The league was created by Frank Kautsky and Paul Sheeks, both businessmen in the American Heartland. Kautsky would own the Indianapolis Kautskies and Sheeks owned the Akron Firestones. Kautsky and Sheeks got other companies to invest into their league and fund teams, they included Cooper Buses, US Tire inc, Hyvis Oil, and Duffy Floral just to name a few. Other independent teams from the area such as Whiting All-Americans, Buffalo Bison, and the Dayton Metropolitans also joined the league. For a short time it looked like the Rochester Seagram's, the forerunner to the Sacramento Kings, would join the league too, but they decided that the travel between upstate New York and the Ohio valley area would be too great.
The Midwest Basketball Conference was a predecessor to the much more successful National Basketball League, which in its self is a predecessor of today's National Basketball Association. The MBC was the second major attempt at a real national basketball league in the US. The teams of the MBC were a hodgepodge of corporate owned teams and independent barnstormers.
The MBC replaced the earlier ABL which was the first attempt at a national league.
Success is hard to measure for the MBC, as its history is only two years long but at the same time one could argue that the NBL's and NBA's history are also linked the MWB. The one problem with this is that none of the MBC teams survive today in the NBA. Seven MBC teams did survive long enough to make it into the NBL; however, only one survived up until World War II. The lone survivor, the Indianapolis Kautskies/Jets, however, did make it into the NBA so the connection between the MBC and NBA is there.
Most of the teams in the MBC were in the great lakes area in cities such as Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago, Akron, Indianapolis, and even Warren and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is a mirror to the early NBL which had teams in those same cities and didn't expand beyond the great lakes with one exception being Denver.
Life was hard for players in the MBC, not only did they not make a lot of money but the conditions were rough. Road trips were often long bus rides on back country roads that would taken hours, and many times buses broke down. This was a time before most non-major roads were paved and the US highway system was nothing more than lines on the map.
Sometimes, players even had to find their own transportation to games. During a playoff forfeit Dayton's Norm Wagner drove his own car all the way from Dayton to Fort Wayne only to find out that the game had been cancelled.
Rough play was the norm as well. There is one famous case of Kautkys guard Frank Baird having his elbow dislocated in a game against Detroit. Baird was pushed into the metal bleachers, and a fan who happened to be a doctor, had to come and reset Baird's elbow.
One of the first record brawls in basketball was also recorded during a MBC game between Buffalo and Dayton. Unlike today, where a punch is an automatic ejection, officials allowed these altercations and there could be several fights between players in these games as well.
Like its teams, the rules of the MBC were a hodgepodge and confusing. Each team was responsible for making its own schedule but needed to have a minimum of 10 league games and 4 of them on the road. No team was also allowed to play another team more than 4 times and have it count on the league schedule. However, the league would not always enforce these scheduling rules.
The home team was allowed to choose between 4 ten minute long quarters or 3 15 minute long periods. There was a jump-ball after every made basket as well.
Players where paid different amounts mostly based on their skill sets and the financial backer of their team. Some of the corporate owned teams did not pay their players a salary, rather they gave them a job instead and that job was linked to their basketball skills. On average players made $5 to $10 dollars a game. On some rare occasions a player could be given a bonus, and some of those bonuses were huge for their day. One example is that the owner of Hammond gave John Wooden a $100 bill, during the middle of a game, for making 100 straight free throws; the money was taken by Wooden's wife.
In the first season, 1935-36 MBC stipulated that each team must play at least 12 games against the other members of the league. By rule the four teams that qualified for the playoffs should have been the top two teams from each division will play the league minimum, which would have been Indianapolis Kautskys , Pittsburgh YMHA , Akron Firestone Non-Skids and Detroit Hed-Aids . Following this method, Chicago Duffy Florals had remained without dispute the playoffs, but the MBC decided to ignore their own qualification process was based on the minimum each team meetings should be organized, and elected the Duffy Florals (who had only played five league) above the Hed-Aids, justifying that in the only match between the two teams, Chicago had won convincingly. However, the main reason might have been the money; Detroit franchise had serious economic problems, and the MBC not only awarded the Duffy Florals a spot in playoffs, but organized the playoffs in Chicago with the hope that more fans in a big city.
The Duffy Florals surprised everyone by eliminating the favorite Firestone Non-Skids in the semifinals 33-30. In the other semifinal, the Indianapolis Kautskies defeated the Pittsburgh YMHA's. In the championship game Chicago beat Indianapolis 39-35, and Firestone Non-Skids rose to third place by beating YHHA 33-29.
In the 1936-37 season, the were playoffs expanded with the semifinals and finals being the best of three games. The number of mandated league games was dropped from 12 to 8 as well. In the semifinals, the two top teams in the Eastern Division were the two clubs Akron; the Firestone Non-Skids And Wingfoots Goodyear - The latter qualifying for the final. In the Western Division, the top two teams were Dayton London Bobbys and Fort Wayne General Electrics . Each team won their respective home game but the final game was cancelled when Dayton forfeited and did not show up.
In the Finals, the Wingfoots defeated the General Electrics two games to none.
In October 1937, the team owners decided to change the name to National Basketball League because "Midwest Conference" meant " Big Ten "(College Conference) for most of the sports readers.
Hubert Johnson: League Commissioner
Frank Kautsky: Owner of the Indianapolis Kautskys and co-founder of the league.
Paul Sheeks: Owner of the Akron Firestones and co-founder of the league.
Scott Armstrong Fort Wayne General Electrics
Frank Baird Indianapolis Kautskys
Norm Wagner Dayton London Bobbys
John Wooden Indianapolis Kautskys