Pro Hoops History HOF: Warren Jabali

Warren Jabali

Warren Jabali

At a stocky 6’2″ and 200 lbs., Warren Jabali was one of the hardest players to guard and control in the ABA. Born Warren Armstrong, his changed surname means “the Rock” in Swahili and frankly it couldn’t have described him better. The name change occured toward the end of his career, but all throughout his life, Jabali exhibited an intensity on the court and off the court that often made people wary.

He was known as a merciless defender and averaged 2 steals per game in his career. His coaches wouldn’t hesitate to through him on any opposing guard or forward, no matter their height. If Jabali was on the court, you basically had the other teams best offensive guard and/or forward dutifully harassed

Despite his own short height, Jabali would fly in with reckless abandon to snare rebounds. Capturing the board, he would sprint down court and loved to throw down left-handed dunks – despite being right-handed. In the halfcourt setting, Jabali was absolutely too strong for opposing guards to contain and absolutely too fast and short for forwards to have any hope of slowing him down.

Jabali put his unqiue blend of talent and personality to immediate use in the ABA during his rookie season with the Oakland Oaks. Stacked with Rick Barry, Doug Moe, and Larry Brown, Jabali emerged as perhaps the team’s best player. That title was without dispute once Barry was lost to a knee injury early in the season. Averaging 21.5 points, 10 rebounds and 3.5 assists, Jabali was named the ABA’s Rookie of the Year and lead Oakland to a 60-18 record – best in the ABA.

In the playoffs, Jabali was outstanding. Averaging 29 points and 13 rebounds for the playoffs (and 33 points in the Finals), the 6’2″ guard led the Oaks to the ABA title and was easily named the MVP of the playoffs.

A sensational follow up season was in store for Warren as the Oaks moved to Washington, DC, and became the Capitols. He upped his production to averages of 23 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He was named to the first of his four All-Star games. But his season was cut short and his career altered by a knee injury.

Returning in the 1970-71 season with the Indiana Pacers, Jabali’s limitless versatility was perhaps overused. Indiana had won the 1970 ABA title, so clearly had a solid core in place with Mel Daniels, Roger Brown, and Freddie Lewis. Jabali was basically designated as a Swiss Army Knife sliding up and down the lineup plugging holes instead of having a firm role.

After that lone season in Indy, Jabali was picked up by the Floridians forming a dynamic backcourt with the equally short Mack Calvin. Jabali returned to his All-Star form with averages of 20 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. He also added a new wrinkle to his game: the three-point shot. His outside shooting had always been his biggest weakness, but in 1972 he led the ABA in three-pointers attempted while finishing fifth in percentage by nailing 36% of his downtown attempts.

Jabali was again on the move for the 1972-73 season. Landing with the Denver Rockets, Jabali’s unbounded athleticism was becoming a thing of the past. His rebounds fell to just 5 a game, but he still managed 17 points and 6.5 assists. Also, we finally get a glimpse at his steals totals since the ABA began tracking the stat this season. Warren swiped 2.1 per game.

In any event, 1973 proved Jabali’s last great season. At the All-Star Game, he secured MVP honors. But by the playoffs Rockets coach Alex Hannum had cooled on Jabali, drastically cutting his playing time.

What may have been Jabali’s undoing in pro basketball was his personality, the reaction others had to it, and his reaction to the reaction. No one in their right mind picked a fight with Jabali. During his vaunted rookie season, the firebrand stomped on an opponent and received a 15-game suspension.

More than that though, he was considered a radical black nationalist. After all, he had given up his born name of Armstrong for Jabali when he converted to Islam. Indeed, his outspoken beliefs made ABA management fearful of retaining him. In the 1974 season, Denver put Jabali on the waiver wire and no ABA team picked up the rest of that season.

A return to the ABA came in 1974-75 season for Warren with the San Diego Conquistadors, but he averaged an underwhelming (for himself) 12 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals a game. After those 62 games with the Qs, Jabali was done as a professional ball player.

Jabali explained his politics and seemingly aloof nature, but not many people in pro basketball wanted to take the time out – then or now – to fully grapple with the issues he saw swirling in sport and American society. In his later years, Jabali more keenly focused the rage he felt toward the injustices and became a devoted community organizer.

Even though his basketball career was spectacular, one wishes he had the same time and space to replicate his latter life solemn focus on to the court. Instead, injuries and personality curtailed the murky yet still amazing career of Warren Jabali.

Years Played: 1968-1975

Oakland Oaks

Accolades

ABA -
Champion (1969)
Playoff MVP (1969)
Rookie of the Year (1969)
All-ABA 1st Team (1973)
4x All-Star (1970, 1972-’74)
All-Star Game MVP (1973)

Statistics

ABA - 447 Games
17.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.0 SPG 43.1 FG%, 31.9% 3PT, 75.6% FT

All-Time ABA Ranks
24th Points, 26th PPG
28th FGs Made, 17th FTs Made
6th 3PTs Made, 13th 3PT%
9th Assists, 5th APG
11th Steals, 10th SPG
36th Rebounds
30th Minutes Played

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St. Louis Hawks Franchise History: 1956-57 through 1965-66

St. Louis Hawks 1960s

Championships: 1
Conference Titles: 4
Division Titles: 5

Regular Season Record: 425-355
Regular Season Win Percentage: 59.9%
Playoff Appearances: 9
Playoff Series Wins: 8
Playoff Record: 47-43

Welcome to the Glory Days of the Hawks franchise.

