Wizards

Wizards

YouTube is a bizarre place where Gangnam Style get billions of views, where 12-year-olds can become wealthy 'influencers' and where even the strangest of conspiracy theories can find a home.

It's a weird site, but it also has some awesome things like classic NBA games archived in their entirety. With no live NBA basketball on, I have decided to watch some old Wizards and Bullets games and take a new school approach to recapping them. I started with Game 1 of the 1997 playoffs between the Bullets and Bulls, and today I watched Game 6 of the 1978 NBA Finals between the Bullets and SuperSonics.

The Bullets won Game 6 by 35 points. It was one of the largest blowouts in NBA Finals history and it set them up to win the championship days later in Game 7. It was the only championship won by the franchise.

Here are five takeaways from that game, including pictures and GIFs of the best moments...

Bullets fans were wild

For years, D.C. fans and those in the media have speculated what it would be like if the Wizards went on a deep playoff run. The theory has long been that since Washington is a basketball city, the Wizards would become very, very popular. Given they haven't been even to the conference finals since the 1970s, no one really knows for fact what their potential is in terms of local interest.

This game was back when the franchise was at its peak and, man, did D.C. fans love them some Bullets. The crowd noise is overbearing for essentially the entire game and especially when Washington went on scoring runs. The fans at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD were so loud, CBS correspondent Jimmy 'The Greek' could barely hear Brent Musburger during a halftime segment. 

 

It was like the crowd at Capital One Arena during the Chik-Fil-A free throw promotion in the fourth quarter, but for the entire game. It was absolute madness, the type of raucous energy that would later fill RFK Stadium for Redskins games throughout the 1980s.

And these people were all-in on the theme of the year, which was started by their head coach, Dick Motta; the opera-inspired, would-never-fly-nowadays slogan of 'It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.'

So many legends

Given this was the pinnacle of the sport, there were many big names involved both on and off the floor. Playing the game were four Hall of Famers: Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Jack Sikma and Dennis Johnson. Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens was also a Hall of Famer.

Also participating were some recognizable names like Bullets forward Mitch Kupchak, the current GM of the Hornets who was an executive for both of the Lakers teams that won titles with Kobe Bryant. Future NBA coach Paul Silas was a back-up for the Sonics. And Bobby Dandridge, a four-time All-Star, was a key play for the Bullets.

On the broadcast team were Musburger, a legendary play-by-play announcer, plus Hall of Famers Rick Barry and John Havlicek providing color commentary. Doing the around-sports updates for CBS that day was Vin Scully. And the halftime show featured a segment with Red Auerbach called 'Red on Roundball' where he smoked a cigar and told stories of his coaching days. 

 

Big E was the man

As crazy as the crowd was for the full game, and as much as they loved all of their Bullets players, Hayes was clearly the favorite. Every single time he touched the ball, fans screamed 'EEEEEEEE.' Seriously, every time he touched the ball.

Does anyone in sports today get that treatment? Maybe when a football player whose name includes the sound 'oooo' or 'eeee' makes a play, fans will do something similar. But this was every time Hayes touched the ball, so like 20-plus times in the game, and that seems unique.

There were also fans holding up signs that just had the letter 'E' on them.

And as Hayes played, you could see why they loved him. He was the most dominant player on the court in Game 6 with 21 points, 15 rebounds (eight offensive), five blocks and two steals. Though he didn't shoot particularly well in the game (9-for-23), the Sonics mostly had no answer for him.

So much 70s

This game was played in 1978, so naturally it reflected a very different world than the one we live in today. That could be seen in the fashion of the coaches who were wearing suits that haven't been in style really ever since. Motta had a plaid thing going on while Wilkens went for the unbuttoned shirt look and set an NBA record for chest exposure.

You could also see major differences in the commercials. Pitchmen included Rodney Dangerfield, Joe Namath and, uh, O.J. Simpson. There was also a commercial for Dutch Masters cigars.

There were some relics of the league itself on display. The series wasn't called the 'NBA Finals,' it was known as the 'NBA World Championship Series.' And then-commissioner Larry O'Brien was in attendance. The NBA Finals trophy is now, of course, named after him.

 

As dated as much of it was, there were some similarities to today. Like, when Musburger gave a shoutout to DeMatha High School's basketball program with Adrian Dantley in attendance. DeMatha is still a basketball powerhouse and synonymous with area hoops.

And there was a familiar face behind the Bullets' bench if you follow the Wizards very closely. Longtime team employee Dolph Sand was there, right behind Motta.

Injuries were a theme

The Bullets blew out the Sonics despite missing Phil Chenier, one of their best players. Before he became a longtime broadcaster, Chenier was an All-Star shooting guard. He could only watch from the bench due to a back injury.

Bullets guard Kevin Grevey was also banged up with a left wrist injury. Though he started the game, he only played six minutes total before calling it a night.

Those injuries, however, helped create an opportunity for rookie Greg Ballard, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds in Game 6. He would later become one of the better players in Wizards/Bullets franchise history, but he was just starting to make a name for himself and was impressing Barry and Havlicek along the way. Havlicek stated "I think he'll be a star in this league" and Barry proclaimed "he has the perfect body for this game of basketball." The latter is a bit of a strange comment, but undoubtedly very high praise.

And finally, injuries were a constant in other ways. For some reason, the broadcast would zoom in very close when guys were getting tended to by trainers. It was odd.

It's amazing to think just how long it's been since Washington won an NBA championship. A lot has changed in the last 42 years.

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