History Timeline 1940's

Troops from the United States and other Allied nations land on the beach at Normandy, France in 1944, beginning the western European invasion that would lead to defeat of Nazi Germany.

World War II, Invading Africa

U.S. Timeline - The 1940s

World War II

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  • Timeline

  • 1946 Detail

    June 6, 1946 - The Basketball Association of America, known as the National Basketball Association (NBA) since 1949 after its merger with the rival National Basketball League, is founded.

    CAA/NBA Montage

    Ever since James Naismith was challenged to come up with a game that the rambunctious athletes at the International YMCA Training School, now Springfield College, could play in the winter, the sport of basketball had been growing at leaps and bounds through the high school and college ranks. Playing the sport as a professional game had been slower to respond, although leagues such as the American Basketball League, 1925, founded by owners in the National Football League, and the Midwest Basketball Conference, 1935, and its successor, the National Basketball League, 1937, had popped up during the first decades of the 20th Century. Those leagues, however, had been hit hard during the depression and often played in small gyms and smaller towns. In 1946, owners of ice hockey arenas throughout the northeast and central parts of the United States were looking for a complimentary game to fill their arenas during off days. On June 6, 1946, they had their solution. The Basketball Association of America was formed; it would be known as the National Basketball Association, the NBA, three years later, after a merger with its rival, the National Basketball League.

    While most of the rival basketball leagues played in those small arenas in mid-size cities, American Hockey League President, Maurice Podolof (the NBA MVP Trophy bears his name), Max Kase, a New York Sportwriter, Walter A. Brown, owner of the Boston Garden, and Ned Irish, President of Madison Square Garden, among others, thought that using arenas such as Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden would serve two purposes. They could fill their arenas on more nights and elevate the game of pro basketball beyond regional leagues. A meeting was held at the Commodore Hotel, next to Grand Central Station, in New York City, two days after the invasion at Normandy. Podolof would be appointed the President of the new BAA, holding both jobs at once. Irish would win the franchise in New York. There would be a sixty game schedule for the original eleven teams. The first game of the league occurred on November 1, 1946 between the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knickerbockers, won by the Knicks. The Philadelphia Warriors (who did not become the 76ers, but those Golden State Warriors) won the first championship over the Chicago Stags.

    Shooting was not at its zenith during the first year, averaging only 27.9% from the field and 64.1% from the free throw line. Attendance during the first season averaged three thousand fans per game. Financial conditions on some teams deteriorated, with four teams folding after the first season. With the addition of the Baltimore Bullets (not the Baltimore Bullets of later years) for 1947, the CAA would play with only eight teams. In 1948, four teams from the rival National Basketball League would join, raising the number of teams in the CAA to twelve. In 1949, the CAA merged with the NBL, absorbing six of their franchises, losing two existing teams, and adding one new franchise. They would play the 1949 season with seventeen teams.

    Who Was the National Basketball League

    A corporate construction begun in 1935 as the Midwest Basketball Conference by large companies Goodyear, Firestone, and General Electric, the league comprised of Great Lakes area teams from corporations and small markets. Famous teams from the NBL include the Oshkosh All-Stars, Sheboygan Red Skins, Chicago American Gears, the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets, Chicago Studebakers, and the all-black Detroit Vagabond Kings, added during the final NBL season. The schedule, at first, was informal and up to each team with a minimum of ten games played with four on the road. The league would change its name in 1937 to the National Basketball League. No stats from the National Basketball League are included in the history and statistics of today's NBA.

    Remarkable achievements in the game of basketball were achieved first in the National Basketball League, including the institution of the three second rule, and the much more important inclusion of African-American players five years prior to Jackie Robinson's reintroduction of black players in Major League Baseball.

    Are any of these NBL teams still playing in today's National Basketball Association? Yes, five of them. The Minneapolis Lakers, who joined the BAA in 1948, became the Los Angeles Lakers in 1960. The Rochester Royals and Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons joined the BAA in the same year as the Lakers. The Royals would become the Cincinnati Royals in 1957, the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1972, then only the Kansas City Kings in 1975, before becoming today's Sacramento Kings in 1985. And yes, the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons are now the Detroit Pistons, since 1957. Two other teams joined the NBA during the merger, ne expansion in 1949. The Buffalo Bisons/Tri-City Blackhawks are now the Atlanta Hawks, spending time as the Milwaukee Hawks, 1951, the St. Louis Hawks, 1955, before making it to Atlanta in 1968. The Syracuse Nationals are now the Philadelphia 76ers, relocating there in 1963.

