National Basketball League (United States)

The National Basketball League (NBL) was a professional men's basketball league in the United States established in 1937. After the 1948–49 season, its twelfth, it merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to create the National Basketball Association (NBA).

National Basketball League (NBL)
SportBasketball
Founded1937
Inaugural season1937–38
CeasedAugust 3, 1949 merger
No. of teams38
CountryUnited States
Last
champion(s)
Anderson Packers (1st title)
Most titlesAkron Firestone Non-Skids
Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
Oshkosh All-Stars (2 each)

History

The predecessor of this league was the Midwest Basketball Conference (MBC) in 1935. It changed its name in 1937 in an attempt to attract a larger audience. The league was created by three corporations: General Electric, Firestone and Goodyear. It was primarily made up of Great Lakes area small-market and corporate teams.

The league began rather informally. Scheduling was left to the discretion of each of the teams, as long as the team played at least ten games and four of them were on the road. Games played increased yearly as the popularity of professional basketball and the NBL grew in America. Games consisted either of four ten-minute quarters or three fifteen-minute periods. The choice was made by the home team. Some of the teams were independent, while others were owned by companies that also found jobs for their players.

Chicago newspaper sports editor Leo Fischer acted as president of the NBL from 1940–44.

In 1946, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) incorporated resulting in a three-year battle with the NBL to win both players and fans. The BAA played its games in larger cities and venues.

On August 3, 1949, representatives from the 12-year-old NBL and 3 year old BAA met at the BAA offices in New York's Empire State Building to finalize a merger. Maurice Podoloff was elected head of the new league. The new National Basketball Association (NBA) was made up of 17 teams that represented both small towns and large cities across the country. The NBA claims the BAA's history as its own, and considers the 1949 deal as an expansion, not a merger. As such, it does not recognize NBL records and statistics.

The history of the NBL falls into three eras, each contributing significantly to the growth of professional basketball and the emergence of the NBA. The first dynasty centered on the Oshkosh All-Stars and their center Leroy "Cowboy" Edwards. The middle years saw the emergence of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, who were later instrumental in the survival of the NBA during its infancy. The final period of note during the NBL's existence centered on George Mikan and the emergence of the big man in basketball.[1]

Early years

The Oshkosh All-Stars appeared in the championship series for five consecutive years (1938–42). They won two titles, they were led by a rugged 6' 4" (1.93 m) center named Leroy "Cowboy" Edwards. Edwards was a consensus NCAA "All American" and Helms Foundation "College Player of the Year" as a member of the 1934–35 University of Kentucky Wildcats. He left Kentucky after two years to pursue a professional basketball career, which was unheard of at the time. He led the NBL in scoring for three consecutive seasons, 1937-1940. He set numerous NBL and professional basketball scoring records and is generally credited with the introduction of the "3 second rule" in basketball which is still in existence today. Edwards played in all 12 NBL seasons with the Oshkosh All-Stars, and retired just prior to its merger with the BAA to form the NBA.

Middle years

The Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons—so nicknamed because they were owned by Fred Zollner, whose company made pistons for engines—were led by tough veteran Bobby McDermott. The Pistons finished second in 1942 and 1943 and won the league title in 1944 and 1945. Like many teams of that era, it was not uncommon for Fort Wayne to play its games in taverns, armories, high-school gyms or ballrooms.

Under Zollner, the Pistons would eventually play an important role in the survival and growth of the NBA. Zollner's financial support of the NBA helped the league stay afloat during its tumultuous formative years.

Challenging the Zollner Pistons and Oshkosh for supremacy were the Sheboygan Red Skins. Beginning in 1941, the season before Fort Wayne joined the NBL, Sheboygan appeared in five of six championship series. They lost to Oshkosh in the 1941 finals, beat Fort Wayne for the title in 1943 but lost to the Zollner Pistons in 1944 and 1945, and were swept in the 1946 finals by the league's newest member, the powerhouse Rochester Royals, who boasted Hall of Famers Al Cervi, Bob Davies and Red Holzman.

