Basketball Wiki
1967–68 NBA season
League National Basketball Association
Sport Basketball
TV partner/s ABC
Regular season
Season MVP Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia)
Top scorer Dave Bing (Detroit)
Eastern champions Boston Celtics
Eastern runners-up Philadelphia 76ers
Western champions Los Angeles Lakers
Western runners-up San Francisco Warriors
Finals champions Boston Celtics
Runners-up Los Angeles Lakers
NBA seasons
← 1966–67 1968–69 →

The 1967–68 NBA season was the 22nd season of the National Basketball Association. The season ended with the Boston Celtics winning the NBA Championship, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 4 games to 2 in the NBA Finals.

Notable occurrences

Season recap

This season marked a turning point for the NBA and for pro basketball as a whole. Television was a growing component in the growth of the league and the game. Two more NBA teams meant two six-team divisions and the highest number of teams the NBA had since 1952. All signs pointed up not just for the NBA or basketball, but for sports as a whole.

The other side of this growth in sports culture that included the NBA, was the growth in media that also covered the events of the day, some of which were pretty severe. The Vietnam War raged. Long-time critics of the conflict, the start of which was questionable to many, grew many allies in American homes everywhere as news images brought the war to the dinner table. Also, a civil rights campaign led by Martin Luther King, Jr. had angrier activities led by others in the Midwest and in California. This too divided the country and poised America for 1968, a year of anguish that would come to affect even the NBA, including its growing number of black players.

This star-crossed season began with the Philadelphia 76ers, the dominant winners from a year ago who had ended Boston's dynasty, looking very good to repeat under coach Alex Hannum and superstar Wilt Chamberlain. The Sixers had six scorers over 11 per game, and were again based around their fearsome foursome of Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham and Chet Walker. Philadelphia led the league at 122.6 points per game, sinking more field goals and free throws than any other NBA team. They posted a league-high 62 wins in 82 NBA games, now the league standard.

Chamberlain cut his scoring back again to 24.3 per game, but perhaps had his greatest season ever. Typically, he again the league in rebounds, minutes played, and field goal accuracy at 59.5%. His 932 free throw tries, another NBA high, helped offset his poor shooting there also.

But the 7' 1" 285-pound athlete also shut critics up by leading the entire NBA in assists. His 702 passes for scores were more than even the great Oscar Robertson that year. Wilt's penchant for passing even produced a rare event—a triple-20. 20 points, 20 rebounds and 20 assists all in the same NBA game. Wilt alleges he also blocked 12 shots in that game. If so, it could be one of possibly 15 quadruple-double games or more that marked his playing days as a Philadelphia 76er. Blocked shots were not then an official NBA statistic. So the truth about this will never be truly verified. Stats or otherwise, and Wilt owned all the numbers anyway, there now seemed little question that Chamberlain was now the greatest player to ever play the game. Decades later, many of his records remain untouchable. Being the only center to lead the NBA in assists is just one of them.

Three other NBA teams won 50 or more games this year, getting some easy ones at the expense of the new clubs in Seattle and San Diego. The St. Louis Hawks, now fully recovered from the retirement of Bob Pettit, posted 56 wins to win the NBA's West Division. Rich Guerin's club got strong rebounding from their frontline and got 20-point scoring from All-Pro point guard Lenny Wilkens and center Zelmo Beaty. The Hawks did have seven scorers over ten points per game, but lost Lou Hudson to military service for 35 games, which slowed them down. The Hawks again also had the league's top-rated defense. Following the season, the Hawks would relocate to Atlanta.

The Boston Celtics faced surprising criticism this year, but won 54 games in Bill Russell's second season as player/coach. The 6' 10 225-pound 33-year-old led his team again from his center spot, ranking third in rebounds and shots blocked and quietly finishing tenth in NBA in assists just behind teammate John Havlicek. Havlicek played more guard than forward this year and was an all-star with his strong all-around game. He was one of three 20-point scorers along with Sam Jones and Bailey Howell. Seven Celtics averaged ten points.

The Los Angeles Lakers won 52 games behind the now-legendary tandem of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. West battled injuries again but scored 26.3 points per game, made 51% of his shots from the floor and averaged six assists. He again also had several steals each game, but steals, like blocks, were not an official stat yet. Baylor added 26 points per game of his own and was ninth in NBA rebounds. Center play was still a weakness, but Laker guard Archie Clark added 20 points per game and defense to boost the team. A solid bench as well made the Lakers an improved contender from seasons past.

Final standings

Eastern Division

Team W L PCT. GB
Philadelphia 76ers 62 20 .756 -
Boston Celtics C 54 28 .659 8
New York Knicks 43 39 .524 19
Detroit Pistons 40 42 .488 22
Cincinnati Royals 39 43 .476 23
Baltimore Bullets 36 46 .439 26

Western Division

Team W L PCT. GB
St. Louis Hawks 56 26 .683 -
Los Angeles Lakers 52 30 .634 4
San Francisco Warriors 43 39 .524 13
Chicago Bulls 29 53 .354 27
Seattle SuperSonics 23 59 .280 33
San Diego Rockets 15 67 .183 41

C - NBA Champions

Statistics leaders

Category Player Team Stat
Points Dave Bing Detroit Pistons 2,142
Rebounds Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia 76ers 1,952
Assists Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia 76ers 702
FG% Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia 76ers 59.5
FT% Oscar Robertson Cincinnati Royals 87.3

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: Earl Monroe, Baltimore Bullets
  • Coach of the Year: Richie Guerin, St. Louis Hawks
  • All-NBA First Team:
    • Dave Bing, Detroit Pistons
    • Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals
    • Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 76ers
    • Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals
    • Elgin Baylor, Los Angeles Lakers
  • All-NBA Rookie Team:
    • Al Tucker, Seattle SuperSonics
    • Walt Frazier, New York Knicks
    • Phil Jackson, New York Knicks
    • Bob Rule, Seattle SuperSonics
    • Earl Monroe, Baltimore Bullets