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THE FOREFATHERS

The 50s saw the end of one great dynasty and the beginning of an even greater one. It saw the fathers of the NBL fade away only to be replaced with some of the NBA’s first true superstars. The decade also saw some hard times, and it also saw some very good times. It was a time of short shorts and no dunking, and great innovations into the game.

50-51

When the 49-50 season ended everyone had high hopes, those hopes were soon dashed when the Chicago Stags, the St Louis Bombers, the Anderson Packers, the Sheboygan Redskins, the Waterloo Hawks, and the Denver Nuggets all either disbanded or left the league. Despite the losses the league continued on with it’s remaining eleven teams, but it suffered another setback when at mid-season the Washington Capitols closed their doors leaving the league with just ten teams. On November 22, 1950 in a game between Minneapolis and Fort Wayne, with the Lakers leading 18-17 at the half, the Pistons held the ball the entire second half, until Larry Foust scored a lay-up with six seconds left to give the Pistons the 19-18 win; The Game still remains the lowest scoring game in NBA History. The NBA also added a new innovation; the annual All-star game was first played in Boston on March 2 of 1951.


Baltimore
The Bullets finished the season with on of the worst records in the NBA at 24 wins to 42 losses, they finished with the worst record of all the remaining teams, but the Blackhawks did lose one more game then did the Bullets, this was due to the disbandment of Washington. The Bullets didn’t have a single player finish in the top five of any statical category, and were among the lowest scoring teams in the NBA.


Boston

The Celtics finished second in the East behind Philadelphia at 39 and 30. Ed Macauley lead the Celtics in scoring at over 20 points a game, and field goal percentage. He was selected to the All-star game where he won MVP. In the draft the Celtics also picked up point guard Bob Cousy.


Fort Wayne

The Pistons struggled thought-out most of the season finished at 30 and 36 behind the Lakers and Royals.


Indianapolis

The Olympians finished 31 and 37. Alex Groza lead the team in scoring with around 22 points a game, the Olympians also had Ralph Beard in the top ten in scoring getting 15 points a night. The Olympians had one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the league, but their defense had gapping holes usually letting up more points then they could score on the offensive end.


Minneapolis

the Mikan Lead Lakers finished with the best record in the NBA at 44 and 24. Mikan lead the NBA in scoring with at the time an astounding 28 and ½ points per game, Mikan was also second in rebounds with 14 rebounds a game. The Lakers started the season undefeated until they played Fort Wayne in the infamous 19-18 game.


New York

The Knickerbockers quietly won games behind Harry Gallatin, who lead them in both scoring and field goal percentage. The Knickerbockers finished third in the East behind Boston and Philadelphia, going 36 and 30.


Philadelphia

The Warriors finished with the best record in the East, and six games behind the Lakers for the best record in the League. Paul Arizin lead the Warriors in scoring with 17 points a game, and Joe Fulks lead the league in free throws. The Warriors had one of the deepest rosters in the league, but chemistry issues would case friction all season long. Andy Phillips would lead the Warriors and the NBA in scoring.


Rochester

The Royals finished four games behind the Lakers in the West. The Royals had one of the best tandems in the history of early basketball with Arnie Risen, and Bob Davies. Risen would lead the Royals in scoring with 16 a game, and in rebounds.


Syracuse

Dolph Shayes was once again the man for the Nationals, leading them in both Points per game and rebounds per game. Despite this Syracuse struggled all season long finishing at 32 and 34.


Tri-City

Tri-City’s 25 and 43 mark was the worst in the west, and their 43 losses was worst in the NBA. Frank Brian would lead them in scoring, but that was the only stat category they had anyone in the top five.


Washington

The Capitols played the first 35 games of the season going 10 and 25 before they disbanded. Their players were dispersed thought-out the league; their best player Frank Scolari was picked up by the Nationals.

In the East Semi finals the Knickerbockers surprised everyone and made easy work of the Celtics. The Knickerbockers beat the Celtics 83 to 69 in game one, and 92 to 78 in game two. Harry Gallatin’s defense cause Bostons Ed Macauley to shoot in the high 30s down from his 46% in the regular season.

In the other Eastern Semi, the Nationals provided another upset when they stunned the Warriors 91-89 in overtime of game one in Philadelphia. In game two the Nationals took charge early and won the game by 12, 90 to 78.

In the West the old rivals’ Rochester and Fort Wayne would once again play. The Royals would trash the Pistons in a 110 to 81 game one beating. The Pistons would take game two 83 to 78, but would lose in game three 97 to 78.

The Lakers took care of the Olympians 95 to 81 in the first game of their series, but in game two in Indianapolis George Mikan would get injured and the Olympians hammered the Lakers 108 to 88. When the series returned to Minneapolis, George Mikan would still play and lead the lakers to the 85-80 victory.

The conference finals were best of five, and the Knickerbockers beat the cross-state rival Nationals 103-92 in game one. The Nationals would trash the Knickerbockers 102 to 80 in game two. The Knicks would squeak out a 2 point win back in Madison Square Garden. The Nationals would take game four in Syracuse before the series returned to New York were the Knickerbockers won 83 to 81.

With Mikan injured the lakers struggled, they won game one by three 76 to 73, but couldn’t do anything to stop Risen who lit the Lakers up in every game. The Royals took game two 70-66, and game three 83-70. Mikan would give it all he had in game four, but the Royals were to much and dethroned the champions 80 to 75.

With the all New York state finals in the NBA finals, not many people thought the Knickerbockers stood a chance. After the first three games it looked like the critics were right, the Knickerbockers got beat handily 92 to 65 in game one, 99 to 84 in game two, and 78 to 71 in game three. The Knickerbockers however would take games four, five, and six by 6 points, 3 points, and 7 points. Late in game seven it looked as if the Royals were to much for the Knickerbockers, but the Knickerbockers went on a 20 to 2 run to take a 74 to 72 lead. The Royals defense would collapse on the Knicks for the final 40 seconds and win the game and the title 79 to 75.

