Moonfixer: Earl Lloyd’s Enlightening Biography

The Moon

Earl Lloyd was the first African-American to play in an NBA game in the 1950-51 season. Three others – Hank DeZonie, Sweetwater Clifton, and Chuck Cooper – quickly followed within the week. Born in 1928, Lloyd is the last remaining of those quartet of trail blazers.

In his autobiography, co-written with Sean Kirst, Lloyd recalls his youth in segregated Virginia, his college days in West Virginia, professional career in the NBA, and life afterwards. Reading the stories and seeing how they’re told, Lloyd comes across as a passionate man who aspires for all men to have dignity as they traverse life.

I won’t detail too much of what happens because the book is genuinely worth getting, but this excerpt concerning a racist yard decoration is remarkable and shows Lloyd’s quiet disappointment with his white Syracuse Nationals teammates:

“I had another teammate, I remember we went to a party at his house, and he had a statue of a black jockey on his lawn. I told the guy, ‘That offends me.’ He explained to me how there was nothing wrong with it, and I said to him, ‘As long as you have that out there, I’d prefer you didn’t invite me.’ I asked him if he would ever put a statue out there of a drunken Irishman hanging from a light pole. He couldn’t understand, and I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t understand why I was upset. I said to him, ‘You read. You watch television. You ever just stop and ask yourself why there are no black folks in your neighborhood? You think we all live where we live by choice alone?’ He had no answer for that, but the statue didn’t come down.

“There would be other times in my career when people stood up: Bones McKinney in Washington. Freddy Scolari, who spoke up for me when the Capitols broke up. Dick McGuire in Detroit. You remember those things forever. That’s all I needed in Syracuse, for just one person to say, ‘Earl, this isn’t right.’ But no one ever did. And you realize in the end that you’re alone.”

Reading that passage, I’m personally reminded of the ongoing battle Native Americans are waging against their “mascotization” in society. In any case, story after story is presented in similar, succinct poise – whether joyous or hurt – throughout Earl Lloyd’s biography.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Lloyd’s book.

PS – my copy happened to come signed by Lloyd himself, so you never know what surprise might await!

The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1956 through 1959

Three Galahs by Richard Taylor (Flickr)
Three Galahs by Richard Taylor (Flickr)

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams.

You’ll notice through these years that Carl Braun has made himself very comfortable on the All-NBA 3rd Team even though he was a grizzled veteran of over a decade by 1959. His three selections in this era augment two previous All-NBA 3rd Team selections (1950, 1953) bringing credentials to 5x All-Star, All-NBA 2nd Team (1954), All-BAA 2nd Team (1948), and five All-NBA 3rd Team. Not bad for a guy who also lost two years of his career to the military draft during the Korean War.

Other big winners include Vern Mikkelsen who enjoyed a career renaissance after four straight All-NBA 2nd Teams in the early part of the 1950s; Tom Gola a jack-of-all-trades guard for the Warriors; and Larry Costello the last great player to employ the two-hand set-shoot in the NBA. Mikkelsen was at the end of his career, though, while Gola and Costello have a few more All-NBA Teams to make in the early 1960s.

And last little thing: Bill Russell would have made the All-NBA 3rd Team in 1957 (his rookie year), but he missed a 1/3 of the season, while Clyde Lovellette missed just three games. Talent matters but so does court time.

1955-56 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Vern Mikkelsen Minneapolis Lakers 72 13.4 8.4 2.4 0.386 0.804 5.4 16.8
F George Yardley Fort Wayne Pistons 71 17.4 9.7 2.2 0.407 0.742 7.5 20.0
C Larry Foust Fort Wayne Pistons 72 16.2 9.0 1.8 0.447 0.778 11.1 23.8
G Tom Gola Philadelphia Warriors 68 10.8 9.1 5.9 0.412 0.733 6.5 16.7
G Carl Braun New York Knicks 72 15.4 3.6 4.6 0.372 0.838 3.6 15.2

1956-57 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Tom Heinsohn Boston Celtics 72 16.2 9.8 1.6 0.397 0.790 7.1 18.0
F Vern Mikkelsen Minneapolis Lakers 72 13.7 8.8 1.7 0.377 0.807 6.1 16.0
C Clyde Lovellette Minneapolis Lakers 69 20.8 13.5 2.0 0.426 0.717 8.2 21.9
G Jack Twyman Rochester Royals 72 16.3 4.9 1.7 0.439 0.760 8.8 17.0
G Carl Braun New York Knicks 72 13.9 3.6 3.6 0.381 0.809 3.7 13.8

