This is a special NBA Tuesday column this week, as we have reached the last season of the American Basketball Association, and we will miss its beautiful red, white, and blue ball. Why doesn’t the NBA bring that back?
The final ABA awards winners are below, so enjoy the nostalgia.
1976 NBA MVP: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (original, confirmed)
The best player in the league was again Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, now the center for the Los Angeles Lakers after a blockbuster trade. He led the NBA in Win Shares (17.01) and Player Efficiency Rating (27.21) again; however, the Lakers won just 40 games and missed the playoffs.
That leaves this process wide open for discussion … sort of: Buffalo Braves center Bob McAdoo was second in WS (12.32) and third in PER (23.31), as the next-best player in the league, and his team won 46 games to make the postseason.
That’s a big gap there in WS and a considerable one in PER, however: Was the Big Fella’s season historic enough to overcome his team’s non-contending status? Admittedly, due to division inequality, the Lakers’ record would have won the Midwest Division of the Western Conference—where Kareem’s old team managed a 38-44 record to finish first.
Under those circumstances—alignment aberration—we’re fine giving this award to Abdul-Jabbar again, simply because his team finished just two games behind the last playoff spot in the Pacific Division and would have made the postseason in modern formats that are more equitable (and designed to avoid exactly what happened here in 1976).
For the record, Kareem topped his peers in rebounds (16.9) and blocks (4.1) per game, while scoring 27.7 points a night and shooting 52.9 percent from the floor. This is the fifth MVP we have chosen Abdul-Jabbar to win.
1976 ABA MVP: Julius Erving (original, confirmed)
Two teams folded just weeks into the season, as the ABA was clearly on the ropes. This doesn’t change the fact that New York Nets small forward Julius Erving topped the bunch in WS (17.72) and PER (28.68), while his team won 55 games to finish second in the league overall.
Dr. J led the ABA in scoring at 29.3 ppg, while adding 11.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game. This is Erving’s third-straight MVP Award from us.
1976 NBA ROTY: Alvan Adams (original, confirmed)
The Phoenix Suns won 42 games to edge the Lakers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and a big reason was rookie center Alvan Adams. He totally topped all rookies in WS (7.2) and PER (21.7), while scoring 19.0 ppg and averaging 9.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists each time out as well. This was an easy one.
1976 ABA ROTY: David Thompson (original, confirmed)
The Denver Nuggets (formerly the Rockets) won 60 games to post the best record in the league, and a big reason was rookie small forward David Thompson. He readily topped all rookies in WS (12.4) and PER (21.1), while scoring 26.0 ppg and averaging 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists each game. This was an(other) easy one.