The Bellingham Firecrests finished the round robin tournament with a league best 9-3 record and there for were frowned champions. Bellingham would decline an invite to the World Professional Basketball Tournament and that invite would instead go to the Portland Indians who became the first, and only, west coast team to play in the prestigious tournament.
The Pacific Coast Professional Basketball League or PCPBL was a short lived league which lasted for two seasons between 1946 and 1948. The league faced a lot of obstacles in an area which at the time was not renowned for its basketball ability, mixed with a population more interested in baseball and college football than in basketball.|
The league kicked off in 1946 with 7 teams, but within a few weeks the league was down to just four teams. The four remaining teams had a round robin playoff format which eat team would play 2 home games and 2 away games against the other 3 remaining franchises.
The second season saw even more troubles for the league. The league added two more teams but it did not help draw attendance. The big market cities of Vancouver, Seattle and Portland had a hard time generating fans or revenue and the smaller markets faired even worse. Still, despite the issues the league continued into its second season.
The season was broken up into two halves with the Settle Athletics finishing a top the league for the first half of the season, and than coming in a half game behind Bellingham in the second half.
five of the six teams which started the season were able to finish the season and a bizarre playoff format was soon decided upon. The two winners of each half of the season would be given a playoff spot and the remaining teams would play another round robin tournament. Portland won the round robin tournament and would host the winner of Seattle and Bellingham.
Both Bellingham and Seattle were upset about the decision of league president Al Clark, who also owned the Portland franchise, but decided to play anywhere. Bellingham picked up a player named Norm Baker from the Vancouver franchise and Baker was key in Bellingham beating Seattle in game one of their best of 3 series. This prompted a protest by Seattle which president Clark found in favor of Seattle and awarded them the victory. This decision upset Bellingham and they threated to withdraw from the playoffs if the decision was not overturned, the decision was not overturned and Bellingham left.
Seattle would take on Portland in the finals in a best of five series. The underdog Indians would win the first two games in Seattle before going back home with a chance to close out the series. The Athletics of Seattle came back and won game 3. Controversy would strike again when in the closing seconds of the game and with the Indians up two points and Seattle having a chance to tie the game, the Portland time keeper "accidently" sounded the buzzer and the referee, who had played the previous season for Portland, blew the game over. Once again Seattle protested but league president, and Indians owner, Clark declared the game a no contest, effectively giving the victory and the championship to Portland.
One of the unique things about the PCPBL was that it had a penalty box much like you see in hockey. Players who were assessed their fifth personal foul would be sent to the ply-wood enclosure for 2 minutes before they were allowed to re-enter the game. In the above photo, Portland's Nobel Jorgensen is seen lounging about in the small enclosure.
The league was one of the first to have integrated rosters with black and Hispanic players being allowed to play. The NBL allowed integration during World War 2, but stopped in the late 1940s. The BAA allowed one player of Asian decent but did not fully integrate until the 1950s.
History of the Westward Expansion of Basketball |
Basketball's early roots on the east coast are well document, from that cold December day in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891 when the game first formed to the present, we know the stories, the players and the histories. What is less known is how the game developed out west. While at the time of basketball's founding the east was pretty much an established mega-industrial center catering to the worlds needs. The west, it was still wild and untamed.
When James Naismith invented basketball in 1891 the United States states had just 44 states and Wyoming and Idaho had just joined the Union. Three states that would join the union after the founding of basketball, Utah, Oklahoma and Arizona, now contain NBA teams. The battle of Wounded Knee, the last great battle between the United States Army and the Native American's had happened just shy of a year before the game of basketball was invented. And the infamous gun fight at the OK Corral had happened just a decade before. In fact, the early days of basketball are closer in time to the French Revolution than they are to today.
It is easy to see why basketball's roots began in the east and why it has stuck and become such an integral part of the urban landscape. The east had the infrastructure and had young men with free time to play the game and form leagues. In contrast, the west lacked the roads, rails, and metropolitan areas to give rise to the infrastructure that is required to play basketball.