Pro Hoops History HOF: Ed Sadowski

Ed Sadowski

Ed Sadowski

“A scowling brute of a man with close-cropped hair and a game face as belligerent as a clenched fist, Big Ed tallied most of his points with a sweeping right-handed hook shot that was virtually unstoppable. For sure he was virtually immobile and could shoot only with his right hand; the word was that if Sadowski ever had to feed himself with only his left hand, he’d starve to death.”

- Charley Rosen, The First Tip-Off

Ed Sadowski may have been completely unable to shoot any sort of shot left-handed, but when his right-handed hook was so devastating who needed a left hander? Especially considering by that point in Sadowski’s career he was an unmovable 6’5″ and 270 pounds. When the plodding and leviathan center planted himself, there was no way the opposition was going to move him.

Burgeoning obesity aside, Sadowski’s greatest claim to fame was his appearance in the first-ever BAA game on November 1, 1946. As player-coach, he led the Toronto Huskies against the New York Knicks. Big Ed paced all scorers with 18 points, but his Huskies lost 68-66. That defeat in Toronto was followed by another letdown in Cleveland at the hands of the Rebels. Thereafter the Huskies caught relative fire winning two of their next three games.

In the third match of that streak, a home crowd of 6500 fans saw Sadowski score 30 points as the Huskies rolled over the Providence Steamrollers, 85 to 68. The performance was the high-water mark of Big Ed’s Ontario tenure.

Just two weeks later in early December, Sadowski went AWOL and the Huskies suspended their high-priced big man. The disgruntled Sadowski complained he was overwhelmed by his duties as player and coach. He demanded that he – and his $10,000 salary – be traded to the Boston Celtics where he’d be reunited with his old college coach “Honey” Russell. Instead, Big Ed was traded to the Cleveland Rebels on December 16.

This gives Ed Sadowski the distinction of being the first player traded in the BAA’s history.

Although not very mobile on the court, Sadowski’s career was one of constant motion. Playing a truncated seven-year career, Sadwoski nonetheless suited up for seven different teams in the NBL, BAA, and NBA during the 1940s. The scowling Sadowski was a basketball mercenary and rode that mentality to a pretty successful career.

It all began in 1940 as Big Ed joined the Detroit Eagles of the NBL. That Eagles team finished 12-12 in league action with Sadowski leading the squad with 10.7 points per game. The team as a whole scored 40.5 points, so Ed was clearly the centerpiece of the offense with his swinging hook shot. Overall in the NBL, Sadowski finished 3rd in PPG and was 2nd in total points scored. He was the runaway selection for Rookie of the Year and was also named to the All-NBL 1st Team. In the playoffs, though, Sadowski, Buddy Jeannette, Robert Calihan and the Eagles ran into the superior Sheboygan Redskins. They lost their series 2-games-to-1.

Although ousted from the NBL playoffs, the Eagles did appear in an event just as noteworthy back in the 1940s: the World Professional Tournament (WPT). The NBL may have been the best pro league, but great pro teams still existed outside that association. The WPT brought together the best of the NBL, other leagues, and barnstormers to Chicago every spring. The Eagles stunned the tournament by upsetting the Harlem Globetrotters 37-36 (led by Sadowski’s 12 points) in the opening round. In the semi-finals, the Eagles again pulled a one-point upset, this time of the New York Rens, 43 to 42. Sadowski again led the way with 16 points. In the championship game against the Oshkosh All-Stars, Detroit knocked off the NBL champs 39-37 as Sadowski sparkled once more with 11 points.

Sadowski’s chance to repeat his big rookie season was nixed thanks to World War II. The big man served in the US Air Corps during those years and didn’t return to pro basketball until 1945.