Behind 1959 NBA MVP Bob Pettit, the Hawks made the playoffs every year in this period except in 1962. They made the NBA Finals four times squaring off with the Boston Celtics on each occasion. In 1957 and 1961, the Hawks barely lost in dynamic 7-game slug fests. In 1958, Pettit scored 50 points (including 19 of  St. Louis’s last 21) in the decisive Game 6 to give the Hawks their only championship.

There was more to this club than the superb Pettit, however. Cliff Hagan roamed as his sidekick at forward flinging in his hook shot at will. In 1960, Pettit (26/17), Hagan (25/11) and Clyde Lovellette (21/11) became the only trio of teammates in NBA history to all average over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. At the end of this era, the buff and imposing Zelmo Beaty took over for Lovellette as the Hawks’ center. Reliable back ups in Chuck Share, Bill Bridges, and Ed Macauley provided these heavyweights with some in-game respite.

In the backcourt, Slater Martin was a defensive pest rarely seen. His reign of terror ended in 1960, but Lenny Wilkens picked up the slack as a floor general who unflappably delivered the ball to his high-scoring frontcourt.

The only thing that prevented the Hawks from enjoying even greater success in this period was owner Ben Kerner’s obsession with hiring and firing coaches. During this 10-year period, 10 different men served as head coach of the Hawks. Despite the revolving door of coaches, the St. Louis Hawks put together one of the best 10-year stretches in NBA history.

STARTING FIVE

C – Zelmo Beaty (1962-’66) – 299 Games
15.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 46.4% FG, 73.5% FT

F – Bob Pettit (1956-’65) – 648 Games
27.1 PPG, 16.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 43.9% FG, 76.5% FT

F – Cliff Hagan (1956-’66) – 745 Games
18.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.0 APG, 45.0% FG, 79.8% FT

G – Lenny Wilkens (1960-’66) – 395 Games
14.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.8 RPG, 41.4% FG, 74.5% FT

G – Slater Martin (1956-’60) – 248 Games
9.7 PPG, 4.5 APG, 3.7 RPG, 34.3% FG, 76.1% FT

BENCH

C – Clyde Lovellette (1958-’62) – 245 Games
19.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 46.1% FG, 82.5% FT

G – Richie Guerin (1963-’66) – 215 Games
14.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.3 RPG, 42.1% FG, 80.3% FT

C – Chuck Share (1956-’59) – 216 Games
8.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 40.9% FG, 68.7% FT

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Boston Celtics Franchise History: 1966-67 through 1975-76

Boston Celtics

Championships: 4
Conference Titles: 4
Division Titles: 5

Regular Season Record: 534-285
Regular Season Win Percentage: 65.2%
Playoff Appearances: 8
Playoff Series Wins: 16
Playoff Record: 70-47

Entering the 1966-67 season, the Boston Celtics had appeared in 10 straight NBA Finals winning all but one of them. However, the 1966 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers showed that the Celtics had much to be concerned about. Up 3-games-to-1, the Celtics blew the series lead to the Lakers. In the decisive Game 7, the also blew a 16-point 4th quarter lead, but barely won the game 95 to 93.

Those 10 straight Finals appearances seemed to put tremendous strain on Boston. If they were to win a 10th title, they would have to withstand not only their talented opponents, but the wear and tear of endless playoff runs. They would also have to withstand the loss of Red Auerbach, who had coached the franchise since the 1950-51 season. In Red’s place, Bill Russell would be the first black coach in American sports while still retaining his place as the key player on the team.

As usual, the Celtics retooled for their latest title run. Don Nelson, who had been cut by the Lakers, was actually added prior to the 1965-66 season, but he would play a larger role going forward as a key scorer off the bench. Just as valuable would be a trade with Baltimore. The Celtics acquired Bailey Howell, an All-Star caliber forward, who could relieve some scoring pressure off of Sam Jones and John Havlicek. It should also be noted that point guard Larry Siegfried had fully matured into a capable and cool-handed player ready to take over the starting job from KC Jones.

The additions and the development provided Boston with 60 wins in the 1967 regular season. However, they finished 2nd in the East behind the 68-win Philadelphia 76ers. Concerned but not alarmed, Boston seemed sure to retain the title when playoff time rolled around.

Instead they got rolled on by the 76ers.

In a stunning rout, the Sixers beat Boston 4-games-to-1 in the East Finals, including a 140-116 demolition derby in the final game. Philly fans, weathered by years of defeat against Boston, jubilantly chanted “Boston’s Dead” as Game 5 came to a close. The Sixers led by Wilt Chamberlain went on to win the championship, the first non-Celtics club to do so since 1958.

A repeat affair seemed to be in the offing for the 1967-68 season.

Again, Philly finished first in the East. And again they had Boston pummeled. Up 3-games-to-1 in the East Finals, Philly looked to easily repeat as champions. Pissed at the circumstances, John Havlicek strode into the locker room prior to Game 5 and wrote a simple word on the chalkboard…

PRIDE

It may seem straight from a Disney film, but the tactic amazingly worked as Boston stormed back to become the first team to ever dig themselves out of a 3-1 hole and win a series. In the Finals, the Celtics and Havlicek showed no let up. They dispatched familiar foe Los Angeles in six games. Hondo averaged 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in the series. In Game 6 he made sure to bury the Lakers with a 40-point performance. Howell chipped in a cool 30 points to aid the effort.