51-52

In the off-season the NBA adopted some new rules; they widened the free throw lane. By opening up the lane the NBA experienced a sky rocketing in scoring from the guards, with six guards ranking in the top 20 in scoring. The league also saw a greater influx in talent as more and more college stars joined the NBA ranks, this also meant better competition.


Baltimore

The Bullets once again struggled, and once again finished in last place in the East. Newly acquired Frank Scolari lead the Bullets in scoring and free throw percentage, but no one else on the team did much of anything for the team. The Bullets record was 20 wins against 46 losses.


Boston

The Celtics once again missed winning the division by one game, but the Celtics had one of the best tandems in the game with guard Cousy, and forward Macauley, both would be named to the all NBA first team. Cousy lead the Celtics in scoring with 21 points a game and Macauley trailed him by 2 points a game. Bill Sharman who had come over from Washington in the dispersal draft, but didn’t play due to injury, finally got to play for the Celtics and would lead the team in free throw percentage. The Celtics finished the year at 39 and 27.


Fort Wayne

Despite having two players in the top ten in scoring, the Pistons struggled all season long going just 29 and 37. Brian and Foust would lead the team in scoring with 16 a game, and Foust would lead the NBA and the team in rebounds.


Indianapolis

The Olympians were rocked in the off-season by a points shaving scandal. Alex Groza, and Ralph Beard who played together at the university of Kentucky were both implicated in the scandal and were subsequently banned from the NBA, the loss of their two leading scorers didn’t hurt the Olympians as bad as one might think, the team actually improved going 34 and 32 to finish in third place in the west. Leo Barnhorst lead the team in scoring.


Milwaukee

The Tri-City Blackhawks moved from Davenport to Milwaukee in the off-season and dropped the Black from their name to become known as the Hawks. Mel Hutchins would lead the team in both scoring and assist but the Hawks still finished with the worst record in the NBA at 17 and 49.


Minneapolis

With Mikan slowed early in the season by his injury from the previous year the Lakers got off to a slow start, but once Mikan was healthy again the Lakers made a run for the division but it was a little too late and they lost the Division crown for the first time since 1949. Mikan would also lose the scoring title coming in second behind Arizin with 24 a game. Vern Mikkelsen would be second in scoring with 15 a game and lead the team in field goal percentage. Mikan would finish third in rebounds per game with 13.


New York

The Knickerbockers again had a sluggish start, Harry Gallatin once again lead them, but they only went 37 and 29 for third in the East. Dick McGuire lead the team in assist with 6 assists a game.


Philadelphia

The Warriors also struggled, going a dismal 500 at 33 and 33, Despite having Paul Arizin lead the NBA in scoring with 25 a game, and in field goal percentage. Andy Phillips would have another stellar year leading the NBA in assist with 8 a game.


Rochester

The Royals finished a game better than both the Nationals and the Lakers to have the best record in the NBA at 41 and 25. Bob Davies lead the Royals in scoring with 16 a game, he was followed by Bob Wanzer, and Arnie Risen with 15 a game each, this marked the first time one team had three scorers in the top ten in the NBA. Wanzer lead the team in field goal, and free throw percentage, while Davies lead them in assist and Risen in rebounds.


Syracuse

The Nationals finished 40 and 26 behind Shayes who was not in the top five in any of the statistical categories of the NBA. Al Cervi finished second in free throw percentage to be the only Nationals player to finish in any category. Shayes did lead the team in scoring and rebounding.

The Nationals and Warriors would play again in the first round. The Nationals beat the Warriors 102 to 83 in game one in Syracuse, but the Warriors would get the game back when the series returned to Philadelphia and they beat the Nationals 100 to 95. Schayes, Cervi and the Nationals would be too much for the Warriors in game three winning the game and the series 84 to 73.

The Knickerbockers and the Celtics once again met in the playoffs, this time the Celtics took game one 105 to 94. When the Series went back to New York City the Knickerbockers got a 4 point game two win. In an epic game three showdown the teams remained tied after regulation, and tied again after the first overtime, it wasn’t until a missed Boston free throw that the Knickerbockers escaped with a one point win.

In the West the Lakers made short work of the Olympians beating them 78 to 70 in game one, and 94 to 87 in game too. Mikan once again returned to form in this series, while Barnhorst struggled immensely.

The old Rivals of the NBL, the Pistons and the Royals once again met, and once again the Royals took it to the Pistons. The Royals blew out the Pistons in game one, and then got a 6 point game two victory to advance and face the lakers.

The Knickerbockers stole game one in Syracuse 87 to 85, but Schayes would lead the Nationals to a 10 point win in game two. But just like the season before Harry Gallatin and the Knicks just couldn’t be stopped as they won game three 99 to 92, and game four 100 to 93.

The Royals took a 10 point game one decision, but Mikan and Mikkelsen took games two, three and four to take down the defending champs and once again put the Lakers back into the Finals.


The first two games of the 52 two finals where played in St Paul with the Lakers taking a 4 point game one victory, but the Knickerbockers counted and surprised the Lakers with an 8 point game two win. When the Series shifted to New York, the Lakers regained the upper hand in game three with a 5 point victory, only to lose the upper-hand in game four when the Knickerbockers tied the series with a one point win. With game five being played in St Paul the lakers moved one game closer to the championship with a 102 to 89 victory, but the Knickerbockers just wouldn’t go away, Gallatin rallied a Knickerbockers game six victory to send the series back to Minneapolis for a game seven. In game seven it was all the Lakers, as they won easily over the Knickerbockers who had started to be called by their nickname; the Knicks.