The Fort Wayne Pistons signed Sadowski as a ringer before the lastgame of the 1944-45 regular season. Already possessing the NBL’s best record and the defending league champs, the Pistons wanted a guarantee they would score a repeat title performance. Sadowski proved to be quite the unnecessary insurance policy since this Pistons team might have been the greatest squad ever fielded in the NBL: Bob McDermott averaged an obscene 20 points a night alongside Buddy Jeannette, Jake Pelkington, Chick Reiser, and defensive madman Charley Shipp. As it turned out, the Pistons fell into an 0-2 series hole against Sheboygan in the Finals. Which is really bad when it was a best-of-5 series. Fortunately, Fort Wayne righted the ship and staged a comeback winning the next three games and the 1945 NBL title. And for the cherry on top, the Pistons won the 1945 WPT as well.

The next season, Fort Wayne returned all their principal players and Sadowski enjoyed his first full season of basketball since 1941. Big Ed averaged 9.6 PPG to finish second in scoring behind McDermott on the Pistons. The Indiana juggernaut again finished with the NBL’s best regular season record and looked to secure their third straight league title. There was to be no three-peat for the Pistons, though. The Rochester Royals spanked Sadowski’s team 3-games-to-1 in the semifinals.

For his part, Sadowski was easily Fort Wayne’s top performer scoring 14 points a game during the series, but McDermott went ice cold scoring just 6 points in the series as he was hounded by the defense of Rochester’s Al Cervi. As consolation, the Pistons did win the 1946 WPT, but Sadowski’s experience with the NBL was forever done. The next time he’d don a uniform would be for his ill-fated experience with the BAA’s Huskies.

After that situation blew up and he parachuted into Cleveland, Sadowski put together a fine campaign finishing 2nd in FG% and 3rd in PPG in the BAA’s first regular season. In the playoffs, he averaged 24 points on 39% shooting from the field and 79% shooting from the free throw line. Seems terrible today, but that kind of offensive efficiency was sterling in 1947. The runnin’ Rebels were no match for the New York Knicks, however, losing the series 2-games-to-1.

Suffering terrible finances and woeful attendance, the Rebels disbanded after the season and Sadowski finally landed in Boston thanks to the dispersal draft. Now at 30 years of age, Sadowski scored a career-high 19.4 PPG that season, led Boston to its first-ever playoff series, and was named to the All-BAA 1st Team. Sadowski had another big postseason with 20 points per game, but the Celtics were knocked off by the Chicago Stags.

The vagabond Sadowski moved on once more. The mercenary now traveled down the Atlantic Seaboard to play with the Philadelphia Warriors for the 1948-49 season. In this final year of the BAA, Big Ed teamed with “Jumpin’” Joe Fulks forming the highest scoring duo in that league’s short history. Sadowski averaged 15.3 points and Fulks 26. Any hopes for playoff success were dashed by an injury to Fulks and the Warriors were swept by the Washington Capitols.

In his final pro season, Sadowski split time between the Warriors and the Baltimore Bullets in the brand new NBA. The old heavy veteran still tossed up 12.5 points a night, but his days were numbered. Still, Sadowski could take comfort in the fact that during the 1940s, no other center (besides George Mikan) was better at scoring the basketball than he was. In fact, I’m sure he took comfort in that fact.

Years Played: 1940-41; 1945-1950

Accolades

NBL -
Champion (1945)
Rookie of the Year (1941)
All-NBL 1st Team (1941)
BAA -
All-BAA 1st Team (1948)
Other -
World Professional Basketball Tournament Champion (1941, 1945, 1946)

Statistics

NBL - 59 games
10.0 PPG, 67.9% FT
BAA - 160 games
16.9 PPG, 1.8 APG, 36.4% FG, 68.5% FT
NBA - 69 games
12.6 PPG, 2.0 APG, 32.4% FG, 73.5% FT

Contemporary BAA/NBA Ranks (1946-47 through 1949-50 season)
3rd Points, 4th PPG
3rd FGs Made, 18th FG%
4th FTs Made, 46th FT%
11th Assists, 35th APG
7th Games Played

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Posted in Pro Hoops History Hall of Fame

Floundering Foundry: The Pittsburgh Ironmen

The following article was contributed by David Pincus and originally appeared on his blog Broken Leagues. To see more of David’s work focusing on fantasy basketball, visit his blog and follow him on Twitter @brokenleagues.