The 1968-69 season would prove just as, if not more, daunting for the Celtics. The New York Knicks were coalescing into a title contender with Willis Reed and Walt Frazier leading the way. The Baltimore Bullets were doing the same with Wes Unseld and Earl Monroe. The 76ers seemed to take a step back after trading Chamberlain, but Billy Cunningham turned in a spectacular season to keep them afloat. The toughened East meant Boston finished 4th place, snagging the last playoff spot.

In a mild upset, the Celtics defeated the Sixers 4-1 to advance to the East Finals against the heavily-favored Knicks. Boston stunned the NBA by defeating New York in six games. It was a close victory though. Boston’s Game 4 and Game 6 wins were each by a single point. Nonetheless, Boston moved on to the championship round.

The Finals seemed to setup the perfect culmination for this era of Celtics basketball. Boston’s two longtime foes the Lakers of West and Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain had combined forces the previous summer and seemed destined to definitively end the Russell Celtics. Jerry West (38 PPG, 7.5 APG) and John Havlicek (28 PPG, 11 RPG, played every minute of the Finals) battled all series providing amazing performances. The turning point, however, came in Game 4 courtesy of Sam Jones who would retire after the series finished.

With LA looking to take a 3-1 series lead, Boston was down 88-87 with barely a second left in the game. With possession, Boston inbounded the ball and Jones caught the pass tossing up a haggard runner that rolled around the rim before settling through the net. The win gave Boston the breathing room to eventually force a Game 7 on the Lakers’ home court. That (in)famous game ended 108-106 in Boston’s favor thanks in no small part to a Don Nelson jumper near the game’s end that hit the back iron and sailed three feet straight into the air before going through the hoop.

With 11 titles in 13 years, Bill Russell officially retired from the NBA and Boston had to retool.

A New Big 3

1970s Celtics

Jo Jo White, Don Chaney, John Havlicek, and Don Nelson lined up for action against Milwaukee

With Russell and Jones retired, the Celtics stumbled in 1969-70 missing the playoffs for the first time in two decades. For the 1970-71 season, Boston again missed the postseason, but there was undeniable improvement and retooling in effect. First off they improved from 34 to 44 wins. Secondly, Boston drafted Jo Jo White (in 1969) and Dave Cowens (1970) to form a new Big 3 to go along with the venerable Havlicek. With Tom Sanders, the brilliant defensive forward Don Chaney and instant bench offense extraordinaire Don Nelson still in the fold, Boston would look to make a big splash in the 1971-72 campaign.

With 56 wins, Boston captured the 1972 Atlantic Division crown, but fell to the New York Knicks in the Conference Finals. Undeterred, the next season Boston won an astounding 68 games, the best in the entire history of the franchise spurred by the acquisition of forward Paul Silas to bolster frontcourt defense and rebounding. Cowens meanwhile was named league MVP and Boston got a rematch with the Knicks in the Conference Finals. However, a shoulder injury to John Havlicek derailed their return to championship glory. The series ended with Boston’s first Game 7 loss on their homecourt.

Falling back to 56 wins in the 1973-74 campaign, Boston more importantly maintained its health while adding rookie guard Paul Westphal. In their third straight matchup with the Knicks in the ECF, the Celtics finally demolished their foe in a 4-1 series victory. Havlicek in particular relished the rematch as he averaged 30 points in the five-game series.

Returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1969, the Celtics faced off against the Milwaukee Bucks of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The series see-sawed back and forth with neither team winning back-to-back games. The classic series is famous for Cowens diving like a mad man to gather a loose ball on the court and for Kareem nailing a game-winning, last-second skyhook in Game 6. In the end, Boston took the series in seven games and John Havlicek took the honors of Finals MVP.

Boston failed to repeat as champs in 1975, despite winning 60 games in the regular season. But in 1976, after trading Westphal for all-star guard Charlie Scott, they struck back with their second title in three years. That 4-2 series victory over the Phoenix Suns was again a classic, especially the triple overtime Game 5. Best remembered for Suns forward Gar Heard’s unbelievable turnaround jumper, Havlicek and especially Jo Jo White were just as heroic in their efforts to deliver Boston a win. White for his efforts was named the MVP of the 1976 Finals.

Boston’s latest Big 3 of Cowens, White, and Havlicek augmented by Nelson and Silas had done admirably well to restore Boston’s NBA dominance. But as the Celtics prepared for the 1976-77 season, change was again afoot. Silas was traded to Denver. The timeless Havlicek was finally nearing retirement.

As Boston entered its next decade it’d have to figure out to bridge another gap from one title-winning core to another.

