Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams.
This All-NBA 3rd Team is an admixture of legends entering the final phases of their career (Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry Lucas), a player squarely in his prime (Chet Walker), and two rising stars (Jeff Mullins and Walt Frazier).
To this point in his decade-long career, Wilt Chamberlain had alternated with Bill Russell for honors on the All-NBA 1st or 2nd Team. Now in 1969, though, Wilt joined the Los Angeles Lakers forming a triumvirate with Elgin Baylor (All-NBA 1st Team) and Jerry West (All-NBA 2nd Team). Chamberlain’s production dipped, but he also suffered from the league overreacting to Wes Unseld’s rookie season, catapulting the Baltimore Bullet star to the league’s 1st Team and MVP honors. Knicks’ center Willis Reed occupied the 2nd Team spot, so here is Wilt accepting a 3rd place finish despite averaging 20.5 PPG, 21.1 RPG, and 4.5 APG.
Power forward Jerry Lucas was in his sixth season and put up numbers comparable to Wilt’s: 18 PPG, 18 RPG, and 4 APG. The Cincinnati Royals big man’s partnership with Oscar Robertson was at an end, though. Following their 41-41 finish this year, Lucas was traded to the San Francisco Warriors for a new phase in his basketball career.
Lucas would be joining the stellar shooting guard Jeff Mullins. With Rick Barry having jumped to the ABA, Mullins emerged as the Warriors go-to scorer in the late 1960s. This season was perhaps his finest. The cat-like Mullins averaged over 22 PPG with 6 rebounds and nearly 4.5 assists.
Going to the opposite coast, the New York Knicks’ point guard Walt Frazier blossomed this year. His growth along with the acquisition of Dave DeBusschere pushed the Knicks into the realm of title contenders for the first time in 15 years. In only his 2nd season, Frazier served notice to the NBA that he was likely to inherit the title of best point guard from the aging Oscar Robertson.
Lastly, the ever-steady Chet Walker entered his seventh and final season with Philadelphia 76ers franchise. His scoring was about as it always was, but with an increasing offensive efficiency, Chet the Jet was becoming more dangerous than ever. His new career-highs in FG% and FT% (plus an MVP-caliber campaign from Billy Cunningham and the rock steady Hal Greer) allowed the 76ers to surprise the league after losing Wilt to L.A. Philly finished with the 2nd-best record in the entire NBA (55-27).
|F||Chet Walker||Philadelphia 76ers||82||18.0||7.8||1.8||0.484||0.804||9.8||16.7|
|F||Jerry Lucas||Cincinnati Royals||74||18.3||18.4||4.1||0.551||0.755||9.5||20.6|
|C||Wilt Chamberlain||Los Angeles Lakers||81||20.5||21.1||4.5||0.583||0.446||14.7||21.9|
|G||Jeff Mullins||San Francisco Warriors||78||22.6||5.9||4.3||0.459||0.843||10.0||18.9|
|G||Walt Frazier||New York Knicks||80||17.5||6.2||7.9||0.505||0.746||12.7||20.2|