As the NBA was growing in stature in the 1960s, the league basically belonged to the Boston Celtics. But as the Celtics dynasty asserted itself, the New York Knicks and Baltimore Bullets were growing as well.
By the time the two teams met in the 1969 NBA playoffs, it was clear that these two teams were on their way to becoming major NBA powers. The Knicks had Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley and a smooth point guard in Walt "Clyde"Frazier.
The Bullets had strength on the front line in Elvin Hayes and powerful Wes Unseld and a tremendous ball-handling guard in Earl "The Pearl" Monroe.
The Knicks would win the first playoff series by a 4-0 margin, and they would also win in 1970, but this time it was a much closer 4-3 series, with the Knicks surviving a tough seventh game at Madison Square Garden. They would go on to win their first NBA title over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Bullets turned things around in 1971, taking the series in seven brutal games. The home team won the first six games, but Baltimore ended that by winning the seventh game in New York. The Bullets made it to the NBA Finals, but they were swept by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks that year.
Those three series all featured duels between Frazier and Monroe, and there was hardly any difference between them in overall effectiveness.
But in 1972, Monroe ended up getting traded to the Knicks, and he and Frazier formed a great one-two punch. The Knicks and Bullets would meet in three more playoff series from '72-74, and the Knicks would win all of them.
New York and Baltimore became a spring NBA rite of passion, and it became must-see theater for all NBA fans.