The National Basketball League

A History, 1935–1949


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About the Book

The NBA has gained worldwide popularity with its high-flying stars and slam-dunking giants, but the early professional hoops game was played below the rim. This book provides the first history of the National Basketball League, which held court from the mid–1930s until its merger with the Basketball Association of America in 1949. Originally formed in Akron and Indianapolis, the league operated mainly in the Midwest but extended as far east as Rochester and Syracuse and west to Denver, building major franchises with hometown loyalties. Most of its stars were college graduates, a major change from previous professional leagues, and it was the first modern major professional league to integrate. Features include photographs, maps of league franchises, and tables of team standings, MVPs, and scoring leaders.

About the Author(s)

Murry R. Nelson is a professor emeritus of Education and American Studies at Penn State University. He is the author of a history of the New York Celtics, as well as biographies of Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal and Abe Saperstein.

Bibliographic Details

Murry R. Nelson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 294
Bibliographic Info: 13 photos, maps, tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4006-1
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5361-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Preface      1

Introduction      3

1. Midwest Conference: 1935–1937      11

2. The National Basketball League Begins      32

3. The National Basketball League’s Second Year: Movement Towards Stability      52

4. Changing a Bit, Staying the Same: The 1939-40 Season      68

5. Wisconsin Rhapsody: The 1940-41 Season      81

6. The NBL in Peace and (Mostly) War: The 1941-42 Season      94

7. The NBL Goes to War: The 1942-43 and 1943-44 Seasons      112

8. The NBL Begins Regrowing: The 1944-45 Season      131

9. Enter the Royals: NBL 1945-46      142

10. An Explosion of Teams: The 1946-47 Season      158

11. The Lakers Bring Dominance to the NBL: The 1947-48 Season      178

12. Back to the Future: The Hometown League Reappears for the 1948-49 Season      203

13. NBL Lessons and Accomplishments      225

Appendix 1. NBL Standings, 1937–1949      235

Appendix 2. Scoring Leaders in the Midwest Conference and NBL, 1935–1949      239

Appendix 3. NBL All League Teams and MVPs, 1937–1949      242

Chapter Notes      245

Bibliography      265

Index      281

Book Reviews & Awards

“this thoroughly researched history of the National Basketball League is an enjoyable read and forms an important chapter not only in American sports history but also illustrates the salient role of sports in the social history of small towns and cities in Middle America”—Journal of Sport History.