1957-58 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Frank Ramsey Boston Celtics 69 16.5 7.3 2.4 0.419 0.811 10.0 19.5
F Paul Arizin Philadelphia Warriors 68 20.7 7.4 2.0 0.393 0.809 7.7 18.2
C Neil Johnston Philadelphia Warriors 71 19.5 11.1 2.3 0.429 0.819 11.3 22.5
G Larry Costello Syracuse Nationals 72 14.9 5.3 4.4 0.426 0.847 9.2 15.1
G Carl Braun New York Knicks 71 16.5 4.6 5.5 0.418 0.849 7.6 17.5

1958-59 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Kenny Sears New York Knicks 71 21.0 9.3 1.9 0.490 0.861 13.3 22.6
F Jack Twyman Rochester Royals 72 25.8 9.1 2.9 0.420 0.783 7.3 21.3
C Red Kerr Syracuse Nationals 72 17.8 14.0 2.0 0.441 0.766 8.7 19.4
G Larry Costello Syracuse Nationals 70 15.8 5.2 5.4 0.437 0.802 8.5 15.0
G Tom Gola Philadelphia Warriors 64 14.1 11.1 4.2 0.415 0.787 7.4 17.4

The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1953 through 1955

Three Cubs in a Row by Tambako the Jaguar (Flickr)
Three Cubs in a Row by Tambako the Jaguar (Flickr)

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams. From 1949-50 through 1954-55, the All-NBA teams were selected regardless of position, so the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams will follow that format for the appropriate seasons. Thereafter it will adhere to the current C, F, F, G, and G format.

The three All-NBA 3rd Teams presented below are the last to use a position-less format, one that I wish the NBA would return to. It forces voters to really pick out the best players, even if the best players skew toward several centers for example. Instead very good players get in over a great players on the All-NBA teams based purely on position.

Enough of my complaining.

A word of explanation, before the full teams are revealed, however, for Mel Hutchins and Slater Martin. They look like woeful selections considering their offensive output, but these guys – along with the versatile Jack Coleman – were premier defenders at their respective positions. The lack of recorded blocks and steals undermines their statistical argument, but their contemporaries hail them as defenders you’d much rather not come across.

1952-53 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
C Harry Gallatin New York Knicks 70 12.4 13.1 1.8 0.444 0.700 11.3 23.3
G Carl Braun New York Knicks 70 14.0 3.3 3.5 0.400 0.825 9.0 17.5
G Paul Seymour Syracuse Nationals 67 14.2 3.7 4.4 0.383 0.817 8.7 16.0
G Slater Martin Minneapolis Lakers 70 10.6 2.7 3.6 0.410 0.780 8.2 13.5
F Jim Pollard Minneapolis Lakers 66 13.0 6.8 3.5 0.357 0.769 4.6 16.0

1953-54 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
C Ray Felix Baltimore Bullets 72 17.6 13.1 1.1 0.417 0.638 8.6 22.9
C Larry Foust Fort Wayne Pistons 72 15.1 13.4 2.2 0.409 0.712 10.4 22.8
G Andy Phillip Fort Wayne Pistons 71 10.6 3.7 6.3 0.375 0.730 7.1 16.0
G Bob Davies Rochester Royals 72 12.3 2.7 4.5 0.371 0.719 7.7 18.0
G Bill Sharman Boston Celtics 72 16.0 3.5 3.2 0.450 0.844 10.4 18.6

1954-55 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
C Ed Macauley Boston Celtics 71 17.6 8.5 3.9 0.424 0.792 8.9 18.6
F Paul Arizin Philadelphia Warriors 72 21.0 9.4 2.9 0.399 0.776 8.7 18.2
F Mel Hutchins Fort Wayne Pistons 72 12.0 9.2 3.4 0.378 0.708 3.9 12.7
F Jack Coleman Rochester Royals 72 12.8 10.1 3.2 0.462 0.678 6.2 18.2
G Bob Davies Rochester Royals 72 12.1 2.8 4.9 0.415 0.751 5.2 18.5

The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1950 through 1952

Three meerkats by Tambako The Jaguar (Flickr)
Three meerkats by Tambako The Jaguar (Flickr)

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams. From 1949-50 through 1954-55, the All-NBA teams were selected regardless of position, so the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams will follow that format for the appropriate seasons. Thereafter it will adhere to the current C, F, F, G, and G format.

The first NBA season saw a league filled with 17 teams cobbled and put together from the NBL and BAA. By 1952, the number of clubs had fallen to 10. Below are my selections from those teams to roster the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams from those seasons.

