There was something elegant about the way Bob McAdoo played basketball. Although a center, he was slender, sinewy, and slippery. His way to dominate a game wasn’t through sheer power, but through irrepressible ability.
McAdoo’s run from 1974 to 1976 is one of the greatest three-year stretches in NBA history. The twig-like center led the league in scoring every season. He paced all players in FG% in 1974. He finished runner-up for the MVP award in 1974 and 1976. In 1975, he won the honor.
He certainly deserved all of that appreciation as he averaged 32 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.5 blocks, 51% FG and 79% FT during this mid-70s heyday. McAdoo’s high scoring average came on remarkable consistency, however. During these years he scored 50+ points only four times. His Buffalo Braves also proved consistent in winning 42 then 49 and then 46 games in this stretch.
Certainly, those aren’t juggernaut win totals, but the Braves were a formidable squad. All three years McAdoo led the Braves to close and gut-wrenching losses against the Celtics (twice) and the Bullets. And Big Mac was a big game performer:
Game 4 1974 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 44 points in a 2-point win
Game 6 1974 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 40 points in a 2-point loss
Averaged 32 points for the series (6 games)
Game 4 1975 Eastern Semis vs. Washington: 50 points in a 6-point win
Averaged 37(!) points for the series (7 games)
Game 1 1975 Eastern 1st Round vs. Philadelphia: 36 points in a 6-point win
Game 3 1975 Eastern 1st Round vs. Philadelphia: 34 points in a 1-point win
Averaged 30 points for the series (3 games)
Game 2 1976 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 40 points in a 5-point loss
Game 4 1976 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 30 points in a 2-point win
Game 6 1976 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 28 points in a 4-point loss
Averaged 27 points for the series (6 games)
When 27 points is the least a player averaged across four playoff series, he’s a bona fide star. But the Braves were in desperate straits as a franchise and couldn’t afford to keep McAdoo. He was shipped to the New York Knicks midway through the 1976-77 season, and thus began the vagabond phase of McAdoo’s career.
In February 1979, New York traded McAdoo to the Celtics. In September 1979, the Celtics traded McAdoo to the Detroit Pistons. In March 1981, the Pistons waived McAdoo. He was then signed by the New Jersey Nets. In December 1981, he was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2nd round draft pick.
From MVP to waiver wire fodder… that’s a helluva fall.
However, when McAdoo left the Los Angeles Lakers after the 1985 season, he had helped the team capture two NBA titles. By then in his 30s, McAdoo was certainly not the irrepressible force he once was, but he could still summon that inexorable quality from time to time. In the 1982 Finals, for example, he eviscerated the 76ers with 16 points a game on 57% shooting.
No player who had been an MVP, Rookie of the Year, and 3x scoring champ in his first four years had ever endured such a precipitous fall or a more determined rise from the ashes. However, one can only suppose that no other phoenix had ever possessed such a soft, looping jumper as that of Bob McAdoo.
Years Played: 1972 – 1986
2x Champion (1982, 1985)
Rookie of the Year (1973)
All-NBA 1st Team (1975)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1974)
All-Rookie Team (1973)
5x All-Star (1974 – ’78)
NBA Career (1972-73 through 1985-86)
Peak Career Production (1973-74 through 1979-80)
Average and Advanced Stats