Area players helped teams to NBA Finals

6/12/2015, 9:27 a.m. | Updated on 6/12/2015, noon
Area fans have no local favorite playing in this year’s Cleveland — Golden State NBA Finals. But that hasn’t always …

Area fans have no local favorite playing in this year’s Cleveland — Golden State NBA Finals.

But that hasn’t always been the case.

Four area players have helped their teams win a total of seven NBA titles between 1971 and 2004. Plus two others reached the finals before their teams lost.

Here is some hoops history reviewing how Central Virginia athletes left their imprint on basketball’s brightest stage:


Bobby Dandridge (Maggie L. Walker High School, Norfolk State University)

Bobby Danridge

Bobby Danridge

1971, Milwaukee Bucks: In his second NBA season, wearing the No. 10 jersey which is now retired by the Bucks, the 6-foot-6 forward known as “Greyhound” helps the expansion team Bucks rout Baltimore 4-0 in the finals. Teammates include Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson. Dandridge averages 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists in the playoffs.

1978, Washington Bullets: Again, “Bobby D” is brilliant as the Bullets defeat Seattle in the seven-game final. Playing with future Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, Dandridge averages 19.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists in playoffs. Dandridge pours in 34 points in Game 2 of the finals.

Gerald Henderson (Huguenot High School, Virginia Commonwealth University)

Gerald Henderson

Gerald Henderson

1981, Boston Celtics: The Celtics beat the Moses Malone-led Houston Rockets 4-2. Surrounded by luminaries Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, Henderson is the key man off the bench, averaging 5.8 points and 1.6 assists in 14 minutes per game during the playoffs.

1984, Boston: Henderson plays a larger role as the Celtics nip the Lakers 4-3. The Richmonder averages 12.5 points, 4.2 assists and 26.8 playoff minutes. His steal of a James Worthy pass and resulting basket in the closing seconds of regulation play forces overtime. The Celtics win Game 2 in overtime. 

1990, Detroit Pistons: The Pistons trounce Portland 4-2 with Isaiah Thomas earning MVP and Dennis Rodman emerging as a star. Henderson, who was traded from Milwaukee to Detroit earlier in the season, has a reduced role off the bench.

Moses Malone (Petersburg High School)

Moses Malone

Moses Malone

1983, Philadelphia 76ers: Highlighting a brilliant career, Malone is MVP as the Sixers sweep the Lakers 4-0. Malone averaages 26 points and 15.8 rebounds for the playoffs and issues a prediction that Philly will sweep each series 4-0. He is nearly correct as the Sixers go 12-1 in three series.

Ben Wallace (Virginia Union University)

Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace

2004, Detroit Pistons: The Pistons blitz the Lakers 4-1. Going head to head with the Lakers’ much taller Shaquille O’Neal, Wallace averages 10.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots. For each of his baskets or blocked shots at Detroit’s Palace of Auburn Hills, the public address plays a deep chime, similar to the sound of London’s Big Ben.  

The runners-up

Charles Oakley (Virginia Union University)

1994, New York Knicks: Houston nips the Knicks 4-3, but Oakley averages 13.2 points and 11.7 rebounds in 25 playoff games.

Mark West (Petersburg High School, Old Dominion University)

1993, Phoenix Suns: The Suns, with Charles Barkley, fall to Chicago 4-2, as Michael Jordan averages 41 points. West averages 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in the playoffs.

Dandridge: 1974, Bucks: The Lakers defeat Milwaukee 4-3 despite Dandridge averaging 19.3 points and 7.6 rebounds for the playoffs.

Wallace: 2005, Pistons: The Pistons’ bid for back-to-back titles fails as Detroit falls 4-3 to Tim Duncan-led San Antonio. With his signature hair and headband, Wallace became famous for his “Fear the ’Fro” slogan.


VCU’s Eric Maynor was a member of the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder that fell in the finals 4-1 to Miami. However, Maynor suffered a knee injury earlier in the season and didn’t participate in the playoffs.

Coaching note

Boston beat the Lakers 4-2 for the 2008 title with Kevin Eastman serving as a Celtics assistant coach under Doc Rivers. Eastman was star guard at the University of Richmond and was an assistant coach at UR and VCU.

For your imagination

Who will be the next player from the Richmond-Petersburg area to reach the NBA finals? Ed Davis (Benedictine High) with the Lakers? Troy Daniels (VCU) with Charlotte or Traveon Graham (VCU) with whomever?

Best answer: You never know.

Dandridge, a fourth-round draft pick, and undrafted Wallace were little known HBCU collegians before making their mark.

Henderson starred at VCU long before the Rams went big time.

And Malone was among the first ever to go from prep to pro with no college experience.