(A mock-up of what the Ironmen logo should have looked like. Illustration courtesy of Matthew Wolff)

(A mock-up of what the Ironmen logo should have looked like. Illustration courtesy of Matthew Wolff)

Pittsburgh is one of the best sports cities in America. They have an historically-great football team, a thriving hockey team, and, at long last, a contending baseball team. Pittsburgh has so much going for it as a sports town that seemingly the only thing it lacks is an NBA franchise. But that wasn’t always the case. Way back in 1946, a year before Jackie Robinson appeared in a game and when Harry S. Truman was still president, Pittsburgh had an NBA team: the Ironmen.

Well, a BAA team technically. In 1946, the Basketball Association of America was launched with 11 charter franchises, and of those 11, only the Knicks, Celtics and Warriors are still around today. In 1949, the BAA absorbed the National Basketball League, and the partnership of the two leagues officially spawned the NBA. The Pittsburgh Ironmen was one of the eight original franchises that didn’t make the cut.

There’s not much to say about the Ironmen other than that they were terrible in virtually every way. At 15-45, they were the worst team in the league, and considering they were worst NBA team in the first year of its existence, when the league was in all likeliness at its absolute worst, the 1946-47 Ironmen could reasonably be considered the worst team — talent-wise — in NBA history. Of the 17 players who suited up for the Ironmen in their inaugural/last season, just four of them would play another year.

The team did make history of a sort by rostering both Roger and Noble Jorgensen, becoming the first NBA team to feature siblings. (Roger averaged 1.5 points per game, and Noble averaged 4.4 points per game. So if you’ve never heard of them, you’re excused.) Coulby Gunther led them in scoring with 14.1 points per game, which he accomplished despite shooting a ghastly 33.6% from the floor. And if you think that percentage is bad (and it is), you might be shocked to learn that his was the best on the team. Yes, the Pittsburgh Ironmen shot 27.1% from the field in 1947, and to indicate just how sucky pro basketball was at the time, the Ironmen were only the ninth-worst shooting team in the league. (The best? The Chicago Stags at 29.8%.)

The most notable player on the Ironmen roster was Pete Maravich’s father, Peter “Press” Maravich, who averaged 4.6 points per game in his lone NBA season. But the most notable person on the 1947 Ironmen, without question, was head coach Paul Birch, an asshole of a man who only got the gig because he’d been a star at the local Duquesne University.

How big an asshole was Birch? “Birch was his era’s Bobby Knight,” Dennis Purdy wrote in Kiss ‘Em Goodbye: An ESPN Treasury of Failed, Forgotten, and Departed Teams, “routinely screaming at and demeaning his players on the court, throwing basketballs at players’ heads during practice, and throwing punches at their heads as well during games. At halftime, Birch was known to throw chairs at his players in the locker room. … Birch’s aggression was hardly confined to his own charges. When he occasionally punched out an opposing player on the road, the crowd would invariably threaten to riot. … One time, when a crowd threatened to beat Birch, his players refused to help him. On more than one occasion, he punched out referees and opposing coaches.”

Want more?

Mark Kriegel — Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich:

After an overtime loss, Birch threatened Press with a $100 fine if he so much as came out of the shower. … In Chicago, Birch threw him up against a locker. The players broke it up before Birch could get off any punches. That’s not to say the coach didn’t hurt him, though. As the season wound down, and the Ironmen were left with just eight or nine men, Birch would keep Press on the bench for entire games.

Charley Rosen — No Blood, No Foul: A Novel:

I’d played against him way back when, and knew him as a fire-breathing perfectionist who cursed his teammates every time they missed a shot. He was also the dirtiest player I’d ever had the displeasure to encounter.

Richard Birch, Paul’s son, in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune:

He was Bobby Knight times 10. His modus operandi was fear and intimidation of everyone: referees, players, fans. That was his formula for success. He learned it very young and he never changed.

In essence, there was nothing even slightly redeeming about the Pittsburgh Ironmen. Their coach was a clown, their team was a joke, and the stadium that they played in, Duquesne Gardens, could only hold up to 7,000 people because it had been converted from a trolley car barn. The team did not return for a second season and it’s probably just as well. A lot of cities would love to have an NBA team, but Pittsburgh probably doesn’t need one nor does it want one, especially if it’s just going to be as dysfunctional as the last NBA team that called the steel city home.