52-53

The 52-53 season mimicked the previous season in both game play and attendance. Scoring did drop in the season as did overall shooting percentages. The total number of games this season did increase with teams playing between 69 and 71 games


Baltimore

The Bullets struggled again and fan attendance plummeted to almost nothing, the team didn’t have one star player and their record showed it, as they went 16 and 54.


Boston

Despite having three superstars in Cousy, Macauley, and Sharman the Celtics still struggled at times, they did get involved in a three-way race to win the division with the Knicks and Nationals but were the odd man out winning only 46 games. Cousy lead the Celtics in scoring with 20 a game, and Macauley right behind him with 20 also. Cousy also lead the NBA in assist with 8 a game.


Fort Wayne

The Pistons continued being stuck in meritocracy going 36 and 33 in only 69 games. Frank Brian and Larry Foust once again lead the Pistons but neither of them finished very high in any stat category.


Indianapolis

The Olympians continued to suffer from the points shaving scandal, the team burley missed being the worst team in the west by one game. Fan support was at a minimum, and the team went thought three coaches.


Milwaukee

The Hawks continued to be seller dwellers in the West, finishing with the worst record in the West at 27 and 44. Jack Nichols lead the Hawks in scoring with 16 a game, and Mel Hutchings lead in rebounding with 11 a game.


Minneapolis

The Lakers jugger-naught continued to roll winning a league best 48 games, while Mikan finished number two in scoring with 20 a game and Mikkelsen added 15 a night. Mikan would also lead the NBA in rebounding with just over 14 a game.


New York

The Knicks finally won the Eastern division going 47 and 23. Harry Gallatin lead the team in scoring again, and Dick McGuire lead them in assist. Carl Braun also helped transform the Knicks having one of his best seasons.


Philadelphia

Paul Arizin would take the next two seasons off to serve in the US Military. This left the Warriors with a huge hole in their team. The Warriors would trade Assist leader Andy Phillips to the Pistons at mid-season and their record went down hill. Neil Johnston would pick up the scoring slack left by Arizin. Johnston’s scoring average would jump from 6 to 22 points a game. The Warriors finished the season as the worst team in the NBA going 12 and 57.


Rochester

The Royals trailed the Lakers most the season in the standings and would finish second to the Lakers with a record of 44 and 26. Bob Davies would lead the team in scoring with 16, while Bob Wanzer added 15.


Syracuse.

The Nationals would lose out on winning the division title by mere percentage points to the Knicks, the Nationals won the same number of games as the Knicks but lost one more. Dolph Schayes would lead the Nationals in scoring with 18 a game, and finish third in the NBA in rebounding at 13 a game.

For the first time the Knicks would have home court advantage in a playoff series but they would not need it as they routed Baltimore 80 to 62 in game one, and 90 to 81 in game two to win the series in a two game sweep.

The Celtics would face the Nationals in the playoffs, the Nationals had the advantage but the Celtics squeezed out a 6 point win in game one. Game two of the series became known as the greatest game ever played before 1976. The Celtics would rely heavily on guard Bob Cousy who ignited the Nationals for a then NBA record of 50 points, including 30 free throws which today still stands as the NBA record. The game would go into quadruple overtime before the Celtics got the 111 to 105 victory.

The Pistons and Royals would once again meet, but the mediocre Pistons took game one 84 to 77. The Nationals would exact revenge on the Pistons in Fort Wayne taking game two 83 to 71. But the rivalry would get interesting again as the Pistons took a game three victory by 2 points.

The Lakers cruised by the Olympians in game one 85 to 69, but the Olympians would put up a fight in what turned out to be their last game losing 81 to 79.

The Knicks would take game one from the Celtics 95 to 91, but Boston would answer with a 86 to 70 blowout in game two to tie the series at one game a piece. The Knicks took game three 101 to 82 and followed that up by winning the series in four games with an 82-75 victory.

The Lakers won the first two games of their series with nearly identical scores, winning game one 83-73, and game two 82-75. The Pistons took game three in Fort Wayne by the score of 98 to 95, and then won game four 85 to 82. With the Series now tied going into the elimination game the lakers looked to Mikan to lead them, and lead them he did in a 74 to 58 thrashing.

The Knicks took game one of the NBA finals 96 to 88, but the lakers followed their game one loss by beating the Knicks by two points in game two, and by 15 in game three. Games three, four and five were all played in New York City as the NBA looked to adopt a new finals schedule, this scheduling would only last for one year but would be brought back in later decades. The lakers took game four in a tight one 71-69, and then won the title 91-84. The Knicks became the first team to lose three consecutive NBA finals, but the Lakers would also accomplish this feat in the 1960s.

53-54

The downsizing of the NBA continued early in the 53-54 season as the Indianapolis Olympians disbanded after five seasons in the NBA. The NBA also took a lot of criticism for having too slow a pace in the game, teams like the Lakers and Nationals use to walk the ball up the court so their big men could set up. Other teams with good guards would dribble out the clock, so the NBA came up with a device to counter this; the 24-second Shot clock, though it was not fully used in every game it increased the pace and speed of the game, as well as the scoring. The NBA also adopted new foul rules which put a team in the penalty after its fifth foul of a quarter.


Baltimore

The Bullets situation didn’t change this season either, they managed only to win 16 games and there were talks about passably disbanding the team, or moving them to another league where they could be more competitive. However rookie Ray Felix did give the fans something to cheer about as he became the first Baltimore player in Franchise history to crack the top 10 in scoring in the NBA.


Boston

The Celtics found themselves in another tightly contested race to the finish with the Knicks and Nationals. The Knicks would take the division but Boston followed at second, and the Nationals third. Bob Cousy was second in the NBA in scoring, and Ed Macauley was third, Bill Sharman also cracked the top 10 scorers for the Celtics. Cousy again lead the NBA in assist, and Macauley in shooting percentage.


