By Lorenzo Tanos
Seventeen teams. That's how many teams took part in the 1949-50 National Basketball Association season; after three seasons as the Basketball Association of America, the BAA merged with the NBL, absorbing six of its teams and becoming the NBA. Yet as you'll find out next week, quite a few of the 17 teams that played in the NBA in the league's first season under that name would be gone the very next season. It was still an uncertain time for professional basketball, may it be the players or the executives, and not even a winning record could guarantee a place in the league going forward.
|Fort Wayne Pistons*||40||28||.588||11.0||79.3||77.9||1.84|
|St. Louis Bombers||26||42||.382||25.0||73.7||76.5||-2.01|
|New York Knicks*||40||28||.588||13.0||80.7||78.6||2.53|
|Sheboygan Red Skins*||22||40||.355||16.0||82.4||87.8||-5.84|
NBA Champions – Minneapolis Lakers (def. Syracuse Nationals 4-2)
MVP – None
LEAGUE LEADERS – George Mikan (Minneapolis, 27.4ppg, 1,865 points), Dick McGuire (New York, 5.7apg, 386 assists), George Mikan (Minneapolis, 297 fouls), Alex Groza (Rochester, 47.8%), Bob Feerick (Max Zaslofsky, 84.3%)
UNSTOPPABLE – Basketball was still very friendly to the little man back in the day, but some of the best players in the NBA were centers, including the best of them all, George Mikan. It appeared as if no one could stop the 25-year-old, 6'10" center, as he led the league once again in scoring with 1,865 points/27.4 points per game. If rebounds were counted as a statistic at that time, chances are he would have led the NBA in rebounds as well. He did lead the league in another statistic, however – personal fouls, as he out-fouled designated enforcer Bob Brannum (of the Sheboygan Red Skins) 297 to 279 for the season.
BASKETBALL IN A FLASH – The Anderson Packers were one of six NBL teams (the others being Denver, Sheboygan, Syracuse, Tri-Cities and Waterloo) to join the NBA, and in their only NBA season, the Packers had the highest-octane offense in the league. They were led by high-scoring 6'1" guard Frankie (Flash) Brian, who averaged 17.8 ppg, and had former MLB first baseman Howie Schultz, a 6'6" center, as a player/coach for the season's first 35 games. Schultz averaged 8.1 ppg and went 21-14 at the helm. All in all, the Packers finished 37-27 in the regular season and were swept 2-0 by the Minneapolis Lakers in the NBA Semifinals.
GONE TO THE DOGS – It might sound strange to those who know the Boston Celtics as an NBA powerhouse for most of the team's existence, but before Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy and way before Bill Russell joined the team, the Celtics were consistent losers in the late'40s. The 1949-50 lineup was coached by Alvin (Doggie) Julian, and featured the little-known likes of Bob Kinney and Sonny Hertzberg as the team's only two double-figure scorers, and slightly down the pecking order, former first-overall pick Howie Shannon and high-scoring Yale standout Tony Lavelli. The Celtics went 22-46 in 1949-50, third-worst in the NBA.
A LOOK AT THE TITLE WINNERS –We already touched on how George Mikan continued lording it over in the NBA in 1949-50, but the Minneapolis Lakers were still quite loaded that season, with Jim Pollard now joined by rookie Vern Mikkelsen at forward, and Arnie Ferrin, Herm Schaefer and Don Carlson teaming up in the backcourt. Another future mainstay of the first Lakers dynasty in the NBA also made his debut in 1949-50 – Texas guard Slater Martin, who was stuck in a reserve role to start off his pro career.
THE CELLAR DWELLERS – Playing for the Denver Nuggets, who were no relation to the ABA/NBA Nuggets to follow a few decades later, Kenny Sailors couldn't get any luck. Clearly a talented player, Sailors once again appeared to be a giant among midgets, averaging 17.3 ppg for a team that went 11-51. He was seconded by Dillard Crocker, a holdover from the last NBL Nuggets team, who averaged 13.6 ppg. Despite their record, the Nuggets averaged a then-respectable 77.7 ppg, but gave up a then-whopping 89.2 ppg to their opponents.
LOOKING AT THE LEAGUE LEADERS – Just like the Lakers and the Rochester Royals, the Syracuse Nationals won 51 games in 1949-50. But they lost four less than the aforementioned two teams, going an impressive 51-13 behind the play of 6'8" center DolphSchayes (16.8 ppg) and the talented backcourt of Al Cervi and Bill Gabor.Also worth mentioning on that team were two backups and future NBA coaches – Paul Seymour and Alex Hannum.
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