Basket Reference

Basket Reference

1977 NBA Finals – The Moment Bill Walton Made History With the Portland Blazers

Did you doubt that Bill Walton was one of the 75 best players in the history of the NBA? After this, you won't doubt it anymore!
1977 NBA Finals – The Moment Bill Walton Made History With the Portland Blazers

Walton. If I bring up this name with a young NBA fan, chances are they will immediately think of Luke Walton. You know, the coach of the Sacramento Kings was fired on November 21, 2021, after a loss against the Utah Jazz when the team was still disappointed with a record of 6 wins and 11 losses.

The same Luke Walton who struggled to confirm the potential glimpsed on the side of the Warriors as an assistant to Steve Kerr when he managed to get the job of head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers from 2016 to 2019. A disappointment for this duty player who had made an honest NBA career punctuated by two NBA titles with the Lakers of Kobe Bryant in 2009 and 2010.

And yet, the Walton I'm going to tell you about in this article is not Luke. It is his father Bill. This Bill Walton has been included in the list of the 75 greatest players in the history of the NBA that has just been unveiled at the end of 2021.

Some have questioned whether Bill Walton is among the top 75 players in NBA history

For some, the inclusion of Bill Walton in this list was debatable, because it meant, for example, excluding a player like Dwight Howard from the list. Older NBA fans know that Bill Walton's inclusion in the list of the 75 greatest players in the history of the league was not in dispute.

During his NBA career, Bill Walton collected individual and team awards. An impressive list of awards that only finds its equivalent in the list of injuries of the curly-haired pivot. Injuries that will leave him alone during the 1977 NBA Finals. For the greatest misfortune of the Sixers of Philadelphia.

Member of the Hall of Fame, MVP of the 1978 season, Bill Walton appears in the list of the 50 best players in history published in 1996 and therefore in the list of the 75 best players in history published in 2021, and his jersey is retired by the Trail Blazers of Portland.

Bill Walton also won the titles of the best rebounder and best shot blocker in 1977, and the best sixth man in 1986. A long list, which is not even complete. This list would even have been extended by many lines if the physical problems had not decided to stick to the sneakers of “Big Red Head”.

Rather than dwelling on his entire career, and his bad luck, I'll focus instead on the 1977 NBA Finals, which will remain forever as his NBA masterpiece.

The 1977 NBA Finals were the apotheosis of Bill Walton's career, who was only in his third season in the league

So we are in 1977. At the end of the regular season, the Blazers took second place in the Pacific Division with a record of 49 wins and 33 losses. Under the leadership of coach Jack Ramsay, the Portland players are in tune with the trio Bill Walton / Lionel Hollins / Maurice Lucas and go to the NBA finals. They find on their road the Sixers of Julius Erving.

The series starts very badly for the men of the “RIP City”. They lose the first two games on the road. But Bill Walton, him, starts quietly to warm up. As a present for his hosts of a night, the pivot delivers a very successful performance with 20 rebounds and 28 units scored. He also validates a double-double during game 2, with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Not bad, but the best is yet to come.

Back in Portland, Bill Walton will do more than help his team win. The Blazers can count on their bearded friend to get back into the series. Walton is everywhere and finishes with 18 rebounds, 20 points, 9 assists, and 4 blocks. The fourth game is a formality for Portland who wins easily 130-98. The opportunity to give Bill Walton a breather as he spends only 26 minutes on the floor. Ideal to prepare for game 5 which is already decisive.

In a white-hot Philly Spectrum, the Blazers get an essential victory. Bill Walton let Bob Gross and Maurice Lucas manage the scoring (respectively 25 and 20 points), while he locked the paint. He loves defensive rebounds and gobbles up everything that comes his way. 20 defensive rebounds, for a final total of 24 rebounds. Victory 110-104, Portland has never been so close to the title.

The game 6 that allowed him to become MVP of the Finals was a masterpiece

Here we are on June 5th, 1977. Author for the moment of an XXL final, Bill Walton will complete his masterpiece with a mammoth performance. Philadelphia fights and refuses to give up. “Doctor J” leads his team with 42 points. But on the other side, Bill Walton shows that he is one of the best players in the NBA for his third season as a pro.

In the oven and the mill, Bill Walton validates a series that he will have splashed with his science of basketball. He finishes for the second time in 20/20, with 20 points and 23 rebounds. He adds to this 7 assists and 8 blocks. A memorable clinic that left the 12,951 spectators of the Memorial Coliseum and the entire basketball world in ecstasy. At the end of a breathless final, it is with only one point of advance that Portland obtains the title.

Bill Walton, then 24 years old, won the NBA Finals MVP award.

The statistics of Bill Walton during this finals show the impact of the pivot on the game of the Blazers. In addition to scoring and rebounding, “Big Red Head” adds assists and shot-blocking to his recital. A recital that unfortunately will not be echoed. At least not regularly. The fault of his damn injuries: Bill Walton has been on the pool table at least 36 times according to his confession!

Without a weak body, Bill Walton would have dominated the NBA for many years

When it was time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the title, Bill Walton was in the front row of the festivities organized at the MODA Center. The opportunity for him and his teammates to remember the basics of this epic:

“I knew it was going to be special from the moment Maurice Lucas came to town. That was in August 1976. Because Maurice called me when he arrived and said, 'Let's get together.' At the end of dinner, we were standing in front of the restaurant on the corner and Maurice took my hand and he shook it like he was going to break it. He said, 'We're going to win the championship this year. I looked at him and said, 'Maurice, are you kidding? This team has never been to the playoffs. This team has never won more than 38 games in an NBA season. ' He looked at me as he shook my hand tighter and tighter and said, 'We're going to win the championship. This year!’”

That day, Maurice Lucas had seemingly had a real vision of Bill Walton's future outrageous dominance. That may explain Lucas' certainty heading into the 1976-77 season. Having a player capable of turning in 18.5 pts, 19 rbds, 5.2 assists and 3.7 blocks in the NBA Finals necessarily helps when it comes to winning a title.

For those who still doubt why Bill Walton was included in the list of the 75 best players in NBA history, this major performance in the 1977 finals should convince you. Sorry, Dwight, Bill Walton was a completely different caliber of the specimen!