Maurice Podoloff (August 18, 1890 - November 24, 1985) was a U.S. lawyer and basketball and ice hockey administrator. He was the first president of the National Basketball Association. He served from the league's founding as the Basketball Association of America in 1946 until 1963.
Podoloff was born to a Jewish family in Yelisavetgrad, Russia (now a part of Ukraine, and also known as (Elizabethgrad)]) on August 18, 1890. In young boyhood his family emigrated to the United States, where he graduated from Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut in 1909, and then from Yale University in New Haven with a law degree in 1915.
In 1926 Podoloff opened the New Haven Arena on Grove Street in downtown New Haven with his father and two brothers. The Arena held over 4,000 people and hosted ice hockey, concerts, and circus events before it was demolished in 1974.
A distinguished lawyer, he was of impeccable character and was instrumental in the development and success of professional basketball. On June 6, 1946, already serving as president of the American Hockey League, he was appointed president of the newly formed Basketball Association of America (BAA), becoming the first person to lead two professional leagues simultaneously.
After BAA teams signed several of the best players in the National Basketball League, Podoloff negotiated a merger between the two groups to form the National Basketball Association, or NBA, in 1949. His great organizational and administrative skills were later regarded as the key factor that kept the league alive in its often stormy formative years.
In 17 years as president, Podoloff expanded the NBA to as many as 17 teams in three divisions and worked out a 557-game schedule.
He introduced the BAA-NBA's collegiate draft in 1947, and in 1954 instituted the 24-second shot clock created by Dan Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals, which quickened the pace of games and improved NBA basketball from a slow plodding game to a fast-paced sport. That same year, he increased national recognition of the NBA immensely by landing its first television contract.
During his NBA presidency, he meted out lifetime suspensions to Indianapolis Olympians players Ralph Beard and Alex Groza after their admissions of point shaving as University of Kentucky team members.
He stepped down as NBA president in 1963 after having greatly increased fan interest during the NBA's formative years and having improved the overall welfare of the sport of basketball through his foresight, wisdom and leadership. In his honor, the NBA would name its annual league Most Valuable Player trophy the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
In 1974 Podoloff was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2011 was inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.
|President of the NBA
1946 – 63