On This Date in Sports April 30, 1971: A Coin Toss Decides It All

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

In just their third season, the Milwaukee Bucks win an NBA Championship. The Bucks win the NBA Championship by sweeping away the Baltimore Bullets in four straight games, 118-106. All but one of the games was decided by double-digits. Lew Alcindor, who would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after the season, was named NBA Finals MVP. Alcindor was just in his second season, while veteran Oscar Robertson finally won the title that eluded him in his ten years with the Cincinnati Royals. 

A coin toss decided the 1971 NBA Championship. The coin toss took place in 1969 after Milwaukee's inaugural season. At the time, the teams that finished last in East and West Divisions would be up to select the number one pick in the NBA Draft. The Bucks finished in last place in the East, while their expansion partners, the Phoenix Suns, finished in last in the West. The Bucks won the coin toss and drafted Lew Alcindor of UCLA, the most dominant player in NCAA history. The Suns settled for Neal Walk out of Florida and still have not won an NBA Championship. 

The Milwaukee Bucks more than doubled their first-year win total in 1970, as Lew Alcindor was named Rookie of the Year. The Bucks would play in the Eastern Division Finals, losing to the eventual NBA Champion New York Knicks in five games. With further expansion and realignment, the Bucks moved to the Western Conference for the 1970/71 season, playing in the Midwest Division. Looking for some veteran help, Milwaukee acquired Oscar Robertson in a stunning deal with the Cincinnati Royals. 

The addition of Oscar Robertson was a big boost for the Bucks, as they posted the best record in the NBA at 66-16 under coach Larry Costello. Lew Alcindor won the first of six NBA MVP awards, as he led the league with 31.7 points per game, while Roberston average 19.4 ppg and Bob Dandridge had 18.4 ppg. The Bucks waltzed to the NBA Finals needing five games to beat the San Francisco Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Coached by Gene Shue, the Baltimore Bullets had a mediocre season, posting a record of 42-40. However, in the playoffs they got hot, beating the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bullets stunned the world, upsetting the defending champion New York Knicks in seven games as Earl the Pearl Monroe and Wes Unseld led the way.

The NBA Finals started at the Mecca in Milwaukee, with the Bucks outgunning the Bullets 108-98, as Lew Alcindor led the way with 31 points and 17 rebounds. The games alternated between Milwaukee and Baltimore in 1971, as the even games were at the Baltimore Civic Center. Alcindor dominated again in Game 2, with 27 points and 24 rebounds as Milwaukee cruised to a 102-83 victory. Back in Milwaukee for Game 3, the closest game of the series saw Bob Dandridge lead the way with 29 points as Alcindor was a beast on the boards again. The Bucks won the game 107-99 and stood one win away from history. In Game 4, the Bucks scored 31 points in the first quarter and never looked back, completing the sweep with a 118-106 victory. Oscar Robertson led all scorers with 30 points as Lew Alcindor added 27 points and 12 rebounds.