1979 NBA Finals
|Dates||May 20–June 1|
|Announcers||Brent Musburger, Rick Barry, and Rod Hundley|
|Radio network||KIRO (SEA)
|Hall of Famers||SuperSonics:
Dennis Johnson (2010)
Elvin Hayes (1990)
Wes Unseld (1988)
Lenny Wilkens (1989, player/1998, coach)
Darell Garretson (2016)
|Eastern Finals||Bullets defeat Spurs, 4–3|
|Western Finals||SuperSonics defeat Suns, 4–3|
The 1979 NBA World Championship Series was the championship series played at the conclusion of the 1978–79 season. The Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics played the Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets, with the Bullets holding home-court advantage, due to a better regular season record. The SuperSonics defeated the Bullets 4 games to 1. The series was a rematch of the 1978 NBA Finals, which the Washington Bullets had won 4–3.
Coincidentally, this series (along with the 1978 NBA Finals) was informally known as the George Washington series, because both teams were playing in places named after the first President of the United States (the SuperSonics represented Seattle, the most populous city in the state of Washington, and the Bullets represented Washington, D.C., albeit playing in nearby Landover, Maryland).
This was a rematch of the 1978 NBA Finals, which the Bullets won 4–3. Seattle made a key offseason trade sending Marvin Webster to the New York Knicks for Lonnie Shelton. Other than that, both teams' rosters stayed virtually intact. Unlike the previous year, both teams finished 1-2 in the NBA, with the Bullets topping the league at 54 wins; the Sonics with 52 wins. In the playoffs, Seattle defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4–1 and the Phoenix Suns 4–3, while Washington had a much tougher road, eliminating the Atlanta Hawks in an unexpectedly tough seven-game series and coming back from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the San Antonio Spurs in seven. Both earned a first-round bye.
Road to the Finals
|Seattle SuperSonics (Western Conference Champion)||Washington Bullets (Eastern Conference Champion)|
1st seed in the East, best league record
|Earned first-round bye||First Round||Earned first-round bye|
|Defeated the (5) Los Angeles Lakers, 4–1||Conference Semifinals||Defeated the (5) Atlanta Hawks, 4–3|
|Defeated the (3) Phoenix Suns, 4–3||Conference Finals||Defeated the (2) San Antonio Spurs, 4–3|
Regular season series
Both teams split the four-game series in the regular season:
February 23, 1979
|Seattle SuperSonics 110, Washington Bullets 132|
|Game||Date||Home team||Result||Road team|
|Game 1||Sunday, May 20||Washington Bullets||99–97 (1–0)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Game 2||Thursday, May 24||Washington Bullets||82–92 (1–1)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Game 3||Sunday, May 27||Seattle SuperSonics||105–95 (2–1)||Washington Bullets|
|Game 4||Tuesday, May 29||Seattle SuperSonics||114–112 (3–1)||Washington Bullets|
|Game 5||Friday, June 1||Washington Bullets||93–97 (1–4)||Seattle SuperSonics|
|Seattle SuperSonics 97, Washington Bullets 99|
|Scoring by quarter: 25–26, 25–33, 21–23, 26–17|
|Pts: Gus Williams 32||Pts: Larry Wright 26|
|Washington leads the series 1–0|
The Bullets controlled the game and led by 18 in the fourth, but Seattle mounted a furious comeback to tie it at 97. Larry Wright, who had 26 points off the bench, drove to the basket as time ran down and had his shot blocked by Dennis Johnson, but the referees called a foul on Johnson. Wright went to the line with one second left and hit two of three foul shots (NBA rules at the time awarded an extra free throw attempt when a team was in the penalty foul situation) to win the game.
|Seattle SuperSonics 92, Washington Bullets 82|
|Scoring by quarter: 28–23, 21–29, 19–14, 24–16|
|Pts: Gus Williams 23||Pts: Bob Dandridge 21|
|Series tied 1–1|
Elvin Hayes had 11 points in the first quarter, but only nine the rest of the way as Seattle turned its defense up a notch, holding the Bullets to 30 points in the second half.
|Washington Bullets 95, Seattle SuperSonics 105|
|Scoring by quarter: 25–31, 19–24, 22–26, 29–24|
|Pts: Bob Dandridge 28||Pts: Gus Williams 31|
|Seattle leads the series 2–1|
Seattle dominated this game, which wasn't as close as the final margin indicated. Gus Williams scored 31 points, Jack Sikma had 21 and 17 rebounds, and Dennis Johnson had a fine all-around game with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and two blocked shots.
|Washington Bullets 112, Seattle SuperSonics 114 (OT)|
|Scoring by quarter: 16–24, 37–28, 28–32, 23–20, Overtime: 8–10|
|Pts: Three players 18||Pts: Gus Williams 36|
|Seattle leads the series 3–1|
The Sonics won a close one in OT 114–112, staving off a late Bullets comeback behind 36 points by Gus Williams and 32 by Dennis Johnson. Williams and Johnson dominated the Bullets' guards all series, as they were plagued by poor shooting. Johnson also had four blocks in the game, the last on Kevin Grevey with 4 seconds left to ensure the Seattle victory.
|Seattle SuperSonics 97, Washington Bullets 93|
|Scoring by quarter: 19–30, 24–21, 23–18, 31–24|
|Pts: Gus Williams 23||Pts: Elvin Hayes 29|
|Seattle wins the series 4–1|
Back home, Elvin Hayes had a hot first half, scoring 20, but injuries to starting guards Tom Henderson, Kevin Grevey and prolonged poor shooting by their replacements took their toll. Hayes had only nine points in the second half as Seattle closed out the series.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
- Seattle SuperSonics
- Washington Bullets
Neither team made it back to the Finals the following season. The Bullets (39–43) were eliminated in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers, while the SuperSonics (56–26) lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Conference Finals. Both the 76ers and Lakers faced off in the 1980 NBA Finals, a 4–2 Lakers win. Dick Motta, the Bullets coach, departed to take over the expansion Dallas Mavericks in the 1980–81 NBA season, while the SuperSonics traded 1979 Finals MVP Dennis Johnson for Paul Westphal, which hastened their downfall. Wes Unseld retired after the season, and Elvin Hayes concluded his final three NBA seasons with the team he started with, the Rockets. Lenny Wilkens would not make the finals again for the remainder of his coaching career; the closest he would advance was in the 1992 conference finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As of the 2015–16 NBA season this remains the last Finals appearance, and indeed the last Conference Finals appearance, for the Bullets/Wizards franchise. The SuperSonics would not return until 1996. That would be their last Finals appearance in Seattle, since they relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008 and were renamed as the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder played in the 2012 NBA Finals.
- "Bullets take Wright turn to victory". St Petersburg Times (page 21). 21 May 1979. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
- "The ‘fat lady sings’ as Sonics lower final boom to rule the NBA". St Petersburg Times (page 23). 2 June 1979. Retrieved 28 January 2015.