1949-50 Season

Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
Andy Phillip Chicago Stags 65 11.7 N/A 5.8 0.349 0.704 7.7 N/A
Carl Braun New York Knicks 67 15.4 N/A 3.7 0.364 0.762 7.2 N/A
Bob Wanzer Rochester Royals 67 11.8 N/A 3.2 0.414 0.806 10.5 N/A
Kenny Sailors Denver Nuggets 57 17.3 N/A 4.0 0.349 0.721 3.7 N/A
Don Otten Tri-Cities Blackhawks / Washington Capitols 64 12.9 N/A 1.4 0.373 0.737 8.5 N/A

1950-51 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
C Arnie Risen Rochester Royals 66 16.3 12.0 2.4 0.401 0.734 9.3 N/A
C Harry Gallatin New York Knicks 66 12.8 12.1 2.7 0.416 0.732 7.6 N/A
F Paul Arizin Philadelphia Warriors 65 17.2 9.8 2.1 0.407 0.793 13.7 N/A
G Vince Boryla New York Knicks 66 14.9 3.8 2.8 0.406 0.837 7.4 N/A
G Bob Cousy Boston Celtics 69 15.6 6.9 4.9 0.352 0.756 3.9 N/A

1951-52 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
C Red Rocha Syracuse Nationals 66 12.9 8.3 1.9 0.401 0.770 7.8 15.2
C Harry Gallatin New York Knicks 66 11.2 10.0 1.7 0.442 0.806 8.9 22.0
G Fred Schaus Fort Wayne Pistons 62 14.1 7.0 4.0 0.361 0.833 6.8 16.4
G Slater Martin Minneapolis Lakers 66 9.3 3.5 3.8 0.375 0.747 6.3 10.8
F Jack Coleman Rochester Royals 66 11.2 10.5 3.2 0.415 0.710 5.0 15.5

 

The Lost MVPs: The 1954-55 NBA Season

Cheyenne Frontier Days Train - Pierce, Colorado by Jerry Huddleston (Flickr)

This is the final Lost MVP to award for the NBA. Starting the next season (1955-56), the league would hand out its first MVP award to the deserving Bob Pettit. Also of note, this is the first season of the shot clock. Team scores bumped up from 79 points a game in 1954 to 93 points a game this year. By 1962 the scores would reach a blistering 119 points a game. So this shot clock was kind of important and transformed how the game was played. In any event let’s see the best players of this first year in basketball’s new era.

#5 Bob Cousy – Boston Celtics (36-36)
All-NBA 1st Team
21.2 PPG, 7.8 APG, 6.0 RPG, .397% FG, .807 FT%

icousyb

Cousy had another one of his fantastic seasons of around 20 points, around 6 rebounds and around 7 assists. However, the Celtics continued a slide and funk that would not end until the 1956-57 season when the draft day trade for Bill Russell went down. The defense was too leaky and the league had caught on to their fastbreaking style. Still, Cousy is one of the NBA’s best and would win the NBA’s real-life MVP award in 1957.

#4 Bob Pettit – Milwaukee Hawks (26-46)
All-NBA 1st Team, Rookie of the Year
20.4 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, .407 FG%, .751 FT%

Basketball Players in Action at the Net

The dynamite Bob Pettit has arrived to the NBA. As a rookie, he’s already showing the hustle, drive, rebounding and shooting knack that would make him the first player to surpass 20,000 career points. Like Cousy, Pettit would snag a real life MVP – two of them in fact. His first came in 1956 and the second in 1959. But for now, he’d settle for Rookie of the Year and it’d take a couple of seasons to make the sad Hawks into a series NBA threat.

#3 Larry Foust – Fort Wayne Pistons (43-29)
All-NBA 1st Team
17.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, .487% FG, .766% FT

Larry Foust

Foust had all of the advanced metrics fans drooling in 1955… you know, if they had existed. He averaged a robust, but not overwhelming 17 points a game, but he did so shooting 48.7% from the field. This would be a new record for the NBA. He also snared 10 rebounds a game in just 32 minutes of action, easily the lowest minutes per game of the players on this rundown of MVP candidates. The Pistons would finish tied for the NBA’s best record with 43 wins and 29 losses.