Later years

The NBL's third era was dominated by Mikan, the 6'10" (2.08 m), three-time NCAA "All-American" center from DePaul University in Chicago. As a rookie, he led the Chicago American Gears to the 1947 NBL title, but before the next season, owner Maurice White pulled his team out of the league and formed his own 24-team circuit called the Professional Basketball League of America. That venture quickly failed, and Mikan was signed by the NBL's Minneapolis Lakers, where he teamed with the versatile Jim Pollard to win the 1948 championship.

After the 1947–48 season, Mikan's Lakers quit the League to join the Basketball Association of America (BAA), along with three other NBL clubs: Rochester, Fort Wayne, and Indianapolis.

The NBL added an all-black team in December of its final season, when one of its replacement clubs folded, the Detroit Vagabond Kings. That franchise was awarded to a famous barnstorming team, the New York Rens, composed entirely of African Americans, to play out the season in Dayton, Ohio, as the Dayton Rens. In 1949 after a three-year battle with the BAA for fans and players the NBL was absorbed by the BAA and became the NBA.

Legacy

The NBL contributed significantly to the foundation of the NBA, but it also had major accomplishments in other areas, most notably in offering opportunities for African-American players. In the 1942–43 season, with many players in the armed forces, two NBL clubs, the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets and the Chicago Studebakers, filled their rosters by signing African-Americans—five years before Jackie Robinson would break baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Neither team fared well. Toledo signed several black players to start the season, including Bill Jones, who had starred at the University of Toledo, but the team lost its first four games and folded due to financial difficulties. Chicago stocked its roster with several members of the Harlem Globetrotters, who worked during the week at the Studebaker plant, but it also folded after compiling an 8–15 record.

Five current NBA teams trace their history back to the NBL. Three teams joined the BAA in 1948: the Minneapolis Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers), the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings), and the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons). Two more teams were part of the merger that created the NBA in 1949: the Buffalo Bisons/Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now the Atlanta Hawks), and the Syracuse Nationals (now the Philadelphia 76ers).

Five former NBA teams also trace their history back to the NBL: the Anderson Packers, Denver Nuggets, Indianapolis Jets (as the Kautskys), Sheboygan Red Skins and Waterloo Hawks played in the NBL/BAA/NBA. The Jets played in the BAA for the 1948–49 season only; the remaining teams for the 1949–50 season only. Anderson, Sheboygan and Waterloo joined the National Professional Basketball League in 1950.

The NBL also created the Indianapolis Olympians for the 1949–50 NBA season. When the NBL and BAA merged, this team joined the NBA without playing a single NBL game.

Also still surviving are the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, the initial NBL Champion in 1938. The Wingfoots suspended operations for World War II and were not included in the NBL/BAA merger. Instead, they remained in the National Industrial Basketball League (NIBL), which in 1961 became the National AAU Basketball League (NABL). The Wingfoots are still an AAU Elite team in the NABL.

Teams

[2] Note: * denotes a team currently playing in the NBA (7 ancestors of 5 NBA clubs). [3] [4]

All-time scoring leaders

[2]

* Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
GeorgeMikan
George Mikan (#99) holds the highest per-game scoring average (19.85) in NBL history. Photo is from Mikan's college days.
Rank Player Team(s) Games Points PPG
1
Bobby McDermott* Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Chicago American Gears, Sheboygan Redskins, Tri-Cities Blackhawks 287 3,583 12.48
2
Leroy Edwards Oshkosh All-Stars, Indianapolis Kautskys 322 3,221 10.00
3
Gene Englund Oshkosh All-Stars 238 2,600 10.92
4
Ed Dancker Sheboygan Redskins, Oshkosh All-Stars 321 2,490 7.76
5
Al Cervi* Buffalo Bisons, Rochester Royals, Syracuse Nationals 187 2,326 12.44
6
Don Otten Buffalo Bisons, Tri-Cities Blackhawks 168 2,292 13.64
7
Michael Novak Chicago American Gears, Sheboygan Redskins, Syracuse Nationals 267 2,279 8.54
8
Bob Carpenter Oshkosh All-Stars, Hammond Ciesar All-Americans 209 2,140 10.24
9
George Glamack Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, Rochester Royals, Indianapolis Kautskys, Hammond Calumet Buccaneers 202 2,138 10.58
10
Jake Pelkington Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 226 1,949 8.62
11
Charles Shipp Akron Firestone Non-Skids, Oshkosh All-Stars, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Waterloo Hawks 376 1,935 5.15
12
Stan Patrick Chicago American Gears, Midland Dow A.C.'s, Hammond Calumet Buccaneers 212 1,765 8.33
13
George Mikan* Chicago American Gears, Minneapolis Lakers 81 1,608 19.85
14
Arnie Risen* Indianapolis Kautskys, Rochester Royals, Toledo Jeeps 123 1,606 13.06
15
Howie Schultz Anderson Packers 165 1,600 9.70

Championships

[2]

Year Champion Losing finalist Games
1937–38 Akron Goodyear Wingfoots Oshkosh All-Stars 2–1
1938–39 Akron Firestone Non-Skids Oshkosh All-Stars 3–2
1939–40 Akron Firestone Non-Skids Oshkosh All-Stars 3–2
1940–41 Oshkosh All-Stars Sheboygan Red Skins 3–0
1941–42 Oshkosh All-Stars Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2–1
1942–43 Sheboygan Red Skins Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2–1
1943–44 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons Sheboygan Red Skins 3–0
1944–45 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons Sheboygan Red Skins 3–2
1945–46 Rochester Royals Sheboygan Red Skins 3–0
1946–47 Chicago American Gears Rochester Royals 3–2
1947–48 Minneapolis Lakers Rochester Royals 3–1
1948–49 Anderson Packers Oshkosh All-Stars 3–0

Season leaders and awards

Source: Steve Dimitry,[7] Murry R. Nelson[2]

* Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Scoring leader,[2][7]
Season Player Team(s) Points PPG
1937–38
Leroy Edwards Oshkosh All-Stars 210 16.2
1938–39
Leroy Edwards (2) Oshkosh All-Stars 334 11.9
1939–40
Leroy Edwards (3) Oshkosh All-Stars 361 12.9
1940–41
Ben Stephens Akron Goodyear Wingfoots 265 11.0
1941–42
Chuck Chuckovits Toledo Jim White Chevrolets 406 18.5
1942–43
Bobby McDermott* Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 316 13.7
1943–44
Mel Riebe Cleveland Chase Brassmen 323 17.9
1944–45
Mel Riebe (2) Cleveland Allmen Transfers 607 20.2
1945–46
Bob Carpenter Oshkosh All-Stars 473 13.9
1946–47
Al Cervi* Rochester Royals 632 14.4
1947–48
George Mikan* Minneapolis Lakers 1195 21.3
1948–49
Don Otten Tri-Cities Blackhawks 899 14.0
Most Valuable Player,[2][7]
Season MVP Team
1937–38
Leroy Edwards Oshkosh All-Stars
1938–39
Leroy Edwards (2) Oshkosh All-Stars
1939–40
Leroy Edwards (3) Oshkosh All-Stars
1940–41
Ben Stephens Akron Goodyear Wingfoots
1941–42
Chuck Chuckovits Toledo Jim White Chevrolets
1942–43
Bobby McDermott* Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1943–44
Bobby McDermott* (2) Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1944–45
Bobby McDermott* (3) Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1945–46
Bobby McDermott* (4) Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1946–47
Bob Davies* Rochester Royals
1947–48
George Mikan* Minneapolis Lakers
1948–49
Don Otten Tri-Cities Blackhawks
Coach of the Year,[2][7]
Season Coach Team
1937–38
Cliff Byers Akron Goodyear Wingfoots
1938–39
Paul Sheeks Akron Firestone Non-Skids
1939–40
Paul Sheeks (2) Akron Firestone Non-Skids
1940–41
George Hotchkiss Oshkosh All-Stars
1941–42
Lon Darling Oshkosh All-Stars
1942–43
Carl Roth Sheboygan Red Skins
1943–44
Bobby McDermott* Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1944–45
Bobby McDermott* (2) Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1945–46
Lester Harrison* Rochester Royals
1946–47
Lon Darling (2) Oshkosh All-Stars
1947–48
Murray Mendenhall Anderson Duffey Packers
1948–49
Al Cervi* Syracuse Nationals
Rookie of the Year,[2][7]
Season Rookie Team
1937–38
Robert Kessler Indianapolis Kautskys
1938–39
Jewell Young Indianapolis Kautskys
1939–40
Ben Stephens Akron Goodyear Wingfoots
1940–41
Ed Sadowski Indianapolis Kautskys
1941–42
George Glamack Akron Goodyear Wingfoots
1942–43
Ken Buehler Sheboygan Red Skins
1943–44
Mel Riebe Cleveland Chase Brassmen
1944–45
Stan Patrick Chicago American Gears
1945–46
Red Holzman Rochester Royals
1946–47
Fred Lewis Sheboygan Red Skins
1947–48
Mike Todorovich Sheboygan Red Skins
1948–49
Dolph Schayes* Syracuse Nationals

