NBA Season Recaps: 1955-56 Season

The 1955-56 NBA season was the second with the shot clock, and the previous year's high scoring turned out to be more than a blip – the clock was working, and in its second year, three out of eight teams averaged at least a hundred points per game.  Also, this would be the NBA's second season with a solid eight teams finishing the year; the Baltimore Bullets, who folded after going 3-11 in 1954-55, were the last NBA team in history to disband.

Eastern Division        
Philadelphia Warriors* 45 27 .625
Boston Celtics* 39 33 .542 6.0
Syracuse Nationals* 35 37 .486 10.0
New York Knicks* 35 37 .486 10.0
Western Division        
Fort Wayne Pistons* 37 35 .514
Minneapolis Lakers* 33 39 .458 4.0
St. Louis Hawks* 33 39 .458 4.0
Rochester Royals 31 41 .431 6.0

NBA Champions – Philadelphia Warriors (def. Fort Wayne Pistons 4-1 in NBA Finals)

MVP – Bob Pettit (25.7 ppg, 16.2 rpg, 2.6 apg)

Rookie of the Year – Maurice Stokes, Rochester Royals (1st round, 2nd pick, 1954 Draft,16.8 ppg, 16.3 rpg, 4.9 apg)

LEAGUE LEADERS – Bob Pettit (St. Louis, 25.7ppg, 1,849 points), Pettit (St. Louis, 16.2rpg, 1,164 rebounds),  BobCousy  (Boston, 8.9apg, 642 assists), Vern Mikkelsen (Minneapolis, 319 fouls), Neil Johnston (Philadelphia, 45.7% FG), Bill Sharman (Boston, 86.7% FT)

THE FIRST OFFICIAL MVP – It might sound a bit unbelievable, but the NBA only started naming an MVP in its tenth season, three years after the first Rookie of the Year was named.  And it couldn't have gone to anyone more appropriate than Bob Pettit.  The 6'9" forward/center out of LSU was in his second year in the league in 1955-56, and while he didn't vault the St. Louis (newly relocated from Milwaukee) Hawks past the .500 mark, his impact was obvious as he finally made the long-suffering Hawks relevant in the NBA.  As the league's first-ever MVP, Pettit was the NBA's leading scorer and rebounder, while shooting a very commendable (for those times) 43% from the field.

THE FIRST OF THE "BIG" GUARDS MAKES HIS DEBUT – At 6'6"-205, Tom Gola was tall enough to play center in the NCAA, and he was quite a center indeed, regularly posting 20-20 games for the La Salle Explorers (career averages 20.9 ppg 19.0 rpg) and making first-team AP All-America from his sophomore to senior year.  As his hometown Philadelphia Warriors held his territorial rights, he was picked in the first round of the 1955 Draft, and stepped into a team with center Neil Johnston and forwards Paul Arizin and Joe Graboski.  Due to the crowded state of the frontcourt and the fact he had the ballhandling and passing skills of a guard, Gola was moved to the backcourt, where he averaged 10.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg and 5.9 apg as a rookie.  Triple-doubles weren't tracked in those days, but it's a safe guess he had quite a few in his 11-year NBA career.

A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF PARITY – These days, parity seems like such an elusive thing in professional sports, but as the NBA stuck with a solid eight teams until the early ‘60s, it wasn't uncommon to see all teams fairly close to each other.  As you can see in the team standings above, the Warriors had the best record at 45-27 (.625), while the Rochester Royals brought up the rear with a not-that-bad 31-41 (.431) slate.

A LOOK AT THE TITLE WINNERS/LEAGUE LEADERS – Even with George Mikan unretired for roughly half the season, the fact remained he was a shadow of his old self; this somehow helped the Philadelphia Warriors finish with the league's best regular season record and bulldoze their way past the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1956 NBA Finals.  The Warriors may have been a cellar-dweller just a few years back, but with Paul Arizin having returned from two years military service in 1954-55 and Neil Johnston still a force to be reckoned with in the middle, the time was ripe for a return to prominence.  Also contributing heavily was the backcourt of rookie Tom Gola (see above) and Jack George (13.9 ppg, 6.3 apg) and power forwards Joe Graboski and Walter (Buddy) Davis, the latter of which was also an Olympic track star. You can always get current game odds at bookies live odds.

THE CELLAR DWELLERS – The slide continued for the Rochester Royals, even with new blood entering in the form of Rookie of the Year Maurice Stokes (16.8 ppg, 16.3 rpg, 4.9 apg) and another talented newcomer, Jack Twyman (14.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg).  Bob Davies had just retired, Davies' backcourt partner Bobby Wanzer was 34, aging and serving as player/coach, and the Royals had goofed by trading solid veteran big man Jack Coleman in midseason for first-overall pick Dick Ricketts, a 6'7" star out of Duquesne who failed to live up to expectations in the pros.  Aside from the promising youngsters, aging vets and first-overall draft flop mentioned above, the 1956 Royals had a couple other interesting players in the lineup – first-ever NBA Rookie of the Year Don Meineke (7.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and backup guard Chris Harris, the first English NBA player in history.

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