Bucks-Suns coin flip — Alcindor in MIL — Finals notes

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

  The Opening Tip

  • The Suns and Bucks share one of the better footnotes in NBA history 
  • Notes and news ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals
  • We got retro with our GIFs

Tonight's Finals game

1. The coin flip that set the Suns and Bucks on two different paths

You may have recently heard something about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), the Bucks, the Suns, and a coin flip.

Here’s the context:

  • In 1969, two expansion teams in the Bucks and the Suns had the worst records in their respective conferences. 
  • In those pre-lottery days, the first pick was, for some negligent reason, decided by a coin flip between the two worst teams. Despite Phoenix’s 16-win season to Milwaukee’s 27-win season, the two had 50-50 odds of getting No. 1. (This method was employed until 1984.)
  • The top pick that year was obvious: UCLA’s Lew Alcindor, who was destined to go No. 1 and turn a sad-sack team into a microwavable contender. 
  • So … on March 19, 1969, the flip was held in commissioner J. Walter Kennedy’s office in Manhattan. 
  • The Suns earned the right to pick for the scientific reason that Kennedy chose a piece of paper that said “Suns” on it. 
  • Their pick: Heads.
  • The result: Tails. 

So Lew went to Milwaukee -- despite a push from the ABA to try and poach him away -- and the Suns missed a chance to pair perhaps the greatest big man in NBA history with newly-signed Connie Hawkins. Instead, they drafted Neal Walk, the hairiest man in NBA history.

In 1971, three years into their existence, Alcindor led the Bucks to a title. The Suns, still looking for their first, can get some decades-long revenge starting tonight.

[READ: What happened to the coin that determined the fate of the 1969 NBA Draft?]

2. Daily GIF pt. 1The 1971 NBA Finals were an Alcindor fest

With their new franchise center, the Bucks got really good, really fast. They won 56 games during Lew Alcindor’s rookie season and 66 + the NBA title in his second season, thanks in-part to an offseason trade for Oscar Robertson.

The Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets in the Finals, with Alcindor averaging 27 and 18.5 RPG and Robertson adding 23.5 and 9.5 APG.

They made it back to the Finals in ‘74, lost in Game 7 to the Celtics, and hadn’t returned until this weekend.

3. Trivia time

Chris Paul has played in 123 playoff games without a championship, which is actually only 19th all-time.

Who are one and two on that list?

Hint: Teammates.

Answers at the bottom.

4. NBA Finals hub: Notes + links + odds

1. Since this morning, Giannis has gone from doubtful to questionable to a “game-time decision,” as Adrian Wojnarowski reported at 2:30 this afternoon.

FWIW, Yahoo’s Chris B. Haynes reported before Game 6 of Hawks-Bucks that there was “belief Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo would be given the green light for a potential Game 7.”

2. Are you ready for a cherry-picked but somewhat interesting stat? Via ESPN Stats & Info, this Finals is the first since 2010 where each team’s leading scorer was drafting by their current team. The last was Paul Pierce vs. Kobe Bryant.

3. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Suns were 5.5-point favorites for Game 1 and -200 favorites to win their first NBA Finals.

4. Some good links: 

  • READ: Chris Paul has still got it
  • READ: The 2021 NBA Finals entrance survey 
  • LISTEN: Marques Johnson on the 2021 Bucks, “White Men Can’t Jump,” and more 
  • READ: These NBA Finals offer new faces, rejuvenation, and tons of intrigue

5. Daily GIF pt. 2The 1976 Finals were the Suns’ intro to the big time

Before Charles Barkley made being a Sun cool, the iconic team in Phoenix was the 1976 Suns, who reached the Finals and took the Celtics to six before bowing out.

The famous game from that series was the triple-overtime Game 5, and the famous moment from that game was Gar Heard hitting a shot with one second left to send it to a third overtime.

Nowadays, that play would have been litigated, reviewed and dulled. Back then, they didn’t even have decimal points on the clock.

6.  Quick hits

  • Giannis’ brother, Kostas, who had played sparingly for the Lakers the last two seasons, just signed to play in Greece on a four-year deal.  
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic with a dose of reality on the Hawks: "It's going to be so hard to keep all of these guys here. I remember back in Europe reading what Draymond Green said about Golden State with how it's going to be hard to keep this group together. I feel like something like that here.”
  • Nate McMillan and the Hawks agreed to a four-year deal on Monday. 
  • Luka Doncic and Slovenia qualified for their first Olympics on Sunday. 
  • Here’s Mo Wagner going nuts on Team Germany. 
  • Thoughts on Tyler Herro’s boxing technique??

7.  Reads

  • A disparaging video prompts explosive fallout within ESPN [The New York Times]
  • Will the Hawks become the new model for NBA rebuilds? [The Ringer]
  • These shots will define the 2021 NBA Finals [ESPN+]

Trivia answer: Karl Malone (193), John Stockton (182). Full list here.


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