Bill Walton was one of the greatest college basketball players ever. UCLA went 30-0 in back to back seasons under Walton’s leadership. Then he was drafted #1 by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1974 NBA Draft. He had a solid start to his professional career. But Walton suffered many injuries that ultimately derailed his career and limited him to only 468 pro games. In this article, I’m going to highlight his dominant 1977 NBA Championship performance and the card that commemorated that season, his 1977 Topps card, #120.
The 1977 NBA World Championships was played between the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Julius Erving, and the Portland Trail Blazers, led by Walton. Philly was expected to be there, having the best record in the eastern conference, but Portland’s appearance was a bit more of a surprise. Philadelphia took the first two games of the series before Portland’s legendary comeback.
In game 3, down 2-0, Portland put up 42 points in the 4th quarter, to win 129-107 to win their first game of the series behind a 20 point, 18 rebound, and 9 assist performance by Bill Walton.
In game 4, Philadelphia again couldn’t control Walton and the blazers who put up another huge quarter, this time the 3rd with 41 points en route to a 32 point margin of victory. Walton contributed 13 rebounds, 12 points, 7 assists, and 4 blocks.
Game 5 saw another huge 3rd quarter from the Blazers, with 40 points. Portland was up 22 with 8 minutes left in the game before Erving led a huge rally, but Portland prevailed 110-104. Walton was an absolute beast on the inside, collecting 24 rebounds to go with 14 points.
In the final game of the series, Portland again had one huge quarter, the second, with 40 points, taking a 15 point lead into halftime. And no matter what Erving did in the second half, they couldn’t close the gap or contain Bill Walton, who had 20 points, 23 rebounds, 7 assists, and 8 blocks to lead Portland to the title.
For the series, Walton put up averages of 18.5 points, 19 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 3.7 blocks, one of the greatest NBA finals’ performances. Portland’s Coach Jack Ramsay said:
I’ve never coached a better player. I’ve never coached a better competitor. And I’ve never coached a better person than Bill Walton.
Bill Walton’s performance in these legendary finals was commemorated on his 1977 Topps card, #120. While the 1977 Topps set took an obvious step back from the 1976 Tall Boys, the set still had some exciting action shots, and the green backs were visually appealing. The front of Walton’s 1977 Topps card shows him in a defensive position. The back of the card highlights his NBA Playoffs MVP performance. The cartoon in the upper left, notes that Walton rode in the victor parade on a bicycle and that his dominating performance in the finals led the Blazers to the title.
The 1977 Topps #120 Bill Walton card has a PSA graded population of 428, but only 4 PSA 10s exist to go with 138 9s and 207 8s.
I feel 1970s Topps Basketball is relatively inexpensive and under collected, and this card is no exception. PSA 9s of this card can are available for between 35 and 50 dollars on eBay. That’s pretty reasonable for a Hall-of-Famer, in a set with a small print run, that’s over 40 years old.
The last recorded sales of a PSA 10 were for $500 and $360 in May of 2017, so I’d expect a bidding war if one of the 4 PSA 10s came to market today.
Bill Walton’s performance in the 1977 NBA Finals was historic. He bested Julius Erving in Portland’s only NBA championship. The 1977 Topps card that commemorated the game is a classic 70s basketball card with reasonable pricing and availability. Walton went on to win the league MVP award the next season, and we are left to imagine what his career, and basketball card hobby impact, could have been without all those foot injuries.