Bullet Points:

  • The Knicks, Celtics and Warriors are considered the oldest NBA franchises, because the league recognizes itself as a continuation of the BAA. The oldest operating basketball team is really the Detroit Pistons though, who have been existence since 1941 when they joined the NBL as the “Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons.”
  • Pittsburgh did get an ABA team: the Pipers, who promptly moved to Minnesota after one year. In a bizarre turn of events, the Pipers moved back to Pittsburgh just one year later and later changed their name to the “Pittsburgh Condors.”
  • I only set out to write about the Ironmen because I was inspired by Matthew Wolff’s re-branded logo for them, which looks pretty awesome. Plus, I can’t imagine many people are writing about the Ironmen these days.
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Posted in A People's History, Franchise Retrospectives

Forever In His Prime

The following article was contributed by Sean Sylver. Sean is a writer, hoops fan and avid gardener who considers himself a Sikma-like presence in the paint. He lives in Boston, MA. You can follow him on Twitter at @sylverfox25.

Reggie LewisOn a chilly spring night in April 1993, the wood-paneled Magnavox console TV, its clunky dial tuned to TNT, beamed Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs between the Celtics and Hornets into our living room. I remember the lush green of the Boston Garden parquet floor, the bold teal of the Charlotte road uniforms as they took the court for their first ever playoff appearance, the excitement as my dad and I wondered if the Celtics could withstand the younger and more physical Hornets, led by Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning.

Our hopes no longer rested with Parish and McHale. Two-thirds of the Big Three were still intact, but they could hardly keep pace with LJ and Zo. The ‘93 Celtics were Reggie Lewis’ team. The lanky sixth-year swingman got off to a hot start, frustrating Kendall Gill with smooth dribble drives and pull-up jumpers. He used his lightning quick hands and feet to stifle the opposition and his length to haul down rebounds.  But with 6:26 left in the first quarter, Lewis suddenly dropped from the TV screen. The Celtics were playing four-on-five.

Where was Reggie?

Read more ›

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Posted in A People's History

The Longest Series Ever Played

The following article was contributed by John WIlmes. As you’ll see, he is a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls. Currently, you can can find John’s basketball writings at red94.com, a member of ESPN’s TrueHoop Network.

John Wayne doing the math of the longest series (20th Century Fox)

John Wayne doing the math of the longest series (20th Century Fox)

I was just eleven, when Michael won his sixth. I have only the most ephemeral, only the blurriest of recollections of John Paxson’s shot, when I was seven—but I’d certainly say I prefer it that way. You all had to watch Hoosiers, and pretend the whole thing happened for you, when you were my age. By the time I was ten, Paxson had morphed into Steve Kerr.

I grew up in Bullsdom — my formative memories are slathered in their tinges of triumph. I was privy to the some of the greatest basketball ever played; I was privy to the force it creates, to the favorable sense of gravity and confidence that such a mind-blowing form of awesomeness grants to the land around it, as if it were an earthquake of good will.

But the most fun I’ve ever had as a Bulls fan was when I was twenty-two, and living beyond the rim of that glory, hours west in Iowa City.

Read more ›

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Posted in A People's History

Air Jordan’s Signature Move

The following article was contributed by George Sands. A man with a marvelous collection of basketball items, George recounts his encounters with Michael Jordan during the 1980s. You can follow him on Twitter @georgesands58.

There will forever be a debate over who is the greatest NBA player of all time. There is no debate over whose autograph was most sought after in the 1980′s. With all due respect to Magic, Larry, Kareem, Doc, Nique and the rest, Michael Jordan”s was the most coveted.
I was lucky enough to get some of them.

Many people know that Michael Jordan got injured early in his second NBA season. What they might not know is that he was hurt in a game against the Warriors in Oakland. The Bulls’ next game was here in Los Angeles against the Clippers. I figured the next morning the Bulls would be having a shoot around and I went to their hotel hoping to catch them before they left.