Fort Wayne

The Pistons rising rookie star Jack Molinas was implicated in another points shaving scandal, though he was cleared he admitted to placing bets on the Pistons, the NBA responded by banning Molinas from ever playing again in the NBA. The Pistons suffered from this, as they were in a tight race with the Lakers and Royals for the division. Larry Foust once again lead the Pistons in scoring, and newly acquired Andy Phillips lead the team in Assist.


Milwaukee

The Hawks downward spiral continued, as they went 26 and 46. The team had become so bad that fans would actually boo them during home games.


Minneapolis

With the aging Mikan now approaching 30, the Lakers rested their star and because of this may have lost a few more games, but none the less, the Lakers still won a league best 46 wins. Mikan fell to fourth in scoring in the NBA, and Mikkelsen dropped completely out of the top 10. The Lakers still couldn’t be stopped as their well oil machine would win games night in and night out. “Their backups are almost as good as our starters” - Ray Felix


New York

The Knicks won the Eastern Division and Harry Gallatin won the rebounding title. The Knicks like the Lakers seemed to be able to win no matter what as they went 44 and 28.


Philadelphia

The Warriors rebounded from their 12 win season from a year ago to go 29 and 43. Neil Johnston once again lead the NBA in scoring with 24 points a game.


Rochester

The Royals came in second to the Lakers with a record of 44 and 28. Bob Wanzer lead the team in scoring with 13 a night, and Bob Davies lead the team in Assist. The Royals looked good most nights but struggled defensively allowing the 4th most points in the league.


Syracuse

The Nationals lost a three-way race with the Knicks and Celtics to finish third in the East with a record of 42 and 30. Dolph Shayes lead the Nationals in scoring with 17, while Paul Seymore lead the team in Assist.

The Playoff seating was set up differently in 53-54, instead of organized series the top three teams from each division would play a round robin tournament to advance to the conference finals. In the East the first match up would be between the Celtics and the Knicks. The Celtics beat the Knicks 93 to 71, then Boston would face Syracuse in the next game. Syracuse would beat the Celtics by one in overtime. Syracuse than would play New York and beat the Knicks 75 to 68. The Knicks would then play the Celtics and lose 79 to 78. The Knicks would again play Syracuse and lose once more eliminating them from the playoffs. The Nationals and Celtics would play one more meaningless game before they would meet again in the conference finals, the Nations won the lost game by a score of 98 to 85.

In the West the first game was between Rochester and their old rival Fort Wayne. The Royals beat the Pistons by seven; 82 to 75. The Royals would than face the Lakers only to lose by 21. The lakers would next play the Pistons and beat them 90 to 85. Due to traveling concerns the Lakers had to once again play Fort Wayne, the lakers beat the Pistons again with a score of 78 to 73. The Royals would play the Pistons again to see who would go on to the second round with the Lakers, the Royals won 89 to 71. The last game was merely a formality since the Royals won, and due to more traveling concerns the game was cancelled and the Lakers and Royals would wait to play each other in the conference finals.

In the Eastern Finals the Nationals continued their dominance of the Celtics, winning game one 109 to 94, and winning game 83 to 76 for the two game sweep. In the West the Lakers did much of the same to the Royals, but the Royals would take game two to force a decisive game three which the Lakers won.

In the Finals the Lakers took game one easily 79 to 68, but the Nationals answered back taking game two 62 to 60. The Lakers handily won game three in Syracuse by the score of 81 to 67, but Schayes and the Nationals just wouldn’t go away and took game four 80 to 69. The Lakers won game five 84 to 73, but Schayes lead another Nationals comeback in game six to tie the series at three games each. In game seven Mikan proved to be to much and the Lakers because the first team in the NBA or the NBL or BAA to win three consecutive championships. This marked the Lakers fourth NBA championship that with their lone titles from the BAA and NBL made it six championships all together. For George Mikan it was his seventh, the six with the Lakers and one his rookie season with the American Gears of the NBL.

54-55

The 54-55 seasons saw a change in the NBA, dominate big man George Mikan retired, the NBA fully adopted the shot clock as part of the game. The league saw an ever more up tempo game then it had ever seen, the Celtics became the first team to average triple digit scoring for an entire season with 101 points a game. The league also saw a lot of internal changes as new coaches replaced old ones in places like Syracuse, and Fort Wayne. And the league would also see its last down grading when the Bullets disbanded.


Baltimore

The Bullets only played in 14 games during the 54-55 season before they disbanded. Rookie Frank Selvy would lead them in scoring before being picked up by Milwaukee during the dispersal draft. The Loss of the Bullets would be the NBA’s last, since then no other NBA team has ever disbanded.



Boston

Despite leading the league in points per game the Celtics only finished at 500 going 36 and 36. Cousy was third in the NBA in scoring, Sharman was ninth, and Macauley had fallen to tenth. Cousy would once again lead the NBA in scoring with 8 a game.


Fort Wayne

The Pistons struggled as the season first began, but their hired former referee Charley Eckman and they became nearly unstoppable, as they surged thought the standings to win the western division. Larry Foust once again lead the team in most statistical categories, Andy Phillips lead the team in Assist and was third in the NBA in the category.


Milwaukee
The Hawks picked up Frank Selvy early in the season from the Bullets, his addition did change the team a little but the team was still perineal losers and of the teams that finished the season they were the worsts, again. In the draft the Hawks had also picked up Bob Pettit, who lead the team in scoring, with 20 a game, one point more a game then Selvy.


Minneapolis

With the Loss of Mikan the scoring load fell to Vern Mikkelsen, Mikkelsen did put up an honest 18 a night but without Mikan’s dominating presence the lakers fell to 2nd in the division behind the Pistons.


New York

With Harry Gallatin now aging the Knicks found it harder and harder to win games, they fell to second in the division behind the Nationals going 38 and 34. Dick McGuire was second in the NBA in assist behind Cousy, but the Knicks downward spiral had begun.


