National Basketball League (United States)

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National Basketball League (NBL)
Sport Basketball
Founded 1937
Inaugural season 1937-38
No. of teams 38
Country USA
Ceased 1949
Last champion(s) Anderson Packers (1st title)
Most titles Akron 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 dissolve and some of its teams would be absorbed into the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to form the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949. 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.

League history[edit]

Early years[edit]

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]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 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 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 for one season before integrating in 1950.)

Legacy[edit]

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[edit]

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

All-time scoring leaders[edit]

* Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
George Mikan (#99) holds the highest per-game scoring average (19.85) in NBL history.
Rank Player Team(s) Games Points PPG
1
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott* Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Chicago American Gears, Sheboygan Redskins, Tri-Cities Blackhawks 287 3,583 12.48
2
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards Oshkosh All-Stars, Indianapolis Kautskys 322 3,221 10.00
3
Englund, GeneGene Englund Oshkosh All-Stars 238 2,600 10.92
4
Dancker, EdEd Dancker Sheboygan Redskins, Oshkosh All-Stars 321 2,490 7.76
5
Cervi, AlAl Cervi* Buffalo Bisons, Rochester Royals, Syracuse Nationals 187 2,326 12.44
6
Otten, DonDon Otten Buffalo Bisons, Tri-Cities Blackhawks 168 2,292 13.64
7
Novak, MichaelMichael Novak Chicago American Gears, Sheboygan Redskins, Syracuse Nationals 267 2,279 8.54
8
Carpenter, BobBob Carpenter Oshkosh All-Stars, Hammond Ciesar All-Americans 209 2,140 10.24
9
Glamack, GeorgeGeorge Glamack Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, Rochester Royals, Indianapolis Kautskys, Hammond Calumet Buccaneers 202 2,138 10.58
10
Pelkington, JakeJake Pelkington Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 226 1,949 8.62
11
Shipp, CharlesCharles Shipp Akron Firestone Non-Skids, Oshkosh All-Stars, Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Waterloo Hawks 376 1,935 5.15
12
Patrick, StanleyStanley Patrick Chicago ?, Midland Dow A.C.'s, Hammond Calumet Buccaneers 212 1,765 8.33
13
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan* Chicago American Gears, Minneapolis Lakers 81 1,608 19.85
14
Risen, ArnieArnie Risen* Indianapolis Kautskys, Rochester Royals, Toledo Jeeps 123 1,606 13.06
15
Schultz, HowieHowie Schultz Anderson Packers 165 1,600 9.70

Championships[edit]

Year Winner Finals Loser Games
1937–38 Akron Goodyear Wingfoots Oshkosh All-Stars 2–1
1938–39 Akron Firestone Non-Skids Oshkosh All-Stars 3–2
1939–40 Akron Firestone Non-Skids Oshkosh All-Stars 3–2
1940–41 Oshkosh All-Stars Sheboygan Red Skins 3–0
1941–42 Oshkosh All-Stars Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2–1
1942–43 Sheboygan Red Skins Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2–1
1943–44 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons Sheboygan Red Skins 3–0
1944–45 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons Sheboygan Red Skins 3–2
1945–46 Rochester Royals Sheboygan Red Skins 3–0
1946–47 Chicago American Gears Rochester Royals 3–2
1947–48 Minneapolis Lakers Rochester Royals 3–1
1948–49 Anderson Packers Oshkosh All-Stars 3–0

Season leaders and awards[edit]

Source[2]

* Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Scoring leader[edit]

Season Player Team(s) Points PPG
1937–38
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards Oshkosh All-Stars 210 16.2
1938–39
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards (2) Oshkosh All-Stars 334 11.9
1939–40
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards (3) Oshkosh All-Stars 361 12.9
1940–41
Stephens, BenBen Stephens Akron Goodyear Wingfoots 265 11.0
1941–42
Chuckovits, ChuckChuck Chuckovits Toledo Jim White Chevrolets 406 18.5
1942–43
McDermott, BobbyBobby McDermott* Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 316 13.7
1943–44
Riebe, MelMel Riebe Cleveland Chase Brassmen 323 17.9
1944–45
Riebe, MelMel Riebe (2) Cleveland Allmen Transfers 607 20.2
1945–46
Carpenter, BobBob Carpenter Oshkosh All-Stars 473 13.9
1946–47
Cervi, AlAl Cervi* Rochester Royals 632 16.5
1946–47
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan* Chicago American Gears 632 16.5
1947–48
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan* (2) Minneapolis Lakers 1195 21.3
1948–49
Otten, DonDon Otten Tri-Cities Blackhawks 899 14.0

Most Valuable Player[edit]

Season MVP Team
1937–38
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards Oshkosh All-Stars
1938–39
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards (2) Oshkosh All-Stars
1939–40
Edwards, LeroyLeroy Edwards (3) Oshkosh All-Stars
1940–41
Stephens, BenBen Stephens Akron Goodyear Wingfoots
1941–42
Chuckovits, ChuckChuck Chuckovits Toledo 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 Otten Tri-Cities Blackhawks

Coach of the Year[edit]

Season Coach Team
1937–38
Byers, CliffCliff Byers Akron Goodyear Wingfoots
1938–39
Sheeks, PaulPaul Sheeks Akron Firestone Non-Skids
1939–40
Sheeks, PaulPaul Sheeks (2) Akron Firestone Non-Skids
1940–41
Hotchkiss, GeorgeGeorge Hotchkiss Oshkosh All-Stars
1941–42
Darling, LonLon Darling Oshkosh All-Stars
1942–43
Roth, CarlCarl Roth Sheboygan 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 Darling Oshkosh All-Stars
1947–48
Mendenhall, MurrayMurray Mendenhall Anderson Duffey Packers
1948–49
Cervi, AlAl Cervi* Syracuse Nationals

Rookie of the Year[edit]

Season Rookie Team
1937–38
Kessler, RobertRobert Kessler Indianapolis Kautskys
1938–39
Young, JewellJewell Young Indianapolis Kautskys
1939–40
Stephens, BenBen Stephens Akron Goodyear Wingfoots
1940–41
Sadowski, EdEd Sadowski Indianapolis Kautskys
1941–42
Glamack, GeorgeGeorge Glamack Akron Goodyear Wingfoots
1942–43
Buehler, KenKen Buehler Sheboygan Red Skins
1943–44
Riebe, MelMel Riebe Cleveland Chase Brassmen
1944–45
Holzman, RedRed Holzman Rochester Royals
1945–46
Mikan, GeorgeGeorge Mikan* Minneapolis Lakers
1946–47
Lewis, FredFred Lewis Sheboygan Red Skins
1947–48
Todorovich, MikeMike Todorovich Sheboygan Red Skins
1948–49
Schayes, DolphDolph Schayes* Syracuse Nationals

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hoopedia by the NBA"
  2. ^ Dimitry, Steve (1998). "Steve Dimitry's NBL Website". Archived from the original on August 18, 2005. Retrieved October 16, 2010.