It was always easier to get the players when they were leaving because they would come down to the lobby one or two at a time. Obviously, when they arrived everyone would get out of the bus at the same time and it was hard to get a lot of autographs.

When I arrived at their hotel, I didn’t see any sign of them. It could have one of three things:
1) They were at a different hotel
2) They weren’t in town yet, or
3) They already had left for the shootaround.

On top of that, I couldn’t be sure that Michael was even with the team. Since he was hurt, he could have gone back to Chicago or even stayed in Oakland for treatment. I waited what seemed like an eternity but was probably a little over an hour until the bus I was waiting for pulled up. All the players filed out and I let them pass without bothering them.

I was just waiting for one guy.

Michael Jordan 1985Finally, he walked into the hotel lobby on crutches! I said to myself, “I’m thrilled to see him but there is no way i am going to ask him to sign anything when he is on crutches.”

I guess my manners earned me some karma because he proceeded to walk to the hotel jacuzzi (followed by me and a couple others), put down the crutches, take off his shoes, and put his feet in the water. If I could run fast (which I couldn’t) and I was a thief (which I wasn’t) I probably could have taken those shoes.

He willingly signed our stuff.

By the next time I saw him, he was on a total of 19 cards. I put some in a little plastic box and headed for that same hotel. After about a half-hour I saw him in the lobby and gave him those cards. He said thanks and signed whatever I had for him. I hate to think what those cards I gave him are worth now.

Michael Jordan 1984

A happy MJ, before fame went to his head

For a few more years he remained a willing signer. Once, he came down to the lobby about a half-hour before the bus was supposed to leave and signed everyone’s stuff. Then he looked us in the eye and pointed at us and said:
“I don’t want to see any of you same people here when I get back.”

After he won his first ring he just got too popular and there was really no way to get near him but at least I had my chance.

Posted in A People's History

The Wild Night Patrick Ewing’s Jersey was Retired

The following article was contributed by Gary Levine. A self-described diehard and obsessed Knick fan, he recalls the strange and wild night he witnessed Patrick Ewing’s jersey retired on February 28, 2003. You can follow him on Twitter @gary_levine.

Pat EwingI’d say that my most memorable basketball moment came about 10 years ago, when Patrick Ewing’s jersey number was retired.

First some background – I was born in 1989, which means that I spent my young childhood watching Patrick Ewing.  While I don’t remember the Rockets championship series that well and I was very young for most of his Knicks career, I still grew up with Patrick Ewing being THE New York Knick.

Back to my story – I can’t remember if this was the tail end of Patrick’s playing days, or if he was already retired, but I will never forget the noise of that halftime ceremony.

“PA-TRICK EWING” rained down through the Garden crowd sending chills through my body.  This chant was a staple of the ’90s and the entire crowd was showing their appreciation for Ewing.  Now this ceremony alone should’ve made for a great night, but it wasn’t till the fourth quarter that this game became a game I’d never forget.

I attended the game with one of my family’s friend’s family.  It was a 13-year old me, their dad, and his two daughters (one was 13 and the other was 9 at the time). As the fourth quarter was winding down, their dad told us that he was going to bring the car to the front of the Garden to make leaving the stadium easier.

(Side note: I HATE the idea of “leaving early to beat traffic” in any sporting event. The 15 minutes of traffic that you save is never worth possibly missing a magical sports ending, but I was 13 at the time and went to the game with their family, so I had no choice in the matter).

Ed. Note: I concur. That’s lazy fandom. But back to Gary’s story…

Well, of course, the Knicks ended up taking the game to overtime and put us (three kids under 13, including two girls) in a weird situation regarding if we should leave or not. I finally gave in to leaving and about midway through the first OT we left our seats venturing out into NYC to find their dad.

Ah, being a 13-year old kid trying to work my way around NYC streets and find a random car was an interesting experience.