Philadelphia

The Warriors got some good news early in the season when Paul Arizin returned to the team, he and now three time scoring champion Neil Johnston helped the Warriors climb back into meritocracy going 33 and 39, but it still wasn’t enough to make the playoffs.


Rochester

The Days of the Royals being a powerhouse were over, the Royals sank far into the depths of the standings battling with Milwaukee most the season for the third spot, which they eventually won going 29 and 43. Bob Wanzer’s scoring had diminished, and there was no one there to pick up the slack.


Syracuse

The Nationals tied the Pistons for the best record in the NBA, but had won the season series so they would have home court thought-out the playoffs. Schayes once again lead the team in scoring with a little over 18 a game. Paul Seymore lead the team in assist and was forth in the NBA overall.

The Knicks would face the Celtics in the first round of the east while the Nationals had a bye. The Celtics took game one 122 to 101 in what at the time was the most points ever in an NBA playoff game. The Knicks would take game two in New York in a 102 to 95 decision. The Celtics would win the series in game three by a score of 116 to 109.

In the West the Pistons had the bye and the Lakers and Royals would play each other. The Lakers won game one in St Paul 82 to 78. The Royals would escape in game two with a 94 to 92 win in Rochester. The lakers would wrap the series up in St Paul winning game three 119 to 110.

In the East semi’s the Nationals took game one 110 to 100, they followed that up by a 116 to 100 game two victory. When the series shifted to Boston, the Celtics took game three 100 to 97 in overtime. But the Nationals would not be stopped in game four winning 100 to 94.

The Pistons would not play a playoff game in Fort Wayne in 1955, instead their first game against the Lakers was in Elkhart, Indiana. The Pistons took game 96 to 79. Game two was played in Indianapolis where the Pistons won a one point overtime decision 98 to 97. The Lakers would take a game three contests in overtime 99 to 91, but the Pistons would end the Lakers streak of title with a 105 to 91 win over the Lakers in Minneapolis.

The Finals was now between two former NBL teams, the Nationals, who had never won a title, and the Pistons who had not won a title since 1945. The Nationals home court helped them in game one as they took it 86 to 82. The home court played a factor for the Nationals again in a tightly contested game two which say the Nationals come away victorious 87 to 84. When the series shifted back to Indianapolis for the next three game home court would once again be important. The Pistons won game three 96 to 89, than they won game four 109 to 102, and took the series lead with a 74 to 72 game five victory. With the Series now going back to Syracuse, the Pistons looked to win their first title in a decade, but the home court once again became a factor and the Nationals took game six 109 to 104 to tie the series. Game seven would go the same way the rest of the series had; a tightly contested game decided by the final few plays. With the game tied at 91 and with 12 seconds left Syracuse guard George King made on of two free throws, then stole the inbound pass to give the Nationals their first NBA Championship.


BRAND NEW RISING STARS


55-56

During the off season the Hawks made a move from Milwaukee to St Louis. This wasn’t the only big news to involve the Hawks and the NBA; prior to the season the NBA announced that a new award would be given to the best overall player. The award was named the Most Valuable Player award or MVP as it’s known by. The first player to win the MVP was St Louis forward Bob Pettit. The Leagues adjustment to the shot clock and the up tempoed pace of games continued, with all teams averaging around 99 points a game. Despite the good times the NBA still did have its problems, the league had gone from 17 teams a few years ago to just 8, and some of them where still have financial troubles.


Boston

Cousy continued to be the epitome of the point guard, passing and scoring as he pleased. Cliff Hagen also helped Celtics to try and improve, but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics once again came in second place in the East, going 39 and 33.



Fort Wayne

George Yardley finally became the force that the Pistons needed him to be. Yardley lead the Pistons to a 37 and 35 mark which was the third best in the NBA, but the best in the Western Conference. With Yardley doing the scoring Larry Foust found he didn’t need to score as much as he once did, he did however manage to put up 16 a night for the Pistons.


Minneapolis

Clyde Lovellette continued the trend of new players making big impacts as he lead the Lakers in scoring with 21 and a half points a game. Lovellette also lead the team in rebounding with 14 a game, as was third in the NBA in that category. Dugie Martin was another player who found short-lived stardom in this time, as he’d finish third in the NBA in assist. The Lakers as a team finished the season tied with the Hawks at 33 and 39, their first time being below 500 since joining the NBA.


New York

With Gallatin’s numbers now down around 13 a game and with McGuire also struggling the Knicks found themselves in a deep hole early in the season, one they wouldn’t be able to climb out of. The Knicks finished the season with a record of 35 and 37, tied with the Nationals, but the Knicks would lose the tie breaker.


Philadelphia

With Arizin back in full form, and Johnston still producing strong, the Warriors found themselves on top of the NBA going 45 and 27. For the first time in three seasons Neil Johnston did not win the scoring title as he came in third behind Petit, and teammate Arizin. The Warriors also added rookie Tom Gola to their team during the draft.


Rochester

With the Hawks playing better the Royals found themselves as the worst team in the west going 31 and 41.


St Louis

Behind MVP Bob Pettit the Hawks finally made the playoffs going 33 and 39 to tie the Lakers for second place, the Hawks would lose the tie break and be counted as the third place team. Pettit not only won MVP he also lead the league in Scoring and Rebounding.


Syracuse

The Nationals had an up and down season, one of their ups was a 135-133 win in mid December of the Lakers where Dolph Schayes was one of seven players to score 20 or more points. This game would be the highest scoring game in NBA history until the next season. Schayes averaged 20 points a game to lead the Nationals in scoring, and 12 rebounds a game to lead them in rebounds. The National would win a tie breaker game over the Knicks to make the playoffs.

After the tie breakers the Nationals would face the Celtics. The Celtics took game one 110 to 93, but the Nationals would win the next two. They won game two by a score of 101 to 98, and game three 102 to 97.

