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You Tube Gold: The NBA Begins To Move To The Modern Game

Julius Erving Slam Dunking in Playoffs
Julius Erving slams one home

This is a pretty cool clip. It’s from the 1977 Eastern Conference Finals and the Boston Celtics are playing the Philadelphia 76ers.

For the Celtics, this was the period when John Havlicek and Dave Cowens were extending the dynasty. For Philly, it was the era of Dr. J. and George McGinnis, Darryl Dawkins and World B. Free, Doug Collins and some rookie named Mike Dunleavy, one of the last of Frank McGuire’s great players at South Carolina.

The merger had taken place in the previous year and this was, if we’re correct, the first playoffs with an ABA influence.

Other than the Celtics, which had always had a fast-break philosophy, the NBA had a lot of walk-it up teams in the early and mid ‘70s (a high level of cocaine abuse probably didn’t help).

When guys like Erving and David Thompson came in, along with a bunch of guys who were used to the three point shot, the NBA suddenly found itself with a lot of guys who were playing a much faster and more vertical game.

This clip really shows it.

On the one end, Boston is not playing half-court basketball the way it was a decade earlier. If you look at earlier footage, Havlicek was relatively relaxed on offense. He wasn’t bothered much on the perimeter.

Not here. The game had grown much more intense.

And when Philly gets the rebound and Erving takes off for the dunk, Dave Cowens went up to defend, but it was hopeless.

Sweeping changes were on the way but in that year’s Finals, the Sixers would run up against Portland. Both teams were fluid and running but Portland was built around Bill Walton and was seen as more team oriented.

Erving commented on this saying that his team’s style might ultimately win out but it didn’t.

In a couple of masterful moves, Philly brought in Moses Malone and Bobby Jones. They also drafted Andrew Toney and soon had a championship team for the ages, winning the NBA title in 1983.

Also on that Philadelphia team: Joe Bryant, whose son Kobe was born a year later and who tragically died in a helicopter wreck this past January.