References

  1. ^ "NBA Roots". Hoopedia: the Basketball Wiki. NBA.com. Reprinted(?) from "Early Professional Leagues" by Robin Deutsch and Douglas Stark, The Official NBA Encyclopedia, chapter 8(?). Archived 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2015-03-02.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Nelson, Murry R. The National Basketball League: A History, 1935–1949. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2009.
  3. ^ https://nbahoopsonline.com/History/Leagues/NBL/index.html
  4. ^ https://mentalfloss.com/article/23115/origins-all-30-nba-team-names
  5. ^ http://members.aol.com:80/apbrhoops/nblstand.html
  6. ^ http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/nba/tri/tricities.html
  7. ^ a b c d e Dimitry, Steve (1998). "Steve Dimitry's NBL Website". Steve Dimitry's Extinct Sports Leagues. Archived from the original on August 18, 2005. Retrieved October 16, 2010.

External links

1937–38 National Basketball League (United States) season

The 1937–38 NBL season was the inaugural season of the National Basketball League (NBL). This league is the evolution of the Midwest Basketball Conference Championship, a league that had a duration of two years before becoming the NBL. The league launched with 9 franchises, it was irregular because the teams were the ones that had to choose the day and the hour of the match, even the duration (4 quarters of 10 minutes or 3 parts of 15 minutes) was chosen by the local team before the match. The season ended with the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots becoming the NBL's first champions.

1941–42 Fort Wayne Pistons season

The 1941–42 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons season was the inaugural season of the franchise in the National Basketball League. The team was led by guard Bobby McDermott who would go on to become one of the best shooters in NBL history and the league's all time leader in points. The Pistons finished the season with a record of 15 wins and 9 losses which earned them the #2 seed in the inaugural NBL Playoffs. In the first round the team defeated the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots in the games before losing to the Oshkoh All-Stars in 3 Games in the Championship series.

1942–43 Fort Wayne Pistons season

The 1942–43 season was the second season of the Fort Wayne (Zollner) Pistons franchise in the National Basketball League. The Pistons came into the season off of a championship appearance and ended the year with a 17-6 record that earned them the #1 seed in the playoffs and set the team up as clear favorites to win the championship. Unfortunately it wasn't to be as after defeating Chicago in the first round in 3 games the Pistons were upset by the Sheboygan Redskins in the NBL Championship Series. After the season Redskins guard Buddy Jeanette joined Fort Wayne to form one of the best backcourts in NBL History with Bobby McDermott, along with one of basketballs earliest examples of a super team.

1943–44 Fort Wayne Pistons season

The 1943–44 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons season was the third season of the franchise in the National Basketball League. The Pistons entered the season with the big three of league MVP Bobby McDermott, Buddy Jeanette and Jake Pelkington and off of two straight losses in the championship series. The team finished the season 18-4 and defeated the Cleveland Chase Brassmen in the first round in a two game sweep to earn their third straight finals birth and a rematch of last year against the Sheboygan Redskins. From there the Pistons swept the Redskins in 3 games to win their first NBL Championship.

1944–45 Fort Wayne Pistons season

The 1944–45 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons season was the fourth season of the franchise in the National Basketball League. The team was led by the star backcourt of 2 time league MVP Bobby McDermott and Buddy Jeannette. The season ended with the Pistons winning a league best 25 out of 30 games and McDermott being awarded his third MVP award. As of 2019 this is still the best record in franchise history. The playoffs began with a 2-0 sweep over the Cleveland Allmen Transfers to make the team's fourth straight NBL Championship series. There they were met by the Sheboygan Redskins for the third straight year. The series went to a full five games but ended with Fort Wayne defeating Sheboygan to successfully defend their NBL Championship. The Pistons would not return to the finals for another decade and would not win another championship until the 1989 NBA Finals . At the end of the season Blackie Towery left the team to join the military for World War II, however he would return one season later.

1945–46 Fort Wayne Pistons season

The 1945–46 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons season was the fifth season of the franchise in the National Basketball League. The team was looking to return to the finals for a fifth consecutive year and win their third straight title. The team once again claimed the best regular season record by winning 26 games and Bobby McDermott was awarded his fourth and last NBL MVP Award. Both Buddy Jeannette and Robert McDermott were named to the All-NBL first team. Going into the playoffs the Pistons met the Rochester Royals in the first round but were upset in four games making it the first season in team history where they failed to reach the finals. This season marked the end of the Pistons NBL dominance as both McDermott and Jeannette left the franchise within the next year.

1945–46 Rochester Royals season

The 1945–46 Rochester Royals season was the franchise's first season in the National Basketball League.

1946–47 Fort Wayne Pistons season

The 1946–47 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons season was the sixth season of the franchise in the National Basketball League. For the first time Fort Wayne had to play without four time league MVP Bobby McDermott who left the team mid season. The team also lost star guard Buddy Jeannette during the off season but did get the return of power forward Blackie Towery. The Pistons finished the season second place in the eastern division and defeated the Toledo Jeeps 3-2 in the opening round of the playoffs before falling to the Rochester Royals in 3 games.

1946–47 Syracuse Nationals season

The 1946–47 Syracuse Nationals season was the first season of the franchise.

1947–48 Fort Wayne Pistons season

The 1947–48 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons season was the seventh season of the franchise in the National Basketball League (NBL). It would be the final season that the franchise would play in the NBL with the Zollner name included; it would later play in the Basketball Association of America, starting in the 1948–49 BAA season, with the Pistons removing the Zollner part of their name due to the league not allowing sponsors in their team names. This was the last season in Fort Wayne for Blackie Towery and Jake Pelkington who both left the team prior to the start of the next season.

1947–48 Minneapolis Lakers season

The 1947–48 Minneapolis Lakers season was the inaugural season for the Lakers. The Lakers won the National Basketball League championship against the Rochester Royals. George Mikan led the team with 21.3 points per game.

Chicago Bruins

The Chicago Bruins were an American basketball team based in Chicago, Illinois that was a member of the American Basketball League. The Bruins later played in the National Basketball League (1939-1942) and World Professional Basketball Tournament.

Daniel Biasone

Daniel Biasone (February 22, 1909 – May 25, 1992) was the founding owner of the Syracuse Nationals, an NBA team now known as the Philadelphia 76ers. Biasone, who was a childhood immigrant to the United States from Italy, was mostly known for advocating the use of the shot clock in basketball. Biasone was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 for his contributions to the sport.

Although he did not originate the idea of a shot clock, he strongly supported its adoption in professional basketball. Biasone successfully lobbied the NBA to institute the shot clock in 1954. With Syracuse Nationals general manager Leo Ferris, Biasone was responsible for establishing the NBA shot clock at twenty-four seconds, where it has remained to this day. He supported the twenty-four-second rule on the basis of his observations, experience, and basic arithmetic. Biasone asserted that basketball proved most exciting when it achieved a balance between stalling contests and wild shootouts. He envisioned a well-paced match-up in which each team took around sixty shots per game. Given that professional basketball games lasted forty-eight minutes. Ferris divided 2880 (the number of seconds in forty-eight minutes) by 120 (the total number of shots taken per game when each team attempted sixty shots) and arrived at a figure he considered optimal: one shot every 24 seconds. He was also a primary force in convincing the NBA to adopt the backcourt foul rule in 1953.Biasone was featured in the book Basketball History in Syracuse, Hoops Roots by author Mark Allen Baker published by The History Press in 2010. The book is an introduction to professional basketball in Syracuse and includes teams like (Vic Hanson's) All-Americans, the Syracuse Reds and the Syracuse Nationals (1946–1963).

Denver Auditorium Arena

Denver Auditorium Arena was an indoor arena located at the corner of 13th and Champa Streets in Denver, Colorado. It was constructed as the Denver Municipal Auditorium in 1908 during the administration of Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer. The building was opened on July 7, 1908, and was the site of the 1908 Democratic National Convention.

With a capacity of 12,500, the building was at the time of its opening the second largest in America to Madison Square Garden. Initially, the venue was configured and equipped to hold numerous kinds of events including theater, opera, conventions, sporting events, exhibitions, concerts, and more. Renovations were made to the building in the 1940s, and in 1953 the southern half of the building was converted into the Auditorium Arena, a pure sporting venue with seating capacity of 6,841.

Fred Zollner

Fred Zollner (January 22, 1901 – June 21, 1982) was called "Mr. Pro Basketball" as the founder and owner along with his sister Janet of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons) and a key figure in the merger of National Basketball League and Basketball Association of America into the National Basketball Association in 1949. He was inducted as a contributor into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Zollner, an industrialist, was born in Little Falls, Minnesota and received a degree from the University of Minnesota in 1927. Zollner Corporation, formed in 1912, was a Tier-1 supplier of pistons to companies such as Ford, General Motors, International Harvester (now Navistar), John Deere and Outboard Marine. At one time, he employed more than 1200 people in his Fort Wayne, Indiana foundry. The company had 230 employees when it was acquired by Kolbenschmidt Pierburg AG in 1999.

Zollner Island in Lake Kabetogama in Voyageurs National Park where he had a cabin is named for him.

Les Harrison (basketball)

Lester Harrison (August 20, 1904 – December 23, 1997) was an American professional basketball player, coach, and team owner and is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Oshkosh All-Stars

The Oshkosh All-Stars were a professional basketball team based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Founded in 1929 by Lonnie Darling, the team was a member of the National Basketball League, a forerunner to the NBA, from 1937 until 1949.

Pittsburgh Pirates (NBL)

The Pittsburgh Pirates were an American professional basketball team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The team was one of the thirteen founding members of the National Basketball League (NBL), which formed in 1937.

Youngstown Bears

The Youngstown Bears were a basketball team based in Youngstown, Ohio. They played two seasons (1945–1947) in the National Basketball League, before disbanding due to poor performances.

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