Bob Dandridge ReconsideredA slightly different version of this article was originally published in the October 2004 issue of Basketball Digest under the odd title "Sum of the Parts" (I restored the original title that I suggested and I deleted two sentences* that editor Brett Ballantini tacked on to the beginning of my article).
Bob Dandridge played a vital role on championship teams for two different franchises, but he was overshadowed by four teammates who were selected to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players list (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld). Dandridge, a four-time All-Star who made the 1978-79 All-NBA Second Team ahead of such notables as Julius Erving, Bob McAdoo and George McGinnis, played in four NBA Finals, averaging 19.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 3.5 apg in 23 games.
Dandridge and Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) each earned All-Rookie First Team recognition as Milwaukee Buck teammates in 1969-70. The next season Milwaukee acquired Robertson to provide veteran backcourt leadership. Jabbar (31.7 ppg), Robertson (19.4 ppg) and Dandridge (18.4 ppg) led the Bucks to a league-best 66-16 record. Milwaukee went 12-2 in the playoffs, capping a dominant postseason run with a Finals sweep of the Baltimore Bullets.
Hall of Fame forward Rick Barry's Golden State Warriors lost 4-1 to Milwaukee in the 1972 playoffs and gained revenge in the 1973 postseason by defeating the Bucks 4-2. Barry speaks highly of Dandridge: "He was an outstanding player. He's one of those guys that you respect because you know that he is going to show up to play every night. (He was) a good shooter, he was kind of deceptive with his moves. He wasn't the kind of guy who was going to beat you with blistering speed and quickness but he understood how to get the most out of the talent that he had."
In 1974 Milwaukee went 8-1 in the Western Conference playoffs and seemed poised to win a second championship after beating the Boston Celtics 102-101 in double overtime in Boston in game six of the Finals, but the Celtics stunned the Bucks 102-87 in Milwaukee in game seven.
After that defeat the Bucks endured three straight losing seasons, mainly because of Robertson's retirement in 1974 and the trading of Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975. Prior to the 1977-78 season the Washington Bullets acquired Dandridge.
During TNT's NBA broadcasts, Kenny Smith frequently makes the point that winning NBA teams situate each player in a role that suits his skills--i.e., after the Cleveland Cavaliers obtained Jeff McInnis they moved Lebron James to shooting guard, alleviating the problem of either playing James at point guard or playing someone who should be a reserve point guard as a starter. Dandridge had precisely that kind of effect on the Bullets' roster; he assumed the starting small forward slot, enabling Kevin Grevey to move from forward--which he was not ideally suited to play--to shooting guard. Dandridge's speed provided a perfect complement to the inside games of his front court partners Hayes and Unseld.
Washington suffered significant injury problems in 1977-78 and the Bullets limped to a 44-38 regular season record. During the playoffs the Bullets won hard fought series against George Gervin's San Antonio Spurs and Erving's Philadelphia 76ers before taking the Finals in seven games over a deep, balanced Seattle Supersonics team coached by Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens. Dandridge played excellent defense against all-time greats Erving and Gervin, while also providing clutch scoring, including a game high 34 points in a 106-98 win in game two of the Finals, which enabled Washington to seize home court advantage.
In 1978-79 Washington had a league best 54-28 record. Dandridge displayed his versatility by ranking second on the team in scoring (20.4 ppg), assists (365) and blocked shots (57). The Bullets again faced the Sonics (52-30) in the Finals, this time losing in five games. Seattle guard Dennis Johnson, who shot 0-14 from the field in game seven of the 1978 Finals, dominated play in 1979 en route to the Finals MVP.
Cavaliers' coach Paul Silas was a power forward on those Sonics' teams and offers this summary of Dandridge's game: "He was a great shooter, especially mid-range, and he could get his shot off on almost anybody. He really understood how to play. When they needed a hoop--even when he was playing with Milwaukee and Oscar and those guys--he shined. Of course, with Washington he was one of the focal points of that team. He just had the uncanny ability of making big shots at the right time. He talked the game and understood it and imparted that (to his teammates). He was very, very smart about the game and how he fit within the scheme and how he wanted everybody else to fit."
* My original, strong lead sentence immediately tells the reader exactly why Bob Dandridge is a significant player even though his contributions to two championship teams have been overshadowed by the achievements of his more renowned teammates. Ballantini ruined that lead sentence by preceding it with this pablum: "The value of some of basketball's superstars is more elusive than others. Bob Dandridge is a perfect example of a player who made his teams better rather than settling for me-first superstardom."
posted by David Friedman @ 1:54 AM