The Greatest Upset in the History of all Major Sports
1975 Finals

The Greatest Upset in the History of all Major Sports

One of the things everyone wondered was the effect no home-court advantage would have in the Orlando bubble. Teams usually play better at home – in part because of the fan pressure on the refs, because players can play out their entire pre-game routine to perfection, and obviously, that’s the court they are most familiar with.

In 1975 the Washington Bullets had a choice to make. Due to a scheduling conflict, their opponents, the Golden State Warriors, couldn’t play in the Oakland Arena. Their substitute location, the Cow Palace in Daly City, was booked for Memorial Day weekend. As the team with a better regular-season record, the Bullets were given two options.

A 1-2-2-1-1 scheduling format due to Golden State’s problems or, if they wished, opening on the road and then having Games 2, 3, and 4 at home. Wanting to keep their home-court advantage, the Bullets opted for the 1-2-2-1-1 format. As the overwhelming favorite in the Finals, the Bullets were confident they would sweep the Warriors in front of their home crowd.

They were willing to play the first game at their place, come back and play two at ours, and then go back to them. That’s how confident they were. Then all of a sudden, things change when we beat them in the first game.

Rick Barry, 1-on-1 with Basketball Network

Going back to the Cow Palace, Rick Barry was very optimistic about their chances. The baskets in the Cow Palace “were very forgiving,” according to Barry, and his numbers back it up. He dropped 36 in Game 2 and 38 in Game 3, leading the Warriors to a 3-0 lead before flying back to Washington.

Now they’re down 3-0, and they were panicked. We go back to Game 4, and at the opening tip, Mike Riordan hits me with a big elbow at the jump ball. I went, “I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid.”

Rick Barry, 1-on-1 with Basketball Network

Barry immediately knew what the Bullets game-plan was. They wanted him to get thrown out of the game, and he had no intention of doing that. For the entire game, they were pulling dirty tricks on Barry so he would lose his cool. 20 points later, the Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets, finishing the greatest upset seen in sports.