#2 Neil Johnston – Philadelphia Warriors (33-39)
All-NBA 1st Team
22.7 PPG, 15.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, .440 FG%, .766 FT%

Neil Johnston
Neil Johnston

His case is familiar to the one presented last season, except the #1 player upped his ante and surpassed Johnston. Despite the second-place finish, Johnston continued to devastate the NBA with 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds a game. Both would lead the NBA this season and he’d finish fourth in FG%. The problem is that the Warriors again finished with a losing record at 33-39. This was an improvement over their last season, though, and the next year Philly would win the title. So, Johnston has the talent to win this award, his team just needed another piece to their puzzle – the addition of rookie Tom Gola – and Paul Arizin returning to full form from his Marine Corps hiatus.

#1 Dolph Schayes – Syracuse Nationals (43-29)
All-NBA 1st Team
18.5 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, .383 FG%, .833 FT%

Dolph drives

Like Foust’s Pistons, Schayes’s Nationals finished with 43 wins and 29 losses and he was the biggest reason why. In his seventh pro season, Schayes put up a new career-high of 18.5 points a game along with the typical 12 rebounds a night. His free throw shooting began a meteoric rise this season that culminated in several years at or just below 90% accuracy. Perhaps as reward for their owner, Dan Biasone, inventing the shot clock, the Nationals finally got over the hump and captured the 1955 NBA title. It was a one-point win in Game 7 over the Pistons.

The Lost MVPs: The 1953-54 NBA Season

The Passage of Time (Tony Verdu Cabo - Flickr)

This season is the end of an era.

The Minneapolis Lakers would capture their final title, their sixth in seven seasons. Their leader and the NBA’s marquee attraction, George Mikan, would retire thereafter. The end of the NBA’s first dynasty wasn’t the only remarkable ending. This would also mark the final season of the more deliberate, slower-paced brand of basketball that had dominated the NBA, and all of professional basketball, since its inception. Next season, the shot clock would be unveiled and the pace, stats, and possessions would all see significant bumps in response.

Without knowing it, this year’s NBA was sitting on a precipice. But before it  tumbled head first into a new era, let’s review the giants of this remarkable season.

#5 Harry Gallatin – New York Knicks (44-28)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
13.2 PPG, 15.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, .404 FG%, .784 FT%

Harry Gallatin
Harry Gallatin

Longtime Knicks’ center Harry Gallatin again cracks the MVP  top 5 standings with his best season as a pro. The 15.3 boards he snagged each night for New York were the second-highest ever in the NBA to that point. Gallatin got to that stellar mark by having the Knicks finally realizing playing their best frontcourt player as much as possible was actually a good thing. The 37 minutes per game were the highest of Gallatin’s career and one of only two times he played over 33 minutes a night for a whole season.

#4 George Mikan – Minneapolis Lakers (46-26)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
18.1 PPG, 14.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, .380 FG%, .777 FT%

Sport Mag Mikan

All good things have to come to an end. After four MVPs and a runner-up finish over the last 5 seasons, Mikan has finally become semi-mortal. His brand of mortality does still mean finishing second in the league in rebounds and fourth in points despite playing the fewest minutes of his career. Mikan was kept fresh (and perhaps on his toes) by the presence of rookie center Clyde Lovellette who would be a Hall of Famer in his own right. Mikan, however, remained the pivot man for Minneapolis and the Lakers finished, yet again, with the regular season’s best record and, yet again, captured the postseason title.

 

#3 Dolph Schayes – Syracuse Nationals (42-30)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
17.1 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, .380 FG%, .827 FT%

Dolph schayes mid

In truth, I view Mikan and Schayes as being in a tie, but I’ll hand Schayes a slight edge for this season.

Schayes had another one of his now-typical point forward seasons: lots of rebounding, lots of passing, lots of outside set shots that opposing big men didn’t really want to go out and defend. The Syracuse Nationals remained one of the NBA’s best team-oriented ball clubs, but Schayes had demonstrably become the focal point of their operation. The perennial contenders would be barely beaten by the Lakers for the title (a seven-game affair), in large part due to playoff injuries up and down the roster, including Schayes.

#2 Bob Cousy – Boston Celtics (42-30)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
19.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 7.2 APG, .385 FG%, .787 FT%

Bob Cousy
Bob Cousy

Settling for a second-straight second-place finish is Boston’s Hardwood Houdini. Leading the NBA in assists per game and finishing second in points per game, Cousy again proved his ability to distribute passes and destroy with a dizzying array of scoops, layups, twirling hooks and free throws. His continuing pole position, though, is symbolic of the Celtics in this era. Always great, but never great enough to capture the title (or MVP).

