Having met in the Finals three of the last four years, the Knicks and Lakers were old foes. Each team had their share of superstars and the rematch of last year’s finals promised to be an epic battle.
“We were arch rivals,” Frazier said, “and we were meeting these guys almost annually in the Finals. So that really catapulted basketball in a way because you had these two major cities vying for a title. West and Frazier. Chamberlain and Reed. All these big names.”
“The Lakers were a great team,” Monroe said. “With Wilt Chamberlain, who, for me, was the greatest player of all time. You had Jerry West. [Gail] Goodrich. Top-tier guys. Guys who had been in the playoffs. Guys who are all-time players.”
“We matched up well with them,” Lucas said. “We knew we could play against them. We knew we could take advantage of them. We felt confident. We knew we could beat them if we did what we needed to do.”
“I had to try to contain West,” Frazier said. “If I could keep him to 25 points, I’ve done a good job. His strength is his quickness and savvy. He’s always looking to come off pick-and-rolls. On defense, he’s always lurking. He knew he had Chamberlain [inside], so he’d entice you to penetrate. So now you get inside, you’ve got to look for Wilt. And West would come from behind and knock the ball away.”
“Bill Bridges guarded me,” Bradley said, “and Bill Bridges is two inches taller than I am, and about 30 to 40 pounds heavier. If I was going to try to go against him inside, it would be impossible. He’d smash me. So what I did was I ran him. I ran him down the floor, across the floor, back out … I remember doing this a couple of times and Bridges saying to me, ‘Hey, how about slowing down?’ I thought, ‘Well, that’s good information. Let me keep running.'”
Bill Bradley, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe talks about how the Knicks were able to neutralize the Lakers’ Hall of Famer during the 1973 Finals.
“Obviously, we were concerned with Chamberlain,” Frazier said. “When he gets the ball inside, we’re looking to try to double him and help out Willis.”
“You can’t stop Wilt Chamberlain, especially if he gets it underneath,” Lucas said. “If he got it underneath, get out of the way. I remember my first game against Wilt. The first thing he said to me was, ‘Rookie, if I get a rebound under the basket, get away from me or I’ll break your arm.'”
“Chamberlain wasn’t that comfortable [shooting from outside],” Frazier said. “So we had to get him away from the basket.”
“I took the ball away from the basket,” Lucas said. “We would set a screen offside and I would move out, and the ball would come to me. Wilt was not going to come out on me. When he did, we had an even bigger advantage because I could go around him or get the ball to DeBusschere or Bradley.
“That’s where your intelligence comes in,” he added. “You have to do things to take advantage of somebody who is that great and that powerful, and that awesome.”