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On This Date in Sports April 24, 1967: Wilt a Champion At Last

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The NBA Finals were nearly anticlimactic. Wilt Chamberlain finally wins a ring, as the Philadelphia 76ers win the NBA Championship. The Sixers beat in the NBA Finals the San Francisco  Warriors in six games, winning the finale 125-122. Philadelphia beat the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Division Finals, ending Boston's eight-year championship reign as Chamberlain finally won a playoff series against his nemesis Bill Russell. 

With the arrival of Bill Russell in 1956, the Boston Celtics began the greatest dynasty in the history of the NBA. The Celtics would win the NBA Finals in a seven-game battle with the St. Louis Hawks; a year later, the Hawks got revenge, beating Boston in six games. That would be the final time Coach Red Auerbach as the Celtics would win the next eight NBA Championships, with Auerbach retiring from the bench at the end of the 1966 season to be the team’s General Manager.

Many of those championships came with Bill Russell’s Celtics beating Wilt Chamberlain’s teams during the playoffs. This included the 1960 and 1962 Eastern Division Finals when the Celtics beat the Philadelphia Warriors. The 1964 NBA Finals against the San Francisco Warriors and the 1965 and 1966 Eastern Division Finals after Chamberlain was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 76ers, coached by Alex Hannum, were an unstoppable force in 1967, winning an NBA record 68 games, as Wilt Chamberlain had an MVP season. With the two titans in the East having the top records in the NBA, all eyes were on the Eastern Division Finals, where the Sixers and Celtics would meet for the third straight season. The 76ers beat the Cincinnati Royals three games to one, getting to the Division Finals. The exact amount of the games that Boston needed to beat the New York Knicks.

After five losses in five series against Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics, Wilt Chamberlain was finally determined to get his championship. In the series opener at the Philadelphia Arena, Wilt Chamberlain recorded a quadruple-double with 24 points, 32 rebounds, 12 assists, and 12 blocked shots as the Sixers beat the Celtics 127-113. Game 2 in Boston would be much closer, but Philadelphia won 107-102. In Game 3, Chamberlain put forth another historic effort with a postseason record of 41 rebounds as the 76ers took a commanding 3-0 series lead with a 115-104 win. The Celtics would avert the sweep, winning 121-117 in Game 4 at home. However, the 76ers would not be denied, as they won the series in five games crushing the Celtics in the finale 140-116.

The San Francisco Warriors, who had been Wilt's former team, also had a terrific season in 1967, winning the Western Division with a record of 44-37 for coach Bill Sharman. The Warriors started the playoffs with a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers. They would need six games to beat the St. Louis Hawks in the Western Division Finals and reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1964 when Wilt Chamberlain was still with the team.

The Philadelphia Warriors were the first champions of the BAA in 1947, winning again in 1956. Despite having Wilt Chamberlain on the team, they left Philadelphia in 1962, moving to San Francisco. A year later, the Syracuse Nationals moved in and became the Philadelphia 76ers. The 1967 NBA Finals would be a Philadelphia story, with the former Philly team taking on the current team. 

The opener at the Philadelphia Convention Center was an overtime thriller as the 76ers won the game 141-135. Hal Greer led Philadelphia with 32 points, while Wilt Chamberlain was limited to 16 points while grabbing 32 rebounds. Chamberlain continued to play second fiddle to Greer in Game 2, as the Warriors won easily 126-95, with Wilt grabbing 38 rebounds as Greer scored a game-high 30 points. Rick Barry had a stellar game for the Warriors with 37 points, while Nate Thurmond had 31 boards.

At the Cow Palace, the Warriors found their footing in Game 3, winning 130-124, as Rick Barry led the way with 55 points. It was the second-highest scoring performance in NBA history, just six behind Elgin Baylor's record 61 points set in 1962. The Sixers answered in Game 4, winning 122-108 to take a 3-1 series lead. Hal Greer again led the scoring attack with 38 points as Chet Walker added 33. Wilt Chamberlain, meanwhile, had ten points with 27 boards. 

The 76ers had a chance to close the series out at home in Game 5, but 117-109 loss, as Rick Barry continued to carry the Warriors with 38 points. Back in San Francisco for Game 6, Wilt Chamberlain and the bigger Sixers were taking over. Chamberlain had 24 points with 23 boards, while Luke Jackson had 21 rebounds in the clincher. Philadelphia outscored San Francisco 29-20 in the fourth quarter to overcome 44 points from Rick Barry as the Sixers won the game 125-122.