Today on NBA Tuesday, we’re closing out the 1970s as we discuss the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards for the NBA in 1979. There was an interesting league champion this time out, too, as few people probably even remember this team nowadays, outside of the Pacific Northwest. Was that too much of a hint? Maybe …
Remember to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, because knowledge is power.
1979 NBA FINALS MVP: Dennis Johnson, SG, Seattle (original, confirmed)
The Seattle SuperSonics—who moved to Oklahoma City in 2008—beat the Washington Bullets in 5 games to claim the only NBA title in franchise history. Seattle shooting guard Dennis Johnson won the MVP vote at the time, after posting a 22.6 ppg/6.0 rpg/6.0 apg/2.2 bpg/1.8 spg line against the defending champions. It’s hard to argue with that all-around brilliance here, when DJ played 44.8 mpg, too.
The only other true contender is center Jack Sikma: 15.8 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 3.2 bpg, 2.0 apg, and 1.2 spg in 44.0 mpg. But the Johnson line is just more impressive overall, so we won’t correct the historical record here: DJ certainly earned this one, even though he didn’t top the scoring sheet in any of the 5 games. He didn’t have to, as every facet of his game was on display for the entire Finals.
1979 NBA DPOY: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, C, Los Angeles
The top candidates for this award include Sikma (5.74 DWS), Los Angeles Lakers C Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5.61), and Golden State Warriors C Robert Parish (5.36). No one else in the league topped the 5.0 DWS threshold. With the Warriors missing the postseason, this comes down to Sikma and Kareem, as interestingly, all three candidates played in the same division: the Pacific.
Seattle won the division with 52 wins, while the Lakers came in third with 47 victories. Los Angeles has less margin for error, making the postseason by just 4 games. Keeping that in mind, we give this award to Kareem for the following stats: NBA-best 4.0 bpg along with 12.8 rpg (including 10.2 on the defensive end). The Big Fella also posted 5.4 apg, which was a career high as he turned his defense offensive.
This is Kareem’s second DPOY nod from us, and this was his age-31 season. While he would maintain his offensive strength for many more seasons to come, this was the last peak year of his defensive magic, so it’s appropriate that he earned this award.