Where were you in ’62? That’s the question we ask on our second NBA Tuesday miniseries today, as we examine the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards that didn’t exist at the time. We hope you have fun on this journey through NBA history as we see it, and remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, as well.
Hey, guess who won the championship? You’ll only need one try, we suspect.
1962 NBA FINALS MVP: Elgin Baylor, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
In a seven-game series, the Boston Celtics topped the Los Angeles Lakers to claim the NBA title (again). Game 7 was a 110-107 victory for the home team, as a coast-to-coast rivalry was born. The Celtics were loaded again, of course, while the Lakers were more of a two-man team: small forward Elgin Baylor and point guard Jerry West. And the player who dominated this series was Baylor, despite his team’s loss.
Baylor averaged 40.6 points, 17.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in the series, and in Game 7, he put up 41 points to lead all scorers. Yes, Boston won, but it was more of a team effort, whereas Los Angeles was carried by Baylor, the leading scorer in five of the seven games played. Besides, how does one average 40-plus points per game against the Celtics of this era? By being a god, basically.
Yes, Baylor had help from West, but pick a Celtic—any Celtic—and you see that chosen player had help from three or four other guys, on any given night. That’s what makes Baylor the most valuable here: his single-handed ability to dominate and lead.
1962 NBA DPOY: Bill Russell, C, Boston Celtics
This again is no contest, as Celtic center Bill Russell (11.64 Defensive Win Shares) led the league in defensive value by almost twice as much as the next player (6.00 DWS). It was a modest season, by Russell’s standards, as he grabbed 23.6 boards per outing, while committing 2.7 fouls per night. He altered almost every game in Boston’s favor, and that cannot be underestimated.