The Hawks won their first playoff game since 1950 when they beat the lakers 116 to 115 in Minneapolis. In game two, Clyde Lovellette and the Lakers would embarrass the Hawks with one of the worst beatings in NBA playoff history, 133 to 75. Many thought that the trashing would have changed the momentum of the series, but Bob Pettit rallied the Hawks who beat the lakers by the same 116 to 115 score they had in game one, to advance to the conference finals.

In the East finals the Warriors took game one from the Nationals 109 to 87. But the Nationals got revenge and took game two 122 to 118. Philadelphia won game three easily 119 to 96, but the Nationals would battle back in game four to tie the series with a 108-104 victory. The warriors would get their first trip to the NBA finals with a 109 to 104 game five victory.

The Hawks continued winning class playoff games as they took game one from the Pistons 86 to 85, in game two the Hawks finally got a somewhat easy win, winning by 10 points 84 to 74. The Nationals would respond to the elimination game by wailing on the Hawks 107 to 84 in game three. The Pistons tied the series in game four by beating the Hawks 93 to 84. The pivotal game five was all Pistons as they built an early lead and survived a late run by the Hawks to win the series 102 to 97.

In the Finals the Warriors won a close game one by the score of 98 to 94, Fort Wayne took game two by one;84 to 83. The Nationals would win the next three games by scores of 100 to 96, 107 to 105, and 99 to 88 to claim their first NBA championship. Owner Eddie Gottlieb had now won a title in the ABL, BAA and NBA.


The Bill Russell era begins


1956-57.

For the Boston Celtics this is the season that their fortunes changed. In the off-season the St Louis Hawks wanted to add local players to their team, most notably Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley, both of which belonged to the Boston Celtics. The Hawks didn’t want to trade star and fan favorite Bob Pettit for either of them, but the Hawks did have one other thing to offer, their first round pick; a lanky 6'9" forward from the University of San Francisco named Bill Russell. The Celtics took the deal.


Boston

The Celtics may have gotten one of the best draft steals in history when they not only added Bill Russell but guard Tom Heinsohn from Cousy’s alma mater Holy Cross. With Russell, Heinsohn, Sharman and Cousy the Celtics dominated their opponents going a league best 44 and 28. Sharman lead the team in scoring with 21 a game, while Cousy lead the team and the league in Assist and the rookie Russell lead the team in rebounds. Bob Cousy would also become the first point guard to win the MVP award.


Fort Wayne

Yardley once again lead the Pistons in scoring with 22 a game. The Pistons would get in a three-way race for the division with the Hawks, and Lakers, but would lose out in the tie breaker games.


Minneapolis

Clyde Lovellette continued to lead the Lakers who still remained below 500 but were still in the thick of the division crown race. The Lakers would finish second at 34 and 38.


New York

The Knicks 500 season was a small step forward but it still wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs, both Harry Gallatin and Dick McGuire would become disgruntled near mid-season and the Knicks as a team suffered for it.



Philadelphia

Paul Arizin won the scoring title, burley beating out Petit for it. Neil Johnston fell to fourth in scoring but the Warriors defense continued to struggle and they finished third at 37 and 35.


Rochester

The Royals finished last in the NBA with a 31 and 41 mark. Maurice Stokes lead the Royals and the league in rebounding at 17 a game, and came in third in the NBA in assist with 5 a game.


St Louis

Pettit, Hagen, and Macauley lead the Hawks to win their first ever division crown going 34 and 38 and beating both the lakers and the Pistons in tie breaker games to do so. Pettit lead the team in scoring with 25 a game, and Macauley added 16. Pettit also finished second in the NBA in rebounds with 15 a game.


Syracuse

The Nationals finished second to the Celtics with a 38 and 34 record, Schayes scoring had jumped up to 22 a game but the talent pool in the league was so great that the Nationals could never get more then a few games over 500.

In the Eastern first round the Nationals had little trouble with the defending champion Warriors, beat Philadelphia 103 to 96 in game one, and 91 to 80 in game two.

In the Western First round the Lakers followed the Nationals example and took care of the Pistons in a high scoring game one 131 to 127, and then finished off Fort Wayne 110 to 108 to advance.

The Nationals were no match for the Celtics in the Eastern Semi’s. Bill Russell completely shut Dolph Shayes down, while Cousy and Sharman scored at will. The Celtics won game one 108 to 90, then they took game two 120 to 105, and ended the series in a three game sweep 83 to 80.

The Hawks got an easy game one win behind Petit 118 to 109. In games two and three the Lakers put up a better fight, the Hawks got a hard-fought 106 to 104 win in game two, and the two teams had a grueling double overtime thriller in which the Hawks won 143 to 135 to decide the Western Champion. This game would take the places as the highest scoring game in NBA history.

In what promised to be a fantastic and legendary NBA finals the Hawks and the Celtics would need seven games to decide a winner. In the mouths before the season the two teams had made a huge trade; sending Macauley and Hagen from Boston to St Louis for Russell. Now the two teams faced each other for the NBA crown. The Hawks took game one in double overtime 125 to 123. The Celtics would get an easy game two 119 to 99 win to tie the series at 1 game. The Hawks would get a another two point win in game three beating the Celtics 100 to 98. Boston would take game four 123 to 118 to once again knotted the series up. Boston took game five by the score of 124 to 109, before the Hawks returned the favor and tied the series with a 96 to 94 game six win. Red Auerbach’s Celtics would need double overtime, but behind 19 points and 32 rebounds from Russell, and 37 points and 23 Rebounds from Heinsohn the Celtics would capture their first NBA title with a 125 to 123 win over the Hawks.

57-58

The once seemingly anchored Fort Wayne Pistons moved from Fort Wayne to Detroit during the off-season and then acquired Dick McGuire and Harry Gallatin from the Knicks the Pistons were not the only NBA team to move, the Royals left upstate New York and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. This move meant that only the Syracuse Nationals were based in a city with less than a million people.