STARTING FIVE

C – Dave Cowens (1970-’76) – 465 Games
19.1 PPG, 15.5 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 45.6% FG, 76.5%

C – Bill Russell (1966-’69) – 236 Games
11.9 PPG, 19.6 RPG, 5.1 APG, 43.8% FG, 56.0% FT

F – John Havlicek (1966-’76) – 803 Games
22.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 44.6% FG, 83.0% FT

F – Don Nelson (1966-’76) – 797 Games
11.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 48.9% FG, 77.8% FT

G – Jo Jo White (1969-’76) – 542 Games
19.0 PPG, 5.1 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 44.6% FG, 82.1%FT

BENCH

F – Paul Silas (1972-’76) – 325 Games
11.5 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 43.9% FG, 72.5% FT

F – Bailey Howell (1966-’70) – 323 Games
18.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 48.0% FG, 73.9% FT

F – Don Chaney (1968-’75) – 485 Games
10.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 45.0% FG, 77.4% FT

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Boston Celtics Franchise History: 1956-57 through 1965-66

Boston Celtics

Championships: 9
Conference Titles: 10
Division Titles: 9

Regular Season Record: 554-216
Regular Season Win Percentage: 71.9%
Playoff Appearances: 10
Playoff Series Wins: 20
Playoff Record: 81-41

After four years of abject mediocrity in the 1940s, the Celtics stumbled upon the Big 3 of Bob Cousy, Ed Macauley, and Bill Sharman. Their combined offensive genius hit the end of the road in 1956. Macauley was sacrificed to St. Louis in the Russell trade. Sharman and Cousy, however, remained on board for this new era.

Trading for Bill Russell in the spring of 1956 wound up the biggest move in building a title contender. But it was certainly not the only move.

Arnie Risen, Jack Nichols, and Andy Phillip were three key veterans at the end of their career who would provide know-how and timely reserve minutes to spur on their younger teammates. Risen was a former All-Star center traded by the Rochester Royals to Boston for cash in the fall of 1955. He in particular nurtured the young Bill Russell and taught him the fine points of playing as an NBA center. Nichols was a tough rebounding forward also nearing the end of his career, but had been with Boston since 1953. Phillip, another former All-Star, was brought in to back up Cousy in 1956. These cagey vets would be augmented by a bevy of young up-and-comers.

Russell was the cream of the young Celtics crop. However, he didn’t join the team until December 1956 as he played for Team USA in the 1956 Summer Olympics – held in Australia, hence the odd timing for those in the Northern Hemisphere.

When Russell finally joined the Celtics, they were an NBA best 16-8 thanks to the aid of fellow rookie Tom Heinsohn and the blossoming of Jim Loscutoff and Frank Ramsey. Heinsohn and Ramsey were scoring machines, but delivered the offensive fireworks at different times. Heinsohn was in the starting lineup, while Ramsey came off the bench. Meanwhile, Loscutoff was the burliest power forward you could ever meet. Never afraid to rough up other players, Loscutoff more than earned the nickname “Jungle Jim”.

This formula of in-their-prime stars (Cousy, Sharman) with cagey vets looking for a title (Risen, Nichols, Phillip) and hungry youngsters (Russell, Heinsohn, Loscutoff, Ramsey) would be the formula to see Boston to many titles over the next decade.

Heading into the 1956-57 playoffs, the Celtics exorcised past demons by sweeping the Syracuse Nationals in the Eastern Division Finals. Remember, these were the same Syracuse Nats that had beaten Boston in the previous four postseasons. In the Finals, the Celtics matched up with the St. Louis Hawks. Led by Bob Pettit, the Hawks also underwent a dramatic transformation in 1956 by acquiring Macauley and Cliff Hagan from Boston and Slater Martin from the New York Knicks. All four of these men would become Hall of Famers.

In Game 1 of the series, St. Louis won 125-123 in double overtime on Boston’s home court. Several exciting games followed, culminating with a Game 7 victory by Boston. The score? 125-123 in double overtime. Clearly the series could have gone either way and Boston was fortunate to escape with its first title.

Over the next four seasons, Boston and St. Louis would play in three more championship bouts attempting to settle who the NBA’s foremost franchise was. The Hawks quickly struck back winning the 1958 title over Boston. In 1960, the rubber match went to seven game before Boston subdued the Hawks. By 1961, it was clear Boston was winning the arms race with the Missouri ball club. The Celtics routed St. Louis in five games.

With four championships in five years, the Celtics asserted themselves as the first class team of the NBA. Young faces like K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, and Tom “Satch” Sanders stepped in to replace and relieve retiring veterans seamlessly keeping the green machine running. Likewise, as old enemies faded (the Hawks and Nationals) new ones appeared in the Philadelphia Warriors featuring Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers with Elgin Baylor and Jerry West.

These two challengers nearly dethroned Boston in 1962.

The Celtics survived the Warriors’ onslaught, 109-107, in Game 7 of the Eastern Division Finals. In the NBA Finals, Boston escaped the Lakers in Game 7 by a final score of 110-107 in overtime. The road to the title in 1963 proved nearly as difficult. The upstart Cincinnati Royals, led by Oscar Robertson, pushed Boston to seven games in the East Finals. Sam Jones (47 points) and the Big O (43 points) gave a duel for the ages that Boston won 142-131. In the NBA Finals, Boston again faced the Lakers. And again they won the title by a tiny margin. The decisive Game 6 ended 112 to 109 in favor of Boston.

That would be Bob Cousy’s final game as a Celtic.

New Era, Same Results

Hondo and Russ

Typically, Boston bid farewell to a key piece but had other men ready to step in. For the 1963-64 season veteran ringers in Willie Naulls and Clyde Lovellette beefed up Boston’s frontcourt while Larry Siegfried was rescued from obscurity to help sop up some of the point guard minutes with Cousy gone. Perhaps most important of all, John Havlicek, a second-year forward, blossomed as a sixth man extraordinaire. By the time “Hondo” retired in 1978, he would be the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer. In fact, he still is.