    Original Teams in the Basketball Association of America in 1946

    The BAA, which became the NBA, consisted of eleven teams during its first year in 1946-47. Franchises cost around $150,000. Salaries averaged under $4,000. Bonus money to the league champions $2,000 per man. Games were 48 minutes long, instead of the traditional 40 minutes. A total of one hundred and three players participated during the first season.

    Boston Celtics - Despite a record of 22-38 during its first season in the CAA, the Celtics would go forward to become one of the storied franchises in the NBA. They played their home games in the Boston Garden, 1946-1995.

    Chicago Stags - The Stags recorded a record of 38-22 during the 1946-7 season, tied for the lead in the Western Division after the regular season. They played at Chicago Stadium. The Stags were the highest scoring team in the leage at 77.0 points per game. Their last season in the league was 1949-50.

    Cleveland Rebels - Even record of 30-30 during 1946-7, the first season of the CAA would be the Rebels last. Games were played at Cleveland Arena with seating capacity for basketball of 11,000.

    Detroit Falcons - Fourth place in the Western Division during 1946-7, the Falcons finished with a 20-40 record. It was their only season in the league. Home games played at Detroit Olympia, which seated 15,000.

    New York Knicks - Founded by Ned Irish, the Knickerbockers finished the 1946 season with a 33-27 record. The Knicks are one of only two original BAA/NBA franchises, along with the Boston Celtics, to remain in their home cities.

    Philadelphia Warriors - Winners of the first BAA Championship, the Warriors played to a 35-25 record during the regular season. Games were hosted at Philadelphia Arena, which seated 5,526. They moved to the San Francisco area in 1962 and today are known as the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors included the league's leading scorer in 1946-7, Joe Fulks, a 6'5" forward from Kentucky, averaging 23.2 points per game.

    Pittsburgh Ironmen - Home games at Duquesne Gardens, standing room capacity 5,657, saw the Ironmen win only 15 of 60 games. They folded after the 1946-7 season.

    Providence Steamrollers - Winning under half of their games in 1946-7, the Steamrollers had a record of 28-32, and played at Rhode Island Auditorium, capacity 5,300. They would fold after three seasons.

    St. Louis Bombers - Lost the Western Division title to the Stags after a one game playoff, their regular season record being 38-22. Home games were played at the St. Louis Arena, later known at the Checkerdome, which held 14,200. They would leave the league after the 1949-50 season.

    Toronto Huskies - Lasting only one season with a record of 22-38, their major distinction was having played, and lost, in what is considered the first game in NBA history. Seven thousand and ninety people attended that first game at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was estimated that the team lost $100,000 during its only season.

    Washington Capitals - Coached by Red Auerbach from 1946-49, the Capitals won the Eastern Division during the first season with a 49-11 record. Their home games were played at Uline Arena, later known as the Washington Coliseum, and held 8,000 spectators. On October 31, 1950, they would employ the first African-American player in the National Basketball Association, Earl Lloyd. The franchise would fold from the NBA on January 9, 1951.

    Photo above: Montage of images from the NBA and early basketball; (left) Joe Fulks, leading scorer of the 1946-7 season, 1946, Sporting News Archives; (center) Joe Lapchick (misspelled on card), 1933, Original Celtics, Goudey Sport Kings Gum Card; (right) Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, 1966, New York World Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photographic Collection, Library of Congress. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons and Library of Congress. Image below: Montage of original CAA/NBA Arenas (left top) Madison Square Garden III, 1925; (left bottom) Duquesne Gardens in Pittsburgh, circa 1909; (right) St. Louis Arena, circa 1930-1945, Tichnor Brothers. Courtesy Boston Public Library, Pittsburghhockey.net, Wikipedia Commons. Info source: NBA.com; Thoughtco.com, Charlie Zegers; Basketball-reference.com; Wikipedia Commons.

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