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SI Flashback: NBA Finals

1971: BUCKS OVER BULLETS 4-0
Finals MVP: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bucks

Behind the formidable inside-outside combo of Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson, the three-year-old Bucks finished 14 games better than anyone else in the league and cruised to the title, dropping just two of 14 playoff games.

Snapshot from Hey, Look, Ma! Only One Hand

By Peter Carry

Click for larger image May 10, 1971 Heinz Kluetmeier
Steamrolled: It was certainly not surprising that the Bucks defeated the Baltimore Bullets in the playoff finals nor was it too startling, considering the crippled state of the Bullets, that Milwaukee became the second NBA team -- Boston, in 1959, was the other -- ever to sweep the championship round in four straight games. In fact, it was no shock to observe that the Bucks, whose strength steadily mounted during the season while most of their rivals teetered along with rosters depleted by expansion and injuries, won their title with more ease than any former champion. Milwaukee lost fewer playoff games (two) and outscored its opponents by wider margins than any of its predecessors.

Unheralded: Larry Costello would probably now be universally hailed as one of the two or three best coaches in the NBA, which he is, if he had not had the good fortune to get Alcindor. Indeed, there are people all around the league who derive considerable pleasure from debunking his role in the Bucks' success. ... "Larry, Oscar and I have the same ways about us," says Alcindor. "We agree that being as efficient as possible cuts down on our chances for errors. Larry has a very professional attitude. There's no nonsense, because he's a man dedicated wholly to basketball. He simply wants to get the job done, which makes it a lot easier for me. I know what he demands and I have no worry about working around any idiosyncrasies he might have."

 
They Said It
"They just stopped us from getting the layup. You look up there and see [Alcindor's] Afro up by the rim, and you just don't figure out what to do about it. They gave me a lane to the basket all night. I took it once, I took it again, and then I said forget about it. It's like taking a golf shot through a tree; it's supposed to be 90% air, but you always seem to hit a twig. They figure you can't beat them with 20-foot jumpers and they're right. I'll tell you, it ain't easy out there." —Baltimore's Jack Marin

"People expect us to win. Everything we see in the papers says we'll win. It takes some of the excitement away from us. And I guess if you get right to it, we're not a very emotional bunch." —Milwaukee's Lucius Allen

Relief: In the locker room after the victory Lew sat quietly in a corner for a time, drinking a Coke and chewing his gum. He has now won national titles at all three levels at which he has played -- high school, college, the pros. He allowed that winning the NBA championship is "a great honor." Then he added that he would like to get some rest. After a few minutes, he got to his feet, took a cup and drank a little of the victory champagne."

Issue date: May 10, 1971

 


 
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