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1965–66 NBA season
League National Basketball Association
Sport Basketball
TV partner/s ABC
Regular season
Season MVP Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia)
Top scorer Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia)
Playoffs
Eastern champions Boston Celtics
Eastern runners-up Philadelphia 76ers
Western champions Los Angeles Lakers
Western runners-up St. Louis Hawks
Finals
Finals champions Boston Celtics
Runners-up Los Angeles Lakers
NBA seasons
←1964–65

1966–67 →

The 1965–66 NBA Season was the 20th season of the National Basketball Association. The season ended with the Boston Celtics winning an unprecedented 8th straight NBA Championship, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 4 games to 3 in the 1966 NBA Finals.


Season recap

Leading teams

Sixers

The season started out looking like one of victory finally for giant Philadelphia 76ers star Wilt Chamberlain. The 7'2 285-pound athlete had a full year with his new team after half a season the year before. The Sixers came together behind him and won the NBA East with 55 wins in 80 NBA games, the top record in the league.

Chamberlain himself was again a dominant force. His 1074 field goals were more than 250 ahead of the next top shooting scorer in the league. His 976 free throws tried were second most in the league, helping his NBA-high scoring average even with all the misses at the foul line. He also led the league in shooting accuracy, rebounds and minutes played. He also was 7th in assists.

Celtics

One game behind in the East, and the league, were the defending powerhouse Boston Celtics. The team again featured seven ten-point scorers in Red Auerbach's balanced juggernaut, plus defender/point guard K.C. Jones. Bill Russell again led the defense from the middle. The much anticipated Boston-Philly matchup was the focus of the league all season.

Also-rans

After the two contenders, the nine-team NBA also featured two strong also-rans. The Los Angeles Lakers won 45 of 80 games to capture the West Division of the NBA, which produced no league champion 1959-1970. The Lakers were led by super star Jerry West, whose 818 field goals made were tied for second most in the NBA. He also tried and made the most free throws in the league as he carried the Laker load, going 840 of 977 for a 86% clip. The Lakers' so-so center play and more limping from Elgin Baylor held back the club's advancement.

The Cincinnati Royals won 45 games also, but were still stuck in the East Division behind the 76ers and Celtics while the Baltimore Bullets remained in the NBA West. The Royals were led again by Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. Robertson matched West's 818 field goals made while also leading the NBA in assists. Robertson got a few more assists than West because he had Lucas to pass to. The Royals forward averaged 22 points and 21 rebounds per game for the season. West, Robertson, and Lucas accomplished their feats without the benefit of a three-point line.

Playoffs

Six of the NBA's nine teams made the playoffs, with the second and third place teams in each division meeting in the first round, and the East and West Division winners getting a first round bye, then meeting the first round winners in the second round.

In the East, Boston got another scare from Cincy, who jumped to a 2-1 lead behind Robertson and Lucas. But the Celtics righted themselves and won two straight to advance.

In the West, the injury-riddled Baltimore Bullets, led by Don Ohl, were swept by the balanced St.Louis Hawks and player/coach Richie Guerin. The Bullets started three reserves in the series. Boston met Philly in the much-watched East Final. Wilt Chamberlain averaged 28 points and 30 rebounds for the series, but the Celtics blew them out anyway winning four of five games. Bill Russell, Sam Jones and John Havlicek all starred. The 114-110 overtime win in Game Four proved the point in the matchup. Chamberlain hit 28 of 68 free throws in the five game series, just a 41% clip. Los Angeles outlasted St.Louis in the West Final four games to three while Boston rested. The Lakers won three of the first four to set the tone of the series. Baylor had returned to lead a more-balanced cast in support of West.

Finals

Another Boston-L.A. Finals went the full seven games this time as the Lakers made a real run at the better Boston roster. West and Baylor were more of a high-performance tandem in this series, but Boston's three 20-point scorers had just a little more, winning Game Seven at Boston Garden 95-93. Defense and rebounding had prevailed again and Bill Russell was the dean of that. Red Auerbach, exhausted from two close series plus the scare from Wilt, took his victory cigar to the front office after this year. His seven-straight NBA titles, with eight total in nine seasons, set an early standard with his many innovations and acquisitions that NBA leaders are still chasing to this day.

Notable occurrences

  • The 1966 NBA All-Star Game was played at the Cincinnati Gardens in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the East beating the West 137–94. Local hero Adrian Smith of the Royals won the game's MVP award.

Final standings

Eastern Division

Team W L PCT. GB
Philadelphia 76ers 55 25 .688 -
Boston Celtics C 54 26 .675 1
Cincinnati Royals 45 35 .563 10
New York Knicks 30 50 .375 25

Western Division

Team W L PCT. GB
Los Angeles Lakers 45 35 .563 -
Baltimore Bullets 38 42 .475 7
St. Louis Hawks 36 44 .450 9
San Francisco Warriors 35 45 .438 10
Detroit Pistons 22 58 .275 23

C - NBA Champions

Statistics leaders

Category Player Team Stat
Points Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia 76ers 2,649
Rebounds Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia 76ers 1,943
Assists Oscar Robertson Cincinnati Royals 847
FG% Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia 76ers .540
FT% Larry Siegfried Boston Celtics .881

Note: Prior to the 1969-70 season, league leaders in points, rebounds, and assists were determined by totals rather than averages.

NBA awards

  • Most Valuable Player: Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Rookie of the Year: Rick Barry, San Francisco Warriors
  • Coach of the Year: Dolph Schayes, Philadelphia 76ers
  • All-NBA First Team:
    • Rick Barry, San Francisco Warriors
    • Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals
    • Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 76ers
    • Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals
    • Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers
  • All-NBA Second Team:
    • Hal Greer, Philadelphia 76ers
    • Sam Jones, Boston Celtics
    • Bill Russell, Boston Celtics
    • Gus Johnson, Baltimore Bullets
    • John Havlicek, Boston Celtics
  • All-NBA Rookie Team:
    • Tom Van Arsdale, Detroit Pistons
    • Rick Barry, San Francisco Warriors
    • Dick Van Arsdale, New York Knicks
    • Billy Cunningham, Philadelphia 76ers
    • Fred Hetzel, San Francisco Warriors

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