National Basketball League (United States)

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National Basketball League (NBL)
SportBasketball
Founded1937
No. of teams38
Country(ies) United States
ContinentFIBA Americas (Americas)
Ceased1949
Last champion(s)Anderson Packers (1st title)
Most titlesAkron Firestone Non-Skids
Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
Oshkosh All-Stars
(2 titles each)
 
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National Basketball League (NBL)
SportBasketball
Founded1937
No. of teams38
Country(ies) United States
ContinentFIBA Americas (Americas)
Ceased1949
Last champion(s)Anderson Packers (1st title)
Most titlesAkron Firestone Non-Skids
Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
Oshkosh All-Stars
(2 titles each)

Founded in 1937, the National Basketball League (NBL) was a professional men's basketball league in the United States. The league would later merge with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to form the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949.

Contents

League history

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 NBL lasted twelve years before merging with the three-year-old Basketball Association of America in 1949, with the resulting combination being renamed the National Basketball Association.

The league began rather informally. Scheduling was left to the discretion of each of the nine teams, as long as the team played at least ten games and four of them were on the road. 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.

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. 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.[1]

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. He led the NBL in scoring three consecutive years (1937–40).

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 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. 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 National Professional Basketball League. 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 Basketball Association of America (Rochester, Fort Wayne, and Indianapolis). Stripped of its best teams and prime gate attraction, the NBL lasted only one more season, the Anderson Duffey Packers winning the league's last championship before six of its members were absorbed by the BAA, which changed its name to the National Basketball Association.

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. (The BAA was still all-white and the NBA continued as an all-white league.)

Legacy

The NBL obviously 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 NBA 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 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 BAA/NBA. The Jets played in the NBA 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.

All-time NBL teams

Note: * denotes a team currently playing in the NBA.

All-time scoring leaders

*Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
George Mikan (#99) holds the highest per-game scoring average (19.85) in NBL history.
RankPlayerTeam(s)GamesPointsPPG
1
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott*Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Chicago American Gears, Sheboygan Redskins, Tri-Cities Blackhawks2873,58312.48
2
Edwards, LeroyLeroy EdwardsOshkosh All-Stars, Indianapolis Kautskys3223,22110.00
3
Englund, GeneGene EnglundOshkosh All-Stars2382,60010.92
4
Dancker, EdEd DanckerSheboygan Redskins, Oshkosh All-Stars3212,4907.76
5
Cervi, AlAl Cervi*Buffalo Bisons, Richmond King Clothiers, Syracuse Nationals1872,32612.44
6
Otten, DonDon OttenBuffalo Bisons, Tri-Cities Blackhawks1682,29213.64
7
Novak, MichaelMichael NovakChicago American Gears, Sheboygan Redskins, Syracuse Nationals2672,2798.54
8
Carpenter, BobBob CarpenterOshkosh All-Stars, Hammond Ciesar All-Americans2092,14010.24
9
Glamack, GeorgeGeorge GlamackAkron Goodyear Wingfoots, Rochester Royals, Indianapolis Kautskys, Hammond Calumet Buccaneers2022,13810.58
10
Pelkington, JakeJake PelkingtonAkron Goodyear Wingfoots, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons2261,9498.62
11
Shipp, CharlesCharles ShippAkron Firestone Non-Skids, Oshkosh All-Stars, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Waterloo Hawks3761,9355.15
12
Patrick, StanleyStanley PatrickChicago ?, Midland Dow A.C.'s, Hammond Calumet Buccaneers2121,7658.33
13
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan*Chicago American Gears, Minneapolis Lakers811,60819.85
14
Risen, ArnieArnie Risen*Indianapolis Kautskys, Rochester Royals, Toledo Jeeps1231,60613.06
15
Schultz, HowieHowie SchultzAnderson Packers1651,6009.70

