The final ABA game

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The final ABA game

Postby rlee » Wed Jul 28, 2010 7:06 pm

Robert Barker just posted this at the Remember the ABA Yahoo group discussion board:

"Someone was gracious enough to supply me with a DVD that had the Nets/Nuggets final ABA game of May 12, 1976, and had the 2006 ESPN(?) documentary, 'The Last Night of the ABA'. The documentary had some cool film and videotape footage, and nice stories on Brown/Moe, the Doctor, and a touching tribute to Wendell Ladner. And how 1970s ABA was it to see Wendell coming off an ALLEGHENY AIRLINES flight? For those of you unfamiliar with Allegheny Airlines, it was lowly regarded and later renamed the equally regarded US AIRWAYS.

My only problem with the documentary was the evaluation of the final ABA game. Billy Dee Williams narrated that the Nets comeback was led by Dr. J. Having just watched the truth of videotape, I had to rub my eyeballs. Super John Williamson is the hero of the Final Game of the NBA. Julius was the hero of earlier games in the series, but not game 6. I know it fit the documentaries' narrative to have Dr. J. be the hero, but Dr. J. was pretty much pinned down that night. He made a few crowd pleasing moves, but his overall contribution did not win that game. I hadn't watched the Nets/Nuggets matchup since the mid-90s. Now I realize how good the Nuggets were. No wonder they came storming into the NBA and might have won a title (and redeemed the ABA) if not for Skywalker's romance with cocaine and a fall down the steps at Studio 54.

The Nuggets looked like a freight train in game 6. I can see why Hall of Famer Issel was so highly regarded. (Although we know there are ABA players who were as good, or better, who are still waiting by cobwebbed phones for the Hall to call). The Nets big men played like trash. No wonder there was never a nickname like the 'Three-Headed Monster' for the post triumvirate of Jones, Bassett and Eakins. And there, playing in a world of his own, was lumpy, stumpy Super John Williamson, doing what no one on the Nets seemed capable of; hit a clutch jump shot, again and again. And then he'd step to the foul line and without hesitation pop in the penalty points. I can not recall any other similar big time game where a role player in the Finals of the NBA, or ABA, simply took over. Did he have dinner reservations or something? He seemed to be saying, 'Let's get this nonsense over with. I don't want to spend my Sunday afternoon in Denver, playing Game 7'."
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Postby mtamada » Thu Jul 29, 2010 3:05 am

I'm no fan of John Williamson, but calling him a "role player" would seem to be shortchanging him. I suppose that much as with MJ's supporting cast, everyone looks like a role player when compared to Dr. J, but Williamson was almost tied for 2nd in scoring per game on that team, and was second in total points. In the NBA, his low FG% never impressed me, but he was an explosive player, and for him to go wild in any given game, even in the Finals, should not be a surprise.

Also, I suppose in one sense the Nuggets "might have won a title" ... the late 1970s were a perpetual scramble with no consistently dominant teams (OTOH the Sonics and Bullets did manage to repeat as Finalists), and seemingly the Nuggets were right up there with the other contenders. But Dennis Johnson and Gus Williams exposed Thompson's defensive weaknesses in the 1978 playoffs. Thompson's TS% was way higher than Williamson's, but they both were too 1-dimensional; if not the Sonics then some other team -- the Bullets, or the Blazers, maybe even the Lakers (whose Achilles heel was a lack of a PF, but the Nuggets didn't really have one in 1978 either) -- would've, or actually did, beat the Nuggets in the various late 1970s playoff series.
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Postby rlee » Thu Jul 29, 2010 3:14 am

Mike, Robert more properly should have said "second banana" or "Robin to the main star's Batman" than "role player" - but his main point about John's taking over the final game is well taken. You are right, Super John was no role player although at that point he was in Doc's enormous shadow and he had not yet emerged as the star he later became.
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