Greatest of All-Time: The 1980 Seattle Supersonics

The Wizard - unknown

The 1979-80 season saw a changing of the guard and the end of an era.

Edited by Tiffany Villigan

After appearing in the two previous NBA Finals and winning the last one, this was the year that the Seattle Supersonics were knocked off of their Pacific Division and Western Conference pedestals. It was also the year that ended with the breakup of a championship nucleus.

The 1979-80 season saw a changing of the guard from the Sonics to the Los Angeles Lakers. The primary reason was that the Lakers drafted a point guard named Magic Johnson. It didn't matter that he double dribbled every time he touched the ball because the stinky refs let him get away with it.

Of course, if the officials had chosen to ... you know ... enforce the rules and crap, the prima donna would've simply quit palming the ball and had a Hall of Fame career anyway. He revolutionized the point guard position because of his combination of size, ball handling ability, vision, and magic. Man, I hated him.

Nevertheless, the team with the Wizard (Gus Williams) gave way to the team with the Magic Man.

In spite of this, the Supersonics still had very good year. Williams and Dennis Johnson increased their scoring levels from the previous season. Williams went from 19.2 ppg to 22.1 and DJ went from 15.9 to 19.0. The downside to this was that the team wasn't quite as well-rounded from a scoring perspective.

They posted a 53-29 regular season record that was good enough for a second-place finish in the Pacific Division. In the playoffs, they ousted the Portland Trailblazers 2-1 in a three-game series and won the conference semifinals in a grueling seven-game series with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Then came the Western Conference showdown with Magic and his Laker buddies, one of whom was an airplane pilot named Murdock who converted to Islam and became a center named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The Lakers had home court advantage in the series, but the Supersonics stole Game One and we Sonics fans were all like, "Our championship experience trumps your young hotshot point guard and hook-shooting airline pilot!"

But the Lakers were all like, "We don't think so" and took the next four games of the series.

In the playoffs, Gus led the team with a 23.7-point scoring average, compared to 17.1 for DJ. It is possible that the shift in scoring roles either contributed to or reflected a locker room problem that led to a breakup of the team over the off-season.

It is known that Johnson clashed with head coach Lenny Wilkens for a good part of the season and that he was traded to the Phoenix Suns as a result. The Sonics got Paul Westphal in return. Who got the better end of that deal? Let me put it this way: the Sonics didn't return to the conference finals for another seven years. Meanwhile, Johnson went on to become part of another championship nucleus in Boston.

It was the end of an era.

ROSTER

#

Player

Pos

Ht

Wt

Exp

College

20

James Bailey

PF

6'9"

220

R

Rutgers University

32

Fred Brown

PG

6'3"

182

8

University of Iowa

24

Dennis Johnson

SG

6'4"

185

3

Pepperdine University

27

John Johnson

SF

6'7"

200

9

University of Iowa

15

Vinnie Johnson

SG

6'2"

200

R

Baylor University

23

Tom LaGarde

C

6'10"

220

2

University of North Carolina

8

Lonnie Shelton

PF

6'8"

240

3

Oregon State University

43

Jack Sikma

C

6'11"

230

2

Illinois Wesleyan University

36

Paul Silas

PF

6'7"

220

15

Creighton University

42

Wally Walker

SF

6'7"

190

3

University of Virginia

1

Gus Williams

PG

6'2"

175

4

University of Southern California








STATS

Player

G

MP

FG%

FT%

TRB

AST

STL

PPG

Gus Williams

82

2969

.482

.788

275

397

200

22.1

Dennis Johnson

81

2937

.422

.780

414

332

144

19.0

Jack Sikma

82

2793

.475

.805

908

279

68

14.3

Lonnie Shelton

76

2243

.530

.763

582

145

92

13.6

Freddy Brown

80

1701

.479

.837

155

174

65

12.0

John Johnson

81

2533

.488

.801

426

424

76

11.3

Tom LaGarde

82

1164

.477

.657

312

91

19

4.7

Wally Walker

70

844

.507

.750

170

53

21

4.7

Paul Silas

82

1595

.378

.654

436

66

25

3.8

James Bailey

67

726

.450

.673

197

28

21

4.7

Vinnie Johnson

38

325

.391

.795

55

54

19

3.2











What do you think? Vote in our poll below and let us know where you think the 1980 team ranks in the top 22 Sonics teams of all time.

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