So, we left the Garden at the side entrance and came out to a completely different landscape than what we’ve ever seen before.  We now were lost in New York City.  My first instinct was that I needed to borrow a cell phone, since 13-year olds did not have cell phones 10 years ago, and call someone’s parents. We were 3 children walking around the streets asking to borrow a cell phone for a minute and got rejected by anyone that we asked.

Welcome to NYC.

Next step: find the correct entrance to the Garden.  Now the story gets even more interesting because on my way around the Garden we somehow bumped into Antonio McDyess.  Note that by this point the youngest girl I was with is already crying and they’re both getting pretty panicky. Of course, I completely ignore these emotions and my first instinct is to walk over to McDyess, ask for an autograph, and which direction is the front of the Garden.  He doesn’t really say anything back to me, but does sign my Patrick Ewing 33 Banner and points one way that we should go.

We finally make it to the front of the Garden and now we’re just standing on the sidewalk hoping that their dad will come pick us up. While waiting, I somehow spot his car in the middle of traffic and sprint into the street, bang on his window, and finally we are reunited.

When we get into the car and put on the radio to hear who won the game, we find out that the game is still going and is in 2OT.  Despite both girls still being emotional from wandering around lost for a while, I push hard to get their dad to park and go back into the stadium. We end up finding a parking spot,  the Garden allows us back in to the stadium and we get to sit and enjoy the Knicks win in 2OT.

The combination of Patrick Ewing jersey’s retirement, getting lost in Manhattan, randomly bumping into Antonio McDyess, and then making it back into the stadium to watch the Knicks win in 2OT is a memory that I will never forget.

______________________________________________________________________

Ed. Note: Highlights from that game – Tracy McGrady with 34 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds; Drew Gooden with 20 points and 18 rebounds; Latrell Sprewell with a triple double of 28 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists plus 5 steals; and Clarence Weatherspoon going for 18 points and 24 rebounds!

Posted in A People's History

The Lost MVPs: the 1946-47 BAA Season

kevin dooley (flickr)

kevin dooley (flickr)

Founded in 1946, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) for some crazy, inexplicable reason never handed out an MVP award.  When the BAA merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1949, the resulting NBA still  didn’t hand out an MVP award until 1955-56 when Bob Pettit became the inaugural winner of that award. Now, it’s not like the idea of a Most Valuable Player was new-fangled and the subject of a “Eureka!” moment.

No, sir.

The NBL had been founded in 1937 and had been handing out MVPs for the entire history of its existence. But the BAA and its crack team of officials never deigned to hand one out MVPs until ’56. They kept up their silly tradition during the first half-decade of the NBA’s existence.

In total this means that there are 9 MVPs that don’t exist. An historical vacuum that needs filling. Well, like the savory fruity goo in Fig Newtons, I’m here to fill in the gap. Starting with this article, I will over the ensuing weeks catalogue the leading candidates and declare an MVP winner for each of these seasons. Now, I will base my opinion on the facts and performances of each season, but in the end, it’s just my opinion on who the winner should have been. You’re welcomed to agree, disagree or just not give a hoot. Mostly, I  just hope I do justice to the players and the stories of these early BAA and NBA years.

Every season I will declare 5 finalists for the MVP (and maybe a few honorable mentions, if deemed necessary) and do a countdown to the winner. The rankings admittedly could be arbitrary. Some seasons the distance between the winner and runner-up will be microscopic (hello, George Mikan and Alex Groza!)and sometimes an enormous gulf. I hope my information and writing put across that kind of nuance.

So, here are the finalists and winner for the 1946-47 BAA MVP award!

#5 Ed Sadowski – Toronto Huskies / Cleveland Rebels
16.5 PPG, 0.9 APG, 36.9% FG, 66.8% FT, 11.8 Win Shares

Ed Sadowski, literally the BAA's poster boy

Ed Sadowski, literally the BAA’s poster boy

Big Ed Sadowski was the dominant pivot man of the 1947 season. After spending many fine years in the NBL, Sadowski appeared in the first BAA game (poster for the event pictured above). Big Ed would spend only 10 games with the Huskies before being traded to the Cleveland Rebels after basically quitting on the Huskies. The sad sordid exit explains why he isn’t higher on this list despite his domination of the pivot. The Rebels finished 30-30 and 3rd in the Western Division.

