There may have been seasons when a better bunch of players became pros, but no other can match 1974 for excellence and longevity. The sons of '74 shown here are still cracking (if you include law books), as are classmates Bobby Jones of the 76ers, K.C.'s Billy Knight and the Clippers' Harvey Catchings.
Bill Walton began his pro career in Portland, where he led the Blazers to the 1977 title, but now he's back in Los Angeles, where he starred at UCLA. Walton—who due to injury has missed 509 games in the NBA—notes two differences in the league: "Less outside shooting and more specialization."
Keith Wilkes was Rookie of the Year for Golden State; now, as Jamaal Wilkes, he's fighting to remain a Laker starter. "When I came into the league," says Wilkes, who's 6'6" and 190 pounds, "believe it or not I was considered a power forward. And that's why I had to guard Elvin Hayes [6'9", 240] when we beat Washington in the finals. Today I'm one of the smallest forwards."
Tom McMillen played in the Italian League while he was a Rhodes scholar, and in 1975-76 he joined the NBA. He now performs for Washington, where his interest in politics comes in handy. Although he has never averaged as many as 10 points a game, McMillen has given his opponents gray hairs. "I play good defense," the 6'11" McMillen says, "and though I'm not a great jumper or rebounder, I get good position."
Moses Malone was only 19 and fresh out of Petersburg (Va.) High School when he signed with the ABA Utah Stars. "I was light and young then," says Malone, who was a 6'11", 210-pound forward. "It was my best year ever. There was so much excitement. The ABA was a run-and-gun league." By '78 Malone had joined Houston of the NBA and was asked to play center. "I'd gotten up to about 235 then," he says, "and the older I got the more weight I naturally carried." With the added heft—Malone plays at 260 these days—came some added responsibility, which he has borne well: He won the MVP award twice and led the Rockets to the NBA finals in '81. Two years ago he signed with the 76ers, paced them to a title and was again named MVP.
Scott Wedman is a rarity: a star who has adjusted well to becoming a sub. With the Kings, he was a double-digit scorer and once an All-Star. Now that he's riding the bench for the Celts, he says, "My years as a starter helped me play a role in Boston, because winning is more important than just scoring."
Truck Robinson was a spot player with Washington as a rookie, but three years later he led the NBA in rebounding while with New Orleans. Now he's a Knick, and board work is still his forte. "At 6'7", I have some trouble against the bigger power forwards," he says, "but power's still my game."
Len Elmore began his pro career with Indiana of the ABA and ended it last season with New York of the NBA. Now in his first year at Harvard Law School, Elmore says, "I could've played another year of basketball, but I don't think my knees will take such a pounding in the library."
ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN
RON RIESTERER/OKLAND TRIBUNE
JOHN D. HANLON