Championships

YearWinnerFinals LoserGames
1937–38Akron Goodyear WingfootsOshkosh All-Stars2–1
1938–39Akron Firestone Non-SkidsOshkosh All-Stars3–2
1939–40Akron Firestone Non-SkidsOshkosh All-Stars3–2
1940–41Oshkosh All-StarsSheboygan Red Skins3–0
1941–42Oshkosh All-StarsFort Wayne Zollner Pistons2–1
1942–43Sheboygan Red SkinsFort Wayne Zollner Pistons2–1
1943–44Fort Wayne Zollner PistonsSheboygan Red Skins3–0
1944–45Fort Wayne Zollner PistonsSheboygan Red Skins3–2
1945–46Rochester RoyalsSheboygan Red Skins3–0
1946–47Chicago American GearsRochester Royals3–2
1947–48Minneapolis LakersRochester Royals3–1
1948–49Anderson PackersOshkosh All-Stars3–0

Season leaders and awards

Source[2]

*Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Scoring leader

SeasonPlayerTeam(s)PointsPPG
1937–38
Edwards, LeroyLeroy EdwardsOshkosh All-Stars21016.2
1938–39
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards (2)Oshkosh All-Stars33411.9
1939–40
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards (3)Oshkosh All-Stars36112.9
1940–41
Stephens, BenBen StephensAkron Goodyear Wingfoots26511.0
1941–42
Chuckovits, ChuckChuck ChuckovitsToledo Jim White Chevrolets40618.5
1942–43
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott*Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons31613.7
1943–44
Riebe, MelMel RiebeCleveland Chase Brassmen32317.9
1944–45
Riebe, MelMel Riebe (2)Cleveland Allmen Transfers60720.2
1945–46
Carpenter, BobBob CarpenterOshkosh All-Stars47313.9
1946–47
Cervi, AlAl Cervi*Rochester Royals63216.5
1946–47
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan*Chicago American Gears63216.5
1947–48
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan* (2)Minneapolis Lakers119521.3
1948–49
Otten, DonDon OttenTri-Cities Blackhawks89914.0

Most Valuable Player

SeasonMVPTeam
1937–38
Edwards, LeroyLeroy EdwardsOshkosh All-Stars
1938–39
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards (2)Oshkosh All-Stars
1939–40
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards (3)Oshkosh All-Stars
1940–41
Stephens, BenBen StephensAkron Goodyear Wingfoots
1941–42
Chuckovits, ChuckChuck ChuckovitsToledo Jim White Chevrolets
1942–43
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott*Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1943–44
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott* (2)Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1944–45
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott* (3)Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1945–46
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott* (4)Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1946–47
Davies, BobBob Davies*Rochester Royals
1947–48
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan*Minneapolis Lakers
1948–49
Otten, DonDon OttenTri-Cities Blackhawks

Coach of the Year

SeasonCoachTeam
1937–38
Byers, CliffCliff ByersAkron Goodyear Wingfoots
1938–39
Sheeks, PaulPaul SheeksAkron Firestone Non-Skids
1939–40
Sheeks, PaulPaul Sheeks (2)Akron Firestone Non-Skids
1940–41
Hotchkiss, GeorgeGeorge HotchkissOshkosh All-Stars
1941–42
Darling, LonLon DarlingOshkosh All-Stars
1942–43
Roth, CarlCarl RothSheboygan Red Skins
1943–44
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott*Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1944–45
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott* (2)Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
1945–46
Harrison, LesterLester Harrison*Rochester Royals
1946–47
Darling, LonLon DarlingOshkosh All-Stars
1947–48
Mendenhall, MurrayMurray MendenhallAnderson Duffey Packers
1948–49
Cervi, AlAl Cervi*Syracuse Nationals

Rookie of the Year

SeasonRookieTeam
1937–38
Kessler, BobBob KesslerIndianapolis Kautskys
1938–39
Young, JewellJewell YoungIndianapolis Kautskys
1939–40
Stephens, BenBen StephensAkron Goodyear Wingfoots
1940–41
Sadowski, EdEd SadowskiIndianapolis Kautskys
1941–42
Glamack, GeorgeGeorge GlamackAkron Goodyear Wingfoots
1942–43
Buehler, KenKen BuehlerSheboygan Red Skins
1943–44
Riebe, MelMel RiebeCleveland Chase Brassmen
1944–45
Holzman, RedRed HolzmanRochester Royals
1945–46
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan*Minneapolis Lakers
1946–47
Lewis, FredFred LewisSheboygan Red Skins
1947–48
Todorovich, MikeMike TodorovichSheboygan Red Skins
1948–49
Schayes, DolphDolph Schayes*Syracuse Nationals

See also

References