Sadowski’s scoring prowess placed him 3rd overall in PPG that season while his FG% was good enough for 2nd place. Pretty impressive considering Sadowski was 29 years old as the season began.

#4 Ernie Calverley – Providence Steamrollers
2nd Team All-BAA
14.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 29.3% FG, 70.3% FT, 5.5 win shares

Ernie Calverley

Calverley enjoyed his best professional season leading the BAA in assists per game (3.4) in pretty convincing fashion. The 2nd-place finisher was Cleveland’s Kenny Sailors with 2.3. A comparable event would have been Rajon Rondo leading the NBA in APG with 11.7 this past season but with the 2nd-place Steve Nash having only 7.9 APG.

Calverley also led the Steamrollers in scoring and finished 6th league-wide in PPG. The Steamrollers however weren’t as overpowering as their name suggested finishing with a middling 28-32 record and missing the playoffs. Still Calverley’s fine production and cavalier playmaking this season is worthy of this lofty placement.

#3 Max Zaslofsky – Chicago Stags
1st Team All-BAA
14.4 PPG, 0.7 APG, 32.9% FG, 73.7% FT, 9.6 win shares

Zaslofsky StagsThe 21-year old Zaslofsky led the Stags to the best record in the Western Division with a 39-22 record. The individual stats for this 6’2″ guard-forward were impressive, too.  Finishing 5th in points per game with 14.4 and also 6th in FT% with .737. By no means a bad debut for the Brooklyn native, but (much) better years were to come for him. For right now he’ll have to settle for the 4th best BAA player this season.

Ed. Note: Yes, I copped out and did a tie for #1

#1 Bob Feerick – Washington Capitols
1st Team All-BAA
16.8 PPG, 1.3 APG, 40.1% FG, 76.2% FT, 18.6 win shares

Bob Feerick

Bob Feerick

Sometimes it’s impossible to make a meaningful distinction between two players “valuableness” and that’s the case here. Feerick was the leading man on a Capitols squad coached by Red Auerbach that went 49-11 in tregular season. That amounts to a .816 win percentage and would equate to 67 wins in an 82-game schedule. That wouldn’t be matched until the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers.

The Capitols were a loaded squad, but Feerick was the best of them. He finished 2nd in the league in PPG and was the runaway winner in FG% while also finishing 4th in FT%. His win shares that season were also the most for any single player. Unsurprising given the mammoth win total of the Caps.

A well deserved co-MVP for Feerick who, along with Zaslofsky, deserves inclusion in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

#1 Joe Fulks – Philadelphia Warriors
1st Team All-BAA
23.2 PPG, 0.4 APG, 30.5% FG, 73% FT, 16.3 win shares

joe fulksThe other co-MVP for this season is Joe Fulks who presents the flip side of the arguments for Feerick in many regards. Feerick was marvelously efficient, which was possible given his supporting cast. Fulks meanwhile was a runner and a gunner.

He led the league in PPG, total points, field goal attempts, field goals made, free throw attempts and free throws made. He was  the Warriors offense that season. The proportional gulf between his 23.2 ppg and Feerick’s 2nd-place 16.8 ppg is the largest on record for the BAA and NBA.

And despite the Warriors going 35-25, Fulks finished just 2.3 win shares behind Feerick, whose team won 14 more games overall. Again, I can’t in good conscience declare one of these players better than the other this season, so they both get the MVP. It shows there is no set formula for MVP because they both got a share in wildly different fashions.

And for what it’s worth, Fulks’s Warriors would win the BAA title in the postseason.

Come on back next week where the MVP of the 1947-48 BAA season will be announced! In the meantime get the full story on Joe Fulks’s career.

(as always, the fantastic and wonderful Basketball-Reference made this exercise possible with its treasure trove of stats and standings. However BBR can only work with what it can access and stats from these early years are sometimes a pain to come by. For example rebounds weren’t even kept for half of the era being chronicled.)

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Posted in The Lost Awards
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