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National Basketball League
1938-1949

The NBL is the forerunner to the NBA. The League was originaly owned by businessmen, thats why the teams have names like Oskosh Allstars, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Detroit Gems, Anderson Packers, and Chicago Gears.
In 1949 the league joined with the BAA to form the NBA, and some of the original NBL teams are still in exsistanct today. the Fort Wayner Zolloner Pistons are now the Detorit Pistons, the Detroit Games moved to Minneopolis became the Lakers, then moved on to Los Angeles. and the Rochester Royals are now the Sacramento Kings


The NBL started with thirteen previously independent teams in 1937. The league began as the Midwest Basketball Conference in 1935, but 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.

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. Unlike the records and statistics of the rival BAA, NBL records and statistics are not considered valid in official NBA totals for 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 around George Mikan and the emergence of the big man in basketball.

EARLY YEARS

The Oshkosh All-Stars, who appeared in the championship series five consecutive years (1938–42) and won two titles, were led by rugged 6' 4" (1.93 m) center Leroy "Cowboy" Edwards. Edwards was a consensus NCAA "All American" and Helms Foundation "College Player of the Year" award winner for the University of Kentucky Wildcats. He left Kentucky after only one varsity season to pursue a professional basketball career a practice unheard of at the time. He led the NBL in scoring three consecutive years (1937–40). 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 all 12 years during the NBL's existence 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 wasn't 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 championship series in six seasons. 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. In 1946, Sheboygan was swept in the 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 All-American center from DePaul who would emerge as the dominant player in the game at that time. As a rookie, Mikan 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 and three other NBL clubs left to join the BAA Basketball Association of America (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 and BAA merged to become today's 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 joined the BAA 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.

NBL Articles
The Collapse of the PBLA and the end of multi-league basketball in America

Following World War II many Americans were looking for some sort of entertainment outlet, and sports quickly became one of the most popular outlets. Basketball was still in its infancy but would soon see epic growth as war weary Americans needed more and more entertainment outlets.

In 1946 there were three major American basketball leagues in the US. The oldest, the ABL had been around in some from since the 1920s but had spotty attendance and fans and players alike had a hard time figuring out what teams were actually in the league. The newest of the leagues was the BAA, which had just formed an 11 team league on the eastern seaboard with a couple of teams as far west as Chicago and Detroit. The most successful of the leagues was the NBL, which was entering its 11th season and had the best players in the world.

The NBL and ABL had little direct competition as the ABL stuck around mostly New York City, Philadelphia and Washington and the NBL was primarily focused in Ohio, Indiana and the Great Lakes regions. The inclusion of a third league which directly competed with both leagues worried both leagues ownerships and started to bring about instability to both leagues.

Complete Article

History of early professional basketball in Indiana

Before the Indiana Pacers joined the ABA and eventually the NBA, the state of Indiana was the hot bed of professional basketball. From 1935 until 1953 the state hosted no less than 11 different teams in the major professional basketball leagues. Unfortunately, almost all of them would end and leave the state with no professional basketball teams for nearly two decades.

Indiana is synonymy with the game of basketball. The University of Indiana is one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball winning 5 NCAA titles, but it was Purdue who would bring the state its first NCAA basketball title in 1932.

Through out the early years of basketball a lot of fly by night leagues and teams called Indiana home, in fact Indiana even had its own semi-pro league of teams completely made up of teams in the Indianapolis region. It was not until 1935 when the Midwest Basketball Conference formed did the state of Indiana start seeing regular professional basketball at the highest levels and quality

Complete Article

The Merger that formed the NBA: How and why it happened

When the Basketball Association of America (BAA) merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1949 it was the culmination of two great basketball leagues that would give us one final and polished product; the National Basketball Association (NBA). A league, that in 1949, looked much different that the product we see today. Today we have 30 teams nestled in mega arenas in 28 cities across the United States and Canada and income in the Billions of dollars.

The 17 team league would be a mixture of big east coast cities, small Midwest farming communities, and one lone enclave in the Rocky Mountains. From the start problems started to arise with the disparity between the former NBL teams and the BAA teams. One of the biggest was income disparity as the BAA teams had a lot more money than did the NBL teams, the one thing that the NBL teams did have an advantage over the BAA is that the NBL tended to have the bigger stars.

One of the major factors in the merging of the two leagues was that the BAA, after three years of existence, was finally able to start not only plucking the top stars away from the NBL but also the NBL's top teams as well. Two seasons after its existence in 1947, the BAA was able to lure the Minneapolis Lakers away from the NBL along with the Rochester Royals, Fort Wayne Pistons and Indianapolis Jets.

Adding the Lakers to the BAA gave them the games biggest star in George Mikan

Complete Article

NBA Pioneer Dolph Schayes Passes Away at Age 87

Schayes was a star big man in his basketball career for the Syracuse Nationals, the precursor to the Philadelphia 76ers. Thought, unlike, other bigs of his era, Schayes possessed the ball handling skills of a guard. His ball handling and passing ability made him nearly unstoppable and ranks him second in the early NBA era of big men behind only George Mikan.

He was drafted by the Knicks of the BAA and by the Waterloo Hawks of the NBL, but the Hawks sold his rights to the Syracuse Nationals. The Nationals offered Schayes more money than the Knicks, so high signed there instead of joining the bigger market Knicks.

Complete Article

The NBL and BAA merger which formed the NBA

It's time to take a look back into history. With the NBA at the start of its 67th season, it might have some people wondering about the origin of the greatest basketball league on the planet. For many people, there's an image of the league kind of starting out of thin air. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The NBL
Twelve years prior to the introduction of the NBA, a little basketball league sprang up in the Midwest in 1937. The league was a rather informal endeavor despite having sponsorship from three elite US corporations, namely General Electric, Firestone and Goodyear. In the early years, there were 13 teams that were required to play at least 10 games, including road games.

In 1940, the league appointed its first president in the person of Chicago newspaper sports editor Leo Fischer, whose primary responsibility was to bring structure to the league.

Complete Article
Top 10 NBL Players of All-Time

In 1949 the Basketball Association of American(BAA) and the National Basketball League(NBL) merged to form the National Basketball Association; this is a fact that most NBA fans know. Many NBA fans also know about the brief three year history of the BAA, but what about the NBL? Not many fans know about the 12 year history of the smaller market NBL or its players. Who were these players?

In fact, little can be found about them. This list is a collection of information about the 10 best players who played in the NBL. Emphasis is giving to NBL careers, which is why some players rank higher on this list then on other lists composing mostly of NBA players.

Complete Article

 

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