Forgotten Warriors: Joe Graboski

Years Active: 1949 – 1962
Regular Season Stats: 845 games, 30.5 mpg
11.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 35.2% FG, 70% FT
Playoff Stats: 40 games, 25.8 mpg
9.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 32.8% FG, 73.5% FT
Accolades: NBA Champion (1956)

Joe Graboski (fanbase.com)

Back in 1995, Kevin Garnett kicked off the modern-day craze for high school hoopsters which culminated in the drafting of Dwight Howard. Thereafter, the age restriction was instituted and the heyday of 18-year old NBA players was over. Of course, astute observers back in 1995 were quick to note that Garnett was kicking off a modern-day craze. Two decades earlier, Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone had provided a brief breach in the NBA’s college firewall.

But if you want to go back, I mean waaaaay back, into time you’ll see that in the NBA’s very beginning it was using straight-from-high-school players. Tony Kappen and Connie Simmons may have been first, but most prominent was Joe Graboski from Chicago, Illinois. Unlike most players who’ve subsequently done the HS to NBA jump, Graboski had no spectacular talent that rendered college useless. Instead, Graboski had dropped out of Tuley High School and did some time playing in the industrial leagues common in urban areas at the time.

The 17-year old Graboski eventually got a job as a the ball boy for the BAA’s Chicago Stags. At 6’7″, Graboski was a bit hard to miss and after watching him take some shots, John Sbarbaro, president of the Stags, inquired over whether Graboski might consider joining a local university and after some polishing he might join the Stags. Graboski informed Sbarbaro of his academic situation and the Stags president immediately signed him to a deal.

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The Lowdown: Alex Groza

Years Active: 1950-51
Regular Season Stats: 130 games
22.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 47.4% FG, 75.6% FT
Postseason Stats: 9 games
26.0 ppg, 14.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, 54.4% FG, 80.4% FT
Accolades: 2x All-NBA 1st Team (1950-51), All – Star (1951), 2x FG% Leader (1950-51)

Alex Groza was bona fide, qualified and without a shadow of a doubt Hall of Fame material. Yet, his NBA career was so short, I couldn’t find a photo of him in the league, hence the University of Kentucky picture.

The brevity of his professional career was in fact due to circumstances arising from his collegiate days. Along with a couple dozen others, Groza was implicated in, and confessed to, point-shaving that occurred in 1949. Â The scandal didn’t hit until 1951 and Groza, despite