By Lorenzo Tanos
After our series of Draft Rewinds, now we go back in time to recap the NBA's history since its beginnings in 1946 as the BAA (Basketball Association of America). We shall be starting at the very beginning with the 1946-47 BAA season, where the Chicago Stags (no relation to today's Chicago Bulls) defeated the Philadelphia (now Golden State) Warriors 4-1 in the 1947 BAA Finals.
|New York Knicks*||33||27||.550||16.0|
|Providence Steam Rollers||28||32||.467||21.0|
|St. Louis Bombers*||38||23||.623||1.0|
BAA Champions – Chicago Stags (def. Philadelphia Warriors 4-1)
MVP – None
LEAGUE LEADERS – Joe Fulks (Philadelphia, 23.2 ppg, 1389 points), Ernie Calverley (Providence, 3.4 apg, 202 assists), Stan Miasek (Detroit, 208 fouls), Bob Feerick (Washington, 40.1% FG), Fred Scolari (Washington, 81.1% FT)
A FIRST IN NBA HISTORY – On November 1, 1946, at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, the Toronto Huskies hosted the first-ever game in BAA history, losing by two points to the visiting New York Knicks, 68-66. The Knicks were led by 5'11" guard Leo Gottlieb, who scored 14 points, while the Huskies got 18 and 16 points respectively from their big men, 6'5"-240 "Big Ed" Sadowski and 6'8"-195 George Nostrand.
KEEPING SCORES LOW, PLAYING IT SLOW – Take a look at the team stats and box scores from the 1946-47 season and you'll find them low, even by college basketball standards. Shooting percentages, in fact (league average 27.9% from the field), resembled baseball batting averages more than modern-day field goal percentages in basketball. All in all, the BAA's inaugural scoring average was 67.8 ppg, with scores such as Washington 50, Detroit 33 in an early game. As you'll find out in the years to come, even that was high-scoring in comparison to the lowest-scoring game in NBA/BAA history.
A LOOK AT THE TITLE WINNERS – The 1946-47 Chicago Stags played what you could have called a racehorse style of basketball back in the late ‘40s. They led the league in scoring with 77.0 ppg, yet left a bit to be desired defensively, as they were second-to-last in points allowed with 73.3 ppg. Still, the Stags upset the defensively-sound and hot-shooting Washington Capitols 4-2 in one of two semifinals series in the 1947 Playoffs – the Caps featured field goal shooting leader Bob Feerick and the league's top free throw shooter, Freddie Scolari. The Stags played until the 1949-50 season and were led by future scoring champion Max Zaslofsky, who averaged 14.4 ppg in 1946-47 as a 6'2" forward. The Stags also featured a 6'9" center, Chick Halbert, who is now one of the oldest surviving BAA/NBA players at 94 – he averaged 12.7 ppg. Also playing key roles for the Stags were 6'0" guard Don Carlson (10.7 ppg) and 6'3" forward Tony Jaros (8.4 ppg), both former standouts from the University of Minnesota.
THE CELLAR DWELLERS – The Pittsburgh Ironmen, coached by NBL veteran Paul Birch, finished with the worst record in the BAA in 1946-47 at 15-45. The team was composed of a ragtag group of players, many of them from local schools (Pittsburgh, Duquesne) – one of these locals was reserve guard and future LSU head coach Press Maravich, whose son Pete would be born shortly after the 1946-47 season and grow up to become a superstar in both the NCAA and NBA. The Ironmen also featured a set of brothers on the same team – centers Noble (6'9", Iowa) and Roger (6'5" Ohio State) Jorgensen – neither man played much for the Ironmen. The Ironmen's top scorer was former Boston College star Coulby Gunther, a 6'4" forward who averaged 14.1 ppg and shot a then-impressive 33.6% from the field.
LOOKING AT THE LEAGUE LEADERS – The NBA was still close to a decade away from introducing an MVP award, but "Jumpin' Joe" Fulks would have arguably been the best man to win it. Fulks averaged 23.2 ppg as a 6'5"-190 forward/center for the Philadelphia Warriors. Due to the Providence Steam Rollers' mediocre 28-32 record, Ernie Calverley may have been overlooked for first All-BAA honors, but he did lead the league in total and average assists with 202 and 3.4 apg respectively. And the Washington Capitols, as mentioned above, had both league leaders in shooting on their lineup – Bob Feerick (40.1%) and Freddie Scolari (81.1%). They averaged 16.8 ppg and 12.6 ppg respectively, and teamed with first-team All-BAA center Bones McKinney on a team that went 49-11 in the regular season. The Caps' 81.7% winning percentage was an NBA record until the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers went 68-13 (83.9%).
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