As these changes and new faces took their place, the constant was Bill Russell. His basketball genius did not remain constant, though. His defense, shot-blocking, and rebounding were as spectacular as ever, but now his offensive game grew to new heights to replace some of the magic lost by Cousy’s retirement. By 1966, Russell had been flirting with 5 APG for 5 straight seasons making him one of the league’s premier passers among big men equaled only by Wilt Chamberlain and Johnny Kerr.

Speaking of Wilt, the Celtics defeated his San Francisco Warriors in 1964 for Boston’s first post-Cousy title. After a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers, the following season, Chamberlain was again bounced by Boston in the Eastern Finals. With his growing collection of championship hardware, Russell became the poster boy for team play and team success juxtaposed to Wilt’s seemingly selfish play. Even the Lakers duo of West and Baylor seemed to be a misguided one-two punch never able to knock out the invincible Celtics. At least that’s how some media would tell the story.

Looking closely at the Celtics over this span strips away the veneer of undisputed, easy dominance. Intricate examination actually reveals cracks in the façade, especially by 1966.

For the first time since 1957, Boston did not finish with the NBA’s best regular season record in that 1965-66 season. In the playoffs, they were pushed to brink by the Royals and then again by the Lakers in the Finals. After going up 3-games-to-1, the Celtics escaped with another title thanks to a 95-93 victory in Game 7 over Los Angeles. That razor thin win prevented one of the largest collapses in playoff history, especially considering the Lakers were down 16 points entering the fourth quarter.

During that nearly catastrophic Finals series, Auerbach made it official that Bill Russell would succeed him as Celtics coach for the 1966-67 season. That would make Russell the first black coach in major American pro sports. But after nine titles in 10 seasons, could Boston maintain its ridiculous run under a new coach and with age creeping up on its most important player?

STARTING FIVE

C – Bill Russell (1956-’66) – 727 Games
16.1 PPG, 23.4 RPG, 4.0 APG, 44.0% FG, 56.1% FT

F – Tom Heinsohn (1956-’65) – 654 Games
18.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 40.5% FG, 79.0% FT

F – Frank Ramsey (1956-’64) – 559 Games
13.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 40.0% FG, 81.0% FT

G – Sam Jones (1957-’66) – 656 Games
17.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 45.7% FG, 79.4%

G – Bob Cousy (1956-’63) – 496 Games
17.7 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.3 RPG, 37.9% FG, 80.0% FT

BENCH

G – Bill Sharman (1956-’61) – 334 Games
19.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 42.5% FG, 90.4% FT

G – KC Jones (1958-’66) – 598 Games
7.6 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.6 RPG, 38.6% FG, 64.9% FT

F – John Havlicek (1962-’66) – 306 Games
17.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.7 APG, 41.4% FG, 75.3% FT

F – Tom “Satch” Sanders (1960-’66) – 460 Games
10.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 43.2% FG, 74.6% FT

F – Jim Loscutoff (1956-’64) – 440 Games
5.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.7 APG, 34.2% FG, 64.6% FT

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Boston Celtics Franchise History: 1946-47 through 1955-56

Celtics 1940s

Championships: 0
Conference Titles: 0
Division Titles: 0

Regular Season Record: 330-328
Regular Season Win Percentage: 50.2%
Playoff Appearances: 7
Playoff Series Wins: 2
Playoff Record: 9-16

Later synonymous with championship success, the early years of the Boston Celtics were abysmal. During their first four seasons (3 in the BAA, 1 in the NBA) the Celtics failed to post a winning record and made the playoffs once. The only player who demanded any attention for on-court ability was the leviathan Ed Sadowski who averaged 19.4 PPG and made the All-BAA 1st Team in 1947-48, the lone season Boston made the playoffs.

At least future TV star Chuck Connors shattered the backboard in the Celtics’ very first game back in 1946. Not from a dunk though. The Rifleman actor just happened throw a halfcourt shot way too hard during warm ups. The frantic search for a new backboard took a couple of hours clearly delaying the game.

Boston would have been staggering aimlessly if not for the momentous 1950 offseason. Arnold “Red” Auerbach was hired as coach and the well-known Celtic luck began to work its magic.

For starters, the Celtics shook up the NBA by drafting the first black player in league history. Owner Walter Brown informed the league he was taking Chuck Cooper. When informed of Cooper’s skin tone, Brown said he didn’t care if Cooper was one of any variety of colors, he was Boston’s selection.

In late August 1950, the disbanded St. Louis Bombers had their roster dispersed across the league via a draft. The Celtics fortunately secured the big prize from the defunct roster: lanky offensive center Ed Macauley. “Easy Ed” would go on to a marvelous career blending quick hook shots with timely passing. He’d lead the league in field goal percentage twice and was the MVP of the NBA’s 1st All-Star Game in 1951.

In October 1950, luck struck again after the Chicago Stags also went belly up. With the center spot secure with Macauley, Boston desperately needed a guard. Chicago had two of the premier guards: Max Zaslofsky and Andy Phillip. Zaslofsky was the big prize, while Phillip would be no disappointing consolation. However, Boston got into a tussle with the New York Knicks and Philadelphia Warriors on who got to pick when. Fed up, Commissioner Maurice Podoloff simply wrote the team names on scraps of paper and drew them from a hat to determine selection order.

