The Golden State Warriors’ dynasty lived on with a trip to their fifth straight NBA Finals after a thrilling overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers to sweep the Western Conference finals on Monday. It marked history too, as the last team to have made the championship for at least five years was the Boston Celtics (1959-66).
The NBA was a lot different at the time, and the world was too — more than 50 years ago.
Far less competition
There were just nine NBA teams back in 1966, when the Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 in the finals for their eighth consecutive championship, a streak that has been unmatched in North American professional sports.
Twelve different Hall of Famers participated in that series, including Bill Russell, Jerry West and a young John Havlicek. Russell averaged 23.6 points in the seven games to lead the Celtics.
The 3-point line obviously hadn’t been introduced, and the Celtics’ style of play would almost be unrecognizable in comparison with today’s Warriors’ high-flying, perimeter-oriented offense.
Boston eventually won 11 titles in 13 seasons, when Russell led the Celtics to the championship in 1969 as a player-coach.
The world was in a different place
In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson was president, gas cost 32 cents per gallon and the average income per year was under $7,000.
“Batman” and “Star Trek” made their respective debuts. In sports, the Houston Astrodome was constructed, a young boxer named Cassius Clay defeated Henry Cooper in London to retain the heavyweight title, Jack Nicklaus became the first to win back-to-back Masters titles and England won the World Cup.
It will be hard for the Warriors to match the Celtics’ streak of 10 straight finals appearances, especially considering there are around three times more teams in today’s NBA and the level of competition is so much higher.
That just goes to show how impressive even five straight trips to the championship is. Not even the likes of legends such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird led their respective dynasties to such a feat. The Warriors are truly in the midst of a golden era.
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