in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Golden State Warriors win their first championship since moving to the Bay Area from Philadelphia. The Warriors complete a four-game sweep of the Washington Bullets with a 96-95 at Cap Centre in Landover. The Warriors were led by Rick Barry, who won the NBA Finals MVP, averaging 29.5 points per game. Al Attles becomes the second African-American coach to win an NBA Championship, after implementing a team-first system.
Rick Barry was born on March 28, 1944, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Barry shot to superstardom after being selected by the San Francisco Warriors with the second pick in the 1965 NBA Draft. Rick Barry was named Rookie of the Year in 1966 and led the Warriors to the NBA Finals in 1967. Following the NBA Finals, Rick Barry stunned the Warriors by signing with the Oakland Oaks of the ABA. Barry was forced to sit out for a year as the Warriors blocked his participation in ABA games.
The battle between Rick Barry, the NBA, and the ABA raged on for five years. Barry made his ABA debut in 1968 and led the Oakland Oaks to an ABA Championship in 1969. The team would relocate to Washington the following season, later becoming the Virginia Squires. Barry expressed unhappiness with the moves and was traded to the New York Nets. With the Nets, Rick Barry reached the ABA Finals again in 1972. After the season, Barry’s contract came to an end, as a Federal Court ruled that he had must return to the Warriors.
Playing through sore knees, Rick Barry was not the same player he was before his departure, but the Golden State Warriors were happy to have him back in uniform. The Warriors got another big boost for the 1974/75 season as they drafted Jamaal Wilkes with the 11th overall pick out of UCLA in the NBA Draft. With Wilkes winning Rookie of the Year, the Warriors finished the season as the top team in the Western Conference with a record of 48-34. In the playoffs, they beat the Seattle Supersonics in six games, while needing seven games to beat the Chicago Bulls in the Western Conference Finals.
After years of frustration, the Washington Bullets reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 1971. They were coached by K.C. Jones and finished the regular season with a record of 60-22 tying the Boston Celtics for the best record in the NBA. In the playoffs, the Bullets were pushed to the brink right away as they needed seven games to push past the Buffalo Braves; they would then beat the Boston Celtics in six games to reach the NBA Finals.
The Washington Bullets were heavy favorites in the NBA Finals, as the schedule had to be adjusted due to arena availability. Instead of the usual 2-2-1-1-1 format, the series was 1-2-2-1-1, as the Warriors were forced to use the Cow Palace, with the Oakland Arena not available during the NBA Finals. It was the first NBA Finals to feature to head coaches who were black. The Warriors stole Game 1 at the Cap Centre 101-95 as Rick Barry scored 24 points while Clifford Ray and Jamaal Wilkes combined for 29 rebounds while playing putting up a monster defensive effort that kept the Bullets from hitting their shots.
The series shifted to the Bay Area with the Bullets led by 30 points from Phil Chenier building an early 13-point lead. The Warriors would chip away at the lead, as Rick Barry led all scorers with 36 points. Barry’s last two points gave Golden State a 92-91 lead in the final seconds. The Bullets had two chances to win but were off the mark as the Warriors took a 2-0 series lead. In Game 3, Rick Barry had 38 points as Wilkes continued to create problems on defense, the Warriors playing at home again won 109-101 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
The Washington Bullets hoped the home court could change the series momentum in Game 4 as they raced out to a 14-point lead, with Mike Riordan leading the way. Riordan had moved over on defense and held Rick Barry in check most of the game, as they held a 90-82 lead in the fourth quarter. However, late in the game, Mike Riordan twisted his ankle, opening the door for the Warriors. The Warriors would surge in from as Rick Barry scored 20 points. Trailing 94-93, the Bullets had a chance to retake the lead, but Wes Unseld fumbled and inbound pass, Butch Beard would go on to seal the game at the free-throw line as the Warriors completed the sweep with a 96-95 win.