New York won the pull and smugly selected Zaslofsky. Philadelphia was pulled next and happily took Phillip. Boston was the odd man out and had to select the third guard on the roster, someone Red Auerbach had passed over in the college draft back in April. Auerbach didn’t just pass on him, though. He defended the move to local Boston press deriding the player as some “local yokel”. The Local Yokel eventually wound up being the NBA’s MVP and led the league in assists eight straight seasons.

Yep, it was Bob Cousy,

Macauley, Cousy, and Cooper under the coaching of Auerbach propelled Boston to a 39-30 record for the 1950-51 season. It was easily Boston’s best season to that point. In April of 1951, the Celtics made the first of what would be innumerable trade swindles. They traded center Chuck Share to the Fort Wayne Pistons for guard Bill Sharman. Although Sharman would go on to greatly mold the shooting guard role in basketball, he was hardly someone to cherish at that point. He had averaged 12 PPG in just 31 games for the Washington Capitols. Sharman had played 10 times as many minor league baseball games than NBA games to that point.  It was only the good word and advice of Bones McKinney – Auerbach’s trusted friend and Sharman’s old coach and teammate with the Caps – that led Boston to acquire Sharman.

Soon enough Sharman gelled with Macauley and Cousy to form Boston’s first Big 3.The Celtics became the league’s most exciting offensive show. By 1955 the Celtics offensive output was superb thanks to their Big 3…

Cousy: 21 PPG, 8 APG, 6 RPG
Macauley: 17.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 4 APG
Sharman: 18.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4 APG

However, a new theme would develop to haunt Boston: painful playoff heartache. In 1951 and 1952 the Celtics were defeated by the New York Knicks. In 1953, 1954, 1955, and 1956 the C’s were bounced by the Syracuse Nationals. The final defeat, a 102-97 loss on their home court to Syracuse, put Boston at a crossroads in the spring of 1956.

With six straight postseason disappointments, Boston was panned as a run-and-gun team. They were all offense with no defensive or mental resiliency to advance to the Finals. Auerbach knew there was a truth to the critique. In 1956, Boston led the NBA in points scored with 106 but also gave up a league-leading 105 points a game.

A shakeup was needed to give Boston a defensive edge. Auerbach wanted the offensive fire, but he wanted fueled by a center who could sweep the boards and kick-start a fastbreak. As great an offensive center as Macauley was, he was never a great rebounder. Good rebounder, but not great.

So, during the 1956 draft, Auerbach orchestrated a trade sending Macauley and the draft rights to Cliff Hagan on to the St. Louis Hawks for the draft rights to Bill Russell. That was the biggest move of a 1956 offseason that saw Boston go from also-ran to potential dynasty. That same trade also wound up jolting the Hawks into potential dynasty mode, too.

Over the next few seasons, the two clubs would vie for NBA supremacy.

STARTING FIVE

C – Ed Macauley (1950-’56) – 416 Games
18.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 44.7% FG, 77.4% FT

F – Jack Nichols (1954-’56) – 124 Games
12.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 39.8% FG, 78.6% FT

F – Chuck Cooper (1950-’54) – 272 Games
6.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 34.1% FG, 73.9% FT

G – Bill Sharman (1951-’56) – 346 Games
16.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 43.1% FG, 86.4% FT

G – Bob Cousy (1950-’56) – 421 Games
19.4 PPG, 7.2 APG, 6.3 RPG, 36.9% FG, 80.6% FT

BENCH

F – Don Barksdale (1953-’55) –  135 Games
9.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 38.0% FG, 65.5% FT

F – Bob Donham (1950-’54) – 273 Games
6.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 48.0% FG, 50.7% FT

C – Ed Sadowski (1947-’48) – 47 Games
19.4 PPG, 1.6 APG, 32.3% FG, 69.7% FT

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Posted in Franchise Honorees

The NBA Record Book… in 1964

a bunch of dusty books (via Flickr user colinwood0)

a bunch of dusty books (via Flickr user colinwood0)

The conclusion of the 1963-64 season is a great one to take stock of the NBA. The league had just completed its 15th season and Bill Russell was midway through his career. Ditto for the Celtics Dynasty. Just as important, symbolically at least, was the retirement of Dolph Schayes. Schayes had begun his pro career before there was an NBA and when stepped away from the game in 1964, he was the league’s all-time leader in games played. Other venerable players such as Bill Sharman, Bob Cousy, and Bob Pettit were either retired or had just a very short time left before doing so.

Lastly, this peek also allows us to see some all-time greats like George Yardley, Paul Arizin, and even George Mikan on an actual all-time list before prolonged player careers swamped them from the record books…

GAMES PLAYED

Rank Player Games Played
1 Dolph Schayes 996
2 Bob Cousy 917
3 Joe Graboski 762
4 Red Kerr 754
5 Larry Foust 745
6 Slater Martin 745
7 Bob Pettit 742
8 Dick McGuire 738
9 Paul Arizin 713
10 Bill Sharman 711
11 Clyde Lovellette 704
12 Vern Mikkelsen 699
13 Gene Shue 699
14 Carl Braun 684
15 Jack Twyman 670
16 Ed Macauley 641
17 Ray Felix 637
18 Jack Coleman 633
19 Harry Gallatin 630
20 Frank Ramsey 623
21 Paul Seymour 600
22 Richie Guerin 596
23 Cliff Hagan 594
24 Tom Heinsohn 587
25 Arnie Risen 577