Boston

Bostons glory continued in the regular season as Russell, Sharman, Cousy, and Heinsohn continued to be the all-star starting lineup for the Celtics. The Celtics went 49 and 23 to have the best record in the NBA once again. Bill Russell won his first rebounding title, and his first MVP, marking the only time in NBA history that an MVP has been two different players from the same team in consecutive years.


Cincinnati

The Royals saw some improvement as the finished third in the west with a record of 33 and 39. The Royals had acquired Clyde Lovellette from the Lakers in the off-season and he lead them in scoring with 23 points a game.


Detroit

The Move to Detroit seemed to change the Pistons outlook, but not their fortunes. George Yardley would lead the league in scoring with 28 a game, but the team continued to let up more points then it scored on a nightly basis.


Minneapolis

The Loss of Lovellette sent the Lakers into an even more downward spiral, the team would only win 19 games a franchise low that remains intact today. John Kundla would go 10-23 before being replaced by Laker legend George Mikan. Vern Mikkelsen would once again lead the lakers in scoring with 17 a game.



New York

The Loss of both McGuire and Gallatin did little to change the Knicks situation. They lost one more game then a year previous going 35 and 37. Ken Sears would lead the team in scoring with 19 a game.


Philadelphia

the Warriors finished at 37 and 35 , Arizin lead the team again in scoring with 20, while Johnston finished with 19 a game.


St Louis

The Hawks put their NBA finals loss behind them, as they once again won the west with a record of 41 and 31. Pettit would be third in scoring with 25 a night. Ed Macauley would finish his last full season with the Hawks averaging 17 a night.


Syracuse

In a 135 to 109 victory over the Pistons Dolph Schayes scored 23 points to become the NBA’s all time leading scorer, a mark once held by George Mikan the Nationals would finish second in the East behind the Celtics with a record of 41 and 31.

In the Playoffs the Warriors and Nationals began to have a rivalry as the teams met for the third consecutive year. The Warriors would win the series two games to won, in a tightly contested series.

Even though both teams had moved, it didn’t change their long-standing rivalry. The Pistons easily swept their old rivals winning game one by 7 points and game two by 20 points.

In the Eastern finals the Celtics won the first three games against the Warriors easily, but the Warriors prevented being swept with a 14 point win in game four, only to lose by 5 in game five.

The Hawks won two close ones against the Pistons to take a two nothing games lead over the Pistons. The Pistons would win three by 20 before the Hawks manhandled the Pistons 145 to 101 in game four, then 120 to 96 in game five.

The Hawks took game one in Boston 104 to 102, but the Celtics would need 136 points the next night to beat the Hawks. St Louis would return home and win game three 111-108, this was much worse then just losing a game because Bill Russell would injure his ankle and be out for a few games. The Celtics minus Russell tied the series with a 109 to 98 win in game four. But with Russell injured the Hawks took advantage and won game five by 2, and then in game six Bob Pettit tied Bob Cousy’s playoff record of 50 points to lead the Hawks to the 110-109 victory over the Celtics to capture the franchises only NBA title.


A NEW RIVALRY IS BORN


58-59

Having the worst record in the NBA does come with some perks, as the lakers would find out in 1958 when the used the #1 pick in the 1958 draft to selected University of Seattle Star Elgin Baylor. Baylor would revolutionize the game like very few before him had done.


Boston

the Celtics became the first NBA team to win 50 games as they went 52 and 20, Bob Cousy won his 7th assist title. And during a game in February the Celtics scored 173 points against the Elgin Baylor lead Lakers. The 173-139 score saw 7 league records fall, and on the conclusion of the game Maurice Podoloff the NBA commissioner ordered an investigation to see if the teams were playing defense. Russell would lead the league in rebounds again, with 23 a game.


Cincinnati

Jack Twyman lead the Royals in scoring and was second in the NBA with 26 a game, but the Royals continued to struggle going a league worst 19 and 53.


Detroit

The Pistons lost George Yardley to the Nationals in the off-season, and they lost Harry Gallatin to retirement. Dick McGuire was their best player but he was showing signs of aging, the Pistons finished third in the west with a mark of 28 and 44.


Minneapolis

With Baylor onboard the Lakers made a huge turnaround going 33 and 39; A plus 14 in games won from the previous year. Baylor lead the team in scoring with 25 points a game, and he would also lead the team in rebounds with 15 a game.


New York

Second year player Rich Guerin lead the Knicks with 18 points a game, and the team finished 12 games behind Boston for the lead.


Philadelphia

Arizin would finish third in the NBA in scoring with 26 a game, but big man Neil Johnston would suffer an injury which limited his playing, and would cause him to retire at the end of the season. This loss severely hurt the Warriors, who would finished in last place in the east at 32 and 40.


St Louis

For the third straight year the Hawks finished atop the Western Division with a 49 and 23 mark. Pettit would lead the NBA in scoring with 29 a game. Cliff Hagan would also add 24 per contest for the Hawks. The Hawks also acquired Clyde Lovellette to try and counter Bostons all-star lineup.



Syracuse

The Nationals acquired Larry Costello from the Warriors the year prior, but Costello had a break out year leading the Nationals in assist at 5 a game. The Nationals also added George Yardley who scoring average fell 10 points from 28 to 18 after the move. Despite the influx of talent the Nationals only managed to go 35 and 37 for third in the East.

In the East the Nationals handily beat the Knicks 129 to 123 in game one, and 131 to 115 in game two to take a two game sweep.

The Lakers returned to the playoffs after a one year absence, and won game one against the Pistons 92 to 89. The Pistons would win game two 117 to 103, but Baylor was on his way to be the Lakers next superstar and single handedly beat the Pistons in game three 129 to 102.

