For NBA Tuesday today on the Daily McPlay, we’re examining the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards for both professional basketball leagues in 1973. We say goodbye to a legend in the old league, and we recognize a rising young power in the new league.
Remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, because knowledge is power.
1973 NBA FINALS MVP: Willis Reed, C, New York (original); Walt Frazier, SG, New York (revised)
The New York Knicks topped the Los Angeles Lakers in 5 games for what remains the franchise’s most-recent NBA title. Center Willis Reed won the MVP vote, but the Knicks had five starters all averaging between 15.6 and 18.6 ppg. No one dominated, and Reed didn’t even average a double double. That honor went to veteran power forward Dave DeBusschere (15.6 ppg, 11.6 rpg).
Heck, Reed averaged the fewest minutes of any Knick in the starting lineup, playing only 30 mpg. Meanwhile, point guard Walt Frazier played 46 mpg while posting 16.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, and 5.2 apg. For the record, Reed never topped all players in points or rebounds in a single game during this series. We’re going with Frazier here—again—for his all-around game and impressive endurance.
1973 ABA FINALS MVP: George McGinnis, PF, Indiana (original); Artis Gilmore, C, Kentucky (revised)
The Indiana Pacers were an ABA dynasty, winning their third championship in a four-year span here with a 7-game victory over the Kentucky Colonels—including an 88-81 win in Game 7 on the road. Overall, between 1969 and 1975, the Pacers played in the ABA Finals five times. The voted playoff MVP was Indiana power forward George McGinnis, who topped all players with 27 points in the last game.
He led the Pacers in both scoring (22.3 ppg) and rebounding (13.7 ppg), although he may have been outdone by two opponents: Colonels PF Dan Issel (23.6 ppg, 13.0 rpg) and Kentucky C Artis Gilmore (22.1 ppg, 17.3 rpg). In fact, Gilmore played almost 6 more minutes per game than McGinnis did, and he also added 5.3 apg and 4.0 bpg. That’s absolutely dominant.
Kentucky actually outscored Indiana in this series by 2 ppg, and while Issel sort of floundered in Game 7, Gilmore did not—shooting over 53 percent from the floor and grabbing 17 rebounds while blocking 4 shots in playing a game-high 46 minutes. He wasn’t the reasons the Colonels didn’t win; Gilmore was the reason there was a Game 7 in this series, so he’s getting our nod here.
1973 NBA DPOY: Wilt Chamberlain, C, Los Angeles
Five players topped 7 Defensive Win Shares during the regular season: Boston Celtics C Dave Cowens (9.85), Celtics PF Paul Silas (7.62), Lakers C Wilt Chamberlain (7.51), Milwaukee Bucks C Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (7.49), and Boston small forward John Havlicek (7.18). With three teammates on this short list, it looks like it comes down to Wilt or Kareem. Imagine that …
There’s little difference in the DWS marks, so how did their respective teams do? Well, the Bucks and the Lakers each won 60 games to win their respective divisions in the Western Conference. Milwaukee only won its division by 9 games, though, while L.A. won its division by 13 games. Does that matter? Not really. There’s so much equality here, we’re going with Chamberlain—for two flimsy reasons.
First, the minimal DWS edge, and when you’ve stopped laughing, the second reason is sentimental: This was Chamberlain’s final season in the league, and why not send him out with fifth DPOY nod? The Stilt led the league in rebounding for the 11th time (18.6 rpg), and he committed just 2.3 fpg. Without the need to score as much as he used to, Chamberlain’s defense was his focus, and it pays off here.
1973 ABA DPOY: Gilmore
When you finished almost 3.0 DWS above the next player, it’s clear you deserve this award, and that’s why Gilmore wins his second straight from us. The 9.82 DWS mark was dominant, as Gilmore led the ABA in rebounding (17.6 rpg) while posting 3.1 bpg, too. Both those numbers were down from his rookie year, but he was still the best defensive player in the upstart league by country mile.
Check in every Tuesday for our NBA awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!