MINUTES PLAYED (stat not kept until 1951-52 season)

Rank Player Minutes Played Games MPG
1 Bob Cousy 30131 917 35.5
2 Dolph Schayes 29800 996 34.4
3 Bob Pettit 28936 742 39
4 Paul Arizin 24897 713 38.4
5 Bill Russell 24333 571 42.6
6 Red Kerr 24204 754 32.1
7 Gene Shue 23338 699 33.4
8 Jack Twyman 22968 670 34.3
9 Joe Graboski 22197 762 31.5
10 Slater Martin 21889 745 35.9
11 Bill Sharman 21793 711 32
12 Richie Guerin 20597 596 34.6
13 Larry Foust 19926 745 29.4
14 Tom Gola 19675 547 36
15 Clyde Lovellette 19075 704 27.1
16 Wilt Chamberlain 18488 391 47.3
17 Vern Mikkelsen 18443 699 32.5
18 Carl Braun 18409 684 29.8
19 Neil Johnston 18298 516 35.5
20 Cliff Hagan 18141 594 30.5
21 Ed Macauley 18071 641 35.7
22 Larry Costello 17763 565 31.4
23 Willie Naulls 17722 574 30.9
24 Tom Heinsohn 17548 419 29.9
25 Elgin Baylor 17524 587 41.8

POINTS

Rank Player Points Games PPG
1 Bob Pettit 19756 742 26.6
2 Dolph Schayes 18438 996 18.5
3 Bob Cousy 16955 917 18.5
4 Wilt Chamberlain 16303 391 41.7
5 Paul Arizin 16266 713 22.8
6 Jack Twyman 14141 670 21.1
7 Elgin Baylor 12892 419 30.8
8 Bill Sharman 12665 711 17.8
9 Clyde Lovellette 11947 704 17
10 Cliff Hagan 11433 594 19.3
11 Richie Guerin 11415 596 19.2
12 Tom Heinsohn 11282 587 19.2
13 Ed Macauley 11234 641 17.5
14 Red Kerr 11045 754 14.6
15 Larry Foust 10321 745 13.9
16 Gene Shue 10068 699 14.4
17 Vern Mikkelsen 10063 699 14.4
18 Neil Johnston 10023 516 19.4
19 Willie Naulls 9798 574 17.1
20 Bill Russell 9601 571 16.8
21 Oscar Robertson 9341 309 30.2
22 Carl Braun 9144 684 13.4
23 George Yardley 9063 472 19.2
24 Joe Graboski 8962 762 11.8
25 George Mikan 8458 379 22.3

REBOUNDS (stat not kept until 1950-51 season)

Rank Player Rebounds Games RPG
1 Bill Russell 13328 571 23.3
2 Bob Pettit 12228 742 16.5
3 Dolph Schayes 11256 996 12.1
4 Wilt Chamberlain 9875 391 25.3
5 Red Kerr 8955 754 11.9
6 Larry Foust 7420 745 10
7 Harry Gallatin 6684 630 11.9
8 Clyde Lovellette 6663 704 9.5
9 Elgin Baylor 6621 419 15.8
10 Walter Dukes 6223 553 11.3
11 Paul Arizin 6129 713 8.6
12 Vern Mikkelsen 5940 699 9.4
13 Neil Johnston 5856 516 11.3
14 Willie Naulls 5853 574 10.2
15 Joe Graboski 5845 762 8.3
16 Ray Felix 5654 637 8.9
17 Tom Heinsohn 5350 587 9.1
18 Jack Coleman 5186 633 9.2
19 Arnie Risen 5011 577 9.7
20 Tom Gola 5009 547 9.2
21 Wayne Embry 4991 449 11.1
22 Jack Twyman 4873 670 7.3
23 Bob Cousy 4781 917 5.2
24 Chuck Share 4765 555 8.6
25 Cliff Hagan 4606 594 7.8

ASSISTS

Rank Player Assists Games APG
1 Bob Cousy 6945 917 7.6
2 Dick McGuire 4205 738 5.7
3 Guy Rodgers 3444 429 8
4 Oscar Robertson 3215 309 10.4
5 Slater Martin 3160 745 4.2
6 Richie Guerin 3096 596 5.2
7 Dolph Schayes 3072 996 3.1
8 Andy Phillip 2969 539 5.5
9 Larry Costello 2732 565 4.8
10 Carl Braun 2658 684 3.9
11 Gene Shue 2608 699 3.7
12 Tom Gola 2551 547 4.7
13 Paul Seymour 2335 600 3.9
14 Bob Pettit 2241 742 3
15 Jack George 2169 506 4.3
16 Bill Russell 2116 571 3.7
17 Bill Sharman 2101 711 3
18 Ed Macauley 2079 641 3.2
19 George King 1958 411 4.8
20 Cliff Hagan 1942 594 3.3
21 Bob Davies 1929 402 4.8
22 Elgin Baylor 1856 419 4.4
23 Jack Coleman 1749 633 2.8
24 Paul Arizin 1665 713 2.3
25 Jack Twyman 1664 670 2.5

FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE (minimum 200 games played)