#1 Neil Johnston – Philadelphia Warriors (29-43)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
24.4 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, .449 FG%, .747 FT%

Neil Johnston
Neil Johnston

Yes, he’s on a sub-.500 team, but I’m still convinced Johnston was the NBA’s MVP this season. He logged an unbelievable 46 minutes a night for a pathetic team (outside Joe Graboski) that still managed to produce 29 wins. In the face of such a miserable cast, Johnston blew away the competition in points per game. His 24.4 were over five points ahead of Bob Cousy’s second-place 19.2.

The rebounds slipped from last season, (due to the arrival of Graboski) but Johnston still ranked amongst the top 10 in that category. His FG% was second in the league, which is a miracle of the highest order considering that once again there was no  one else to worry about offensively on this squad. The win shares he racked up also far outpaced all other players.

1952 Lost MVP Paul Arizin would return to Philly the next season providing a dynamic duo, but for this season Johnston was a man alone and the most valuable player of the NBA.

The Lost MVPs: The 1952-53 NBA Season

Ocean Sunset (Magnus Brath - Flickr)

Well, the 1952 MVP Paul Arizin is gone and in the Marines. In his absence the Philadelphia Warriors sunk into a terrible abyss, but they still fielded a new, dominating big man. At the top of the Eastern Division standings, Syracuse, New York and Boston all finished within a game of one another for the top spot.

Meanwhile out west things were in a Talking Heads mood: same as it ever was. Minneapolis and Rochester again finished in the top spots while the rest of the division was mired in perfectly average mediocrity. Naturally, the top flight MVP candidates emerged from these stellar teams, except the odd ball from Philadelphia who crashed the party.

#5 Dolph Schayes – Syracuse Nationals (47-24)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
17.8 PPG, 13 RPG, 3.2 APG, .367 FG%, .827 FT%

Dolph Schayes rebound

After a couple years of stagnation and even regression, Schayes has surged back to his typical form: outstanding outside shooting for a big man to go with some pretty gaudy rebounding numbers. The Nationals had finally given up on their “let’s not play our best player as much as possible” routine and naturally saw their record improve by 7 games over the previous season. That’s almost a win for each additional minute per game Schayes was given this year. Already an All-Star and great of his era, Schayes over the next few seasons would continue improving and cement his status as an all-time great.

#4  Ed Macauley – Boston Celtics (46-25)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
20.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, .452 FG%, .750 FT%,

Easy Ed

Easy Ed is basically on cruise control at this point. He again has perched himself at the 20 point-9 rebound-4 assist mark and the Celtics again impressed during the regular season. His excellence is seriously getting to the point of monotony. His offensive touch something taken for granted and unvarying constant for the Celtics.

#3 Neil Johnston – Philadelphia Warriors (12-57)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
22.3 PPG, 13.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, .452 FG%, .700 FT%

Neil Gabby Johnston

Well, here’s our victim of playing on an absolutely horrendous team this year. Neil Johnston clearly put together an amazing season as he led the league in PPG, win shares, and most amazingly FG% despite being the only real offensive threat on the Warriors. The defense didn’t have to focus on anyone but Johnston, yet he still went berserk. Without the services of 1952 MVP, Paul Arizin (DNP – Marine Corps), the lantern-faced Johnston filled the void with his devastating hook shot. Still, Philadelphia was basically talentless beyond Neil. A rough go for the NBA’s break out star of 1953.

#2 Bob Cousy – Boston Celtics (46-25)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
19.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 7.7 APG, .352 FG%, .816% FT

icousyb

By now, Cousy has become the focal point and dynamo powering the Boston offensive machine. Yet again, the Celtics led the league in points per game.  Cousy’s Boston teammates, Ed Macauley and Bill Sharman, would finish in the top six league-wide for PPG spurred on by Cooz’s league-leading 7.7 APG. Cousy himself was able to fill it up as well finishing 4th in PPG. A point guard who passed first but scored at will was a dangerous weapon in this NBA, but Cousy still falls short of #1 in the MVP race.

#1 George Mikan – Minneapolis Lakers (48-22)
All-NBA 1st Team, All-Star
20.6 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, .399 FG%, .780 FT%

Mikan and Kundla

After being narrowly edged out by Paul Arizin the year before, Mikan comes back to reclaim his throne as the NBA’s MVP – his fifth MVP in six seasons. His PPG again slipped this year to a new career-low, but it was still high enough for 2nd overall in the NBA. His rebounding was proving like boxed wine, however. His 14.4 boards per game set a new career-high and delivered his 2nd rebounding crown.

On the team front, the Lakers finished with NBA’s best record and would be tested by Fort Wayne in the Western Division Finals before thoroughly trouncing the Knicks in 5 games to capture yet another title, their 5th in the last 6 seasons.