills and the term “point forward was supposedly coined for him. When the Bucks had a series of injuries to their guards, he started running their offense from his forward positon in the playoffs. he scored 20 or more points a game six times, with a high of 25.6 in his second year, when he was third in the league. For his career he averaged 20.1p/7.0r/3.6a per game. He was a five-time all-star. He hurt his neck early in the 1986-87 season. He tried a comeback in the 1989-90 season at age 33 but quit after 10 games.

Tribute: NBA Legends on Marques Johnson

Vs. Dr. J: Marques Johnson vs Julius Erving highlights - 1981 ECSF Game 7

His record: Marques Johnson Stats | Basketball-Reference.com


MOSES MALONE is gone but not forgotten. He was big but not enormous for an NBA center: 6-10 215 as an ABA rookie out of high school. By the end of the decade he was still listed at only 235. By the time he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1982, he was up to 255, eventually topping out at 260, the same weight as Mike Gminski but an inch shorter. What was truly big about this Moses was not his physical dimensions but how he played the game. He swiftly established himself as the most ferocious offensive rebounder in the game, maybe ever. The ABA started keeping track of offensive and defensive rebounds separately and then the NBA picked up the stat in 1974. Moses led the ABA as a rookie, then led the NBA seven consecutive times and again at age 34 in 1990. If you get offensive rebounds, you’re going to score and Moses scored 20+ ppg 11 times in a row, with a high of 31.1 in 1981-82, second in the league to George Gervin, (32.3). He led the NBA in overall rebounding six times, with a high of 17.6 in 1978-79. For his career, he averaged 20.3p/12.3 rebounds.

He started out with the dying Utah Stars franchise, was briefly a “Spirt of St. Louis”, then played for the Buffalo Braves for exactly 2 games before joining the Houston Rockets for the next 6 seasons. Then came his glory year as he joined the Sixers for a dominating 65-17 regular season and an incredible 12-1 playoff run that included a sweep of the Showtime Lakers for the title. Just as the 1966-67 Sixers could not follow up their great year, neither could the 1982-83 Sixers, who won between 52-58 games the next three years but couldn’t get past the conference finals. They then traded Moses to the Bullets. He played for them and then the Hawks and Bucks before a brief return to Philadelphia before finally ending his lengthy 21 year career with the Spurs early in the 1994-95 season. Malone died at age 60 of a heart ailment, which was ironic because he always played with plenty of heart.

Tribute: Moses Malone Career Retrospective

His record: Moses Malone Stats | Basketball-Reference.com


While Moses was a force in the game for a generation, TRUCK ROBINSON was more a flavor of the month. He was a 6-7 225 forward who had one huge year with a bad New Orleans team in 1977-78: he averaged 22.7p/15.7r, the latter figure leading the NBA that year. he was named to the All-NBA first team. The next year he was performing at the same level, (24.2p/13.4r) when the Jazz traded him to Phoenix. He continued to be a productive player for several seasons but not at the level he was as the star of the Jazz. He went from playing 40+ minutes per game to about 30 for the deeper Suns and never reached the 20p/10r plateau again. The Knicks obtained him at age 31 hoping to get the power forward that they needed but he was not much more than a part-time player for them. He retired in 1985, having averaged 15.5p/9.4r for his career. He was certainly a good player but hardly a great one. His period of stardom with the jazz was as much a product of his being one of only two quality players on the team, (the other being Pete Maravich).

Highlights: Truck Robinson(New Orleans Jazz) 39 points vs Spurs 03-05-1978

His record: Truck Robinson Stats | Basketball-Reference.com


This will end this series for now as the football season has begun, (I wanted to get to the end of the 70’s). I’ll pick this history up again next spring.
 
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