Rank Player FG% Games FGAs per game
1 Walt Bellamy 0.519 239 21.1
2 Wilt Chamberlain 0.506 391 33.2
3 Oscar Robertson 0.487 309 21.8
4 Bob Donham 0.48 273 5.1
5 Bailey Howell 0.476 387 15.8
6 Sam Jones 0.456 509 13.2
7 Kenny Sears 0.455 529 10.2
Al Attles 0.455 293 8.7
9 Hal Greer 0.454 448 16.1
10 Jerry West 0.453 281 20.6
11 Cliff Hagan 0.452 594 16.5
12 Dick Barnett 0.451 293 14.5
13 Jack Twyman 0.45 670 18.3
Johnny Green 0.45 387 12.1
15 Wayne Embry 0.448 449 13.4
Paul Neumann 0.448 231 7.1
17 Neil Johnston 0.444 516 14.4
18 Bill Russell 0.443 571 15.1
Clyde Lovellette 0.443 704 15.3
20 Bob Ferry 0.439 374 9.9
21 Bob Pettit 0.436 742 21.5
Ed Macauley 0.436 641 13.4
Larry Costello 0.436 565 10.5
24 Tom Sanders 0.433 308 8.9
25 Elgin Baylor 0.43 419 26.4

FREE THROW PERCENTAGE (minimum 200 games played)

Rank Player FT% Games FTAs per game
1 Bill Sharman 0.883 711 5
2 Dolph Schayes 0.849 996 7.9
3 Al Cervi 0.839 202 4.6
4 Larry Costello 0.834 565 4.2
5 Fred Scolari 0.828 315 4
6 Kenny Sears 0.826 529 5.6
7 Dick Schnittker 0.825 364 3.9
8 Fred Schaus 0.823 334 5
Oscar Robertson 0.823 309 10.9
Dave Gambee 0.823 262 4.8
11 Frankie Brian 0.821 438 5.1
12 Carl Braun 0.817 684 4.4
13 Vince Boryla 0.816 285 3.5
14 Willie Naulls 0.813 574 4.3
15 Paul Arizin 0.81 713 8.7
Hal Greer 0.81 448 4.7
17 Gene Shue 0.806 699 4.7
18 Frank Ramsey 0.804 623 4.9
19 Bob Cousy 0.803 917 6.3
20 Bobby Wanzer 0.801 508 5.4
21 Whitey Skoog 0.799 341 1.7
22 Paul Seymour 0.796 600 3.6
23 Cliff Hagan 0.794 594 5.5
Paul Neumann 0.794 231 2.9
25 Tom Heinsohn 0.789 587 5.3
Posted in The Record Book

All-Time Minutes Leaders… 30 Years and Under

Saatchi Gallery - Young & Old (via Flickr user vintagedept)

Saatchi Gallery – Young & Old (via Flickr user vintagedept)

As the Spurs and Heat prepare to do battle in Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals, the dramatic discrepancy in age between each team’s anchor is a popular topic. You have the just entering his NBA middle age LeBron vs. old man Duncan. At nearly 40 years old, Duncan’s geriatrics is not in much dispute.

The 29-year old LeBron is a harder fish to tackle.

Yes, he’s just 29 and typically in NBA history that’d be considered at the apex of his prime. An NBA star smack dab in the middle of his NBA career. But a 29-year old NBA player in 1990 was likely to just be in his 7th season. LeBron is currently in his 11th. He’s racked up over 33,000 minutes in the regular season and another 6500 or so in the playoffs.

LeBron is a physical marvel, even freak, in many ways but in this he is not alone. In the last two decades, young stars – not just superstars or surefire Hall of Famers – are increasingly passing absurd minutes played marks by the time they’re 30 years old.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at basketball-reference, here are the most minutes played by NBA/ABA players under the age of 30…

Under 30 minutes played

Looking at these top 15 players two themes stick out. 1) to get into the top in this exercise you have to either skip college or just play one season in the NCAA and 2) this happened a lot more frequently in the last 20 years.

Nine of the 15 players here began playing in the last 20 years, including seven of the top 10. Of those nine players from the last 20 years, five had no college experience whatsoever (KG, Kobe, LeBron, Dirk, and Rashard Lewis). The other four (Marbury, Walker, Joe Johnson, and Mike Bibby) all had just one year of college ball.

Observing the six other players who began playing pro ball prior to 1994, they largely uphold the rule of thumb established above. Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas – although starting their careers in the very early 1980s – played just two years of college basketball. And of course, Moses Malone went straight from high school to the ABA.

The other three players logged significant college time. Julius Erving had three seasons at UMass before jumping to the ABA. And our 1960s titans Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain also crack the list. Oscar played all four seasons of his NCAA eligibility at Cincinnati. Wilt meanwhile abandoned Kansas after just three years, but was still barred from the NBA, so he played a season for the Harlem Globetrotters before joining the NBA.

This minutes played story is part of a larger context, which will likely see players over the ensuing seasons steadily replace numerous all-time records for aggregate stats thanks to laxer NBA draft eligibility rules – barring any CBA nonsense on age restrictions.

The per game numbers, however, will still fall to the previous generations. For example, check out top 15 players under 30 years old in minutes per game (minimum 20,000 minutes player)…

MPG under 30Checking out this second table, only three players from the last 20 years crack the list. That’s a stark contrast to the previous table. Sure enough the only players to appear on both these lists are Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and… LeBron James.

Yeah, LeBron’s gonna be setting all kinds of records pretty soon. Admire the greatness while it lasts and before some upstart player 20 years from now re-writes the record book.

Posted in Statistical Analyses
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