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How bad were the late 1970s for the NBA?

  • Broadcast in Basketball
Over and Back NBA Podcast

Over and Back NBA Podcast


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We look at how bad things really got for the NBA in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the league suffered from financial issues, image problems, drug use and a downtown in popularity in the latest edition of Over and Back's Basketball Mysteries of the 1970s.

We’ve all heard that the NBA really struggled with financial issues, drug use gone rampant, bad TV ratings, and a perception of aloof players. Jason Mann and Rich Kraetsch dig into how bad the problems really were before Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan helped the NBA turnaround in the mid-1980s.

We look at the numbers for attendance and TV ratings from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, major NBA players who battled drug issues (including Spencer Haywood, Bernard King, John Lucas, David Thompson, John Drew, Micheal Ray Richardson and Marques Johnson), NBA teams who reported financial problems, NBA reducing roster spots, huge contracts for Bill Walton and Magic Johnson, bad owners like Ted Stepien and Donald Sterling joining the league, a committee in 1983 exploring possibly eliminating up to five NBA teams, labor issues, trouble with deferred payments, what media at the time thought were the NBA's problems, the racial ramifications, how the turnaround began to be seen in 1984 and beyond, and much more.