The power loaded eastern teams of Boston and Syracuse would be at each other all series long. The first game belonged to Boston who beat the Nationals 131 to 109. Schayes and the Nationals stole game two away winning 120 to 118. Boston regained the upper hand in a 22 point win. The Nationals would once again tie things up winning game four 119 to 107. Boston would take game five 129 to 108, but the Nationals would force a seventh game with a 133 to 121 win in game six. In the seventh game Russell finally shut down Schayes and the Celtics prevailed 130 to 125.

The Defending champion Hawks would face the new look Lakers, and in the first game the Hawks looked like champions as they crushed the lakers 124 to 90. But game two saw a shift in the series momentum as Baylor lead the lakers to the 106-98 win. The hawks would win game three big by the score of 127 to 97, but the Lakers would win game four 98 to 97 in overtime, and game five 108 to 98. In the sixth game the Lakers won 106 to 104 to advance to the finals for the first time in 5 years.

In what would be the only asterix in Elgin Baylor’s career, the fact that he couldn’t win a title. The Celtics beat the Lakers in four straight games for the first ever sweep in NBA finals history. This would also mark the first time the Lakers and Celtics would meet in the NBA finals.

59-60

For the past few seasons a rookie would come in a change the way the game was played, and none would do it in as big of way as Wilt Chamberlain. The 7'-1" center from Kansas would make an immediate impact on the NBA, becoming the first rookie to lead the NBA in scoring. The NBA increased the number of games each team would play to 75.


Boston

The Celtics machine was oiled, primed and ready to go, Cousy would once again lead the NBA in assist.


Cincinnati

The Royals continued to struggle Despite Wyman averaging over 31 points a game, the Royals finished the season at 19 and 56, losing three more games then they did a season prior.


Detroit

The Pistons finished15 games below 500 but that was still good enough for second in the west. The Pistons won their games by playing team basketball as no one players’ stats stood out particularly well.


Minneapolis

Baylor was the third player in 59-60 to average 30+ points, but the lakers still struggled going 29 and 50 for third place in the west.


New York

Rich Guerin could not change the fortunes of the Knicks as they slipped back into the seller of the East going 27 and 48.


Philadelphia

Rookie Wilt Chamberlain lead the NBA in scoring(37.6 ppg) and rebounding(27 rpg), and take home both rookie of the year, and MVP. Paul Arizin’s scoring numbers would drop to 22 a game with Chamberlains arrival, and Warriors win 49 games against 26 losses for second in the East.


St Louis
Petit fell to fourth in the NBA in scoring with 26 a game, and Hagan followed that up with 25 a game. The Hawks easily won the west winning it by a whole 16 games over the Lakers. The Hawks would also be the only western team with a winning record going 46 and 29.


Syracuse

The Nationals would battle the Warriors all season long for second place but Chamberlain’s power was to great for even the NBA’s all time leading scorer to combat, Schayes 23 points and 13 rebounds were still respectable enough to draw fans in to see the Nationals however, something a lot of other teams wished they could say.

The Warriors and Nationals would once again face each other. In game one Chamberlain and the Warriors proved to be to much for the Nationals as they won easily 115 to 92. Dolph Schayes showed he wasn’t completely washed up in game two as he lead the Nationals to a 125 to 119 win. But Chamberlain and Arizin would combine for nearly 100 points alone to lead the Warriors to the 132 to 112 victory and series win.

In game one between the lakers and Pistons, Baylor hit a jumper with second remaining to give the Lakers the 114 to 113 win in Detroit. But game two in Minneapolis would be all lakers as they won 114 to 99.

The Celtics and Warriors would split the first two games in Boston with the Celtics winning game one by six and the Warriors taking game two by five. The Celtics would win game three by 30, and game four by eight to bring the series near an end. But with their backs against the wall Chamberlain and Arizin fought tooth and nail to get the Warriors back in, as they won game five 128 to 107. But Russell and the Celtics proved to be even to much for the young Chamberlain as they escaped with a 2 point win a game six to advance to the finals for the fourth straight year.

The Hawks would beat the Lakers by 13 in game one, but the lakers would take game two by 7. St Louis would once again go one up as the Hawks won 93 to 89 in game three. The Lakers made a frantic late comeback to win game four by 2 points, then used overtime to beat the Hawks by 7 in game five. The Hawks would win games six and seven by double digits to advance to the finals for the third time to face the Celtics.

The Hawks and the Celtics were facing each other in the finals for the 3rd time in as 4 years, the Celtics and the Hawks and each won one of the series against each other. The Celtics easily took game one 140-122, but the Hawks won game two 113 to 103, Despite Bill Russell setting an NBA finals record of 50 rebounds in the game. The Celtics won game three 102 to 86. The Hawks would take a 10 point game four decision to tie the series at 2 games each. Boston blew out St Louis in game five 127 to 102, and if it wasn’t for two bad played in the final minutes of game six the Celtics could have won the series in six, but the Hawks would take that game 105 to 102. The Celtics would win their second straight title behind Bill Russell’s 22 point, and 35 rebound effort in game 7.

As the decade came to a close the NBA had gone full circle, all the early stars except Dolph Schayes had retired. Nine teams had disbanded during a short 11 year run, but the new guys had helped bring the NBA to the forefront of American sports; the league still trailed Baseball in most its markets; but actually did have better attendance then football in cities such as Boston, Minneapolis, and Detroit. The Forefathers of the NBA had left an exciting new league for guys such as Russell, Chamberlain, Baylor and new comers such as Jerry West to enjoy, not to mention millions of fans world wide. The NBA in the 50s would have one more lasting mark on the world of basketball, following the 59-60 season the Lakers left the cold snowy land of the Lakes for the warm sandy beaches of South California; the Los Angeles Lakers were born.

Part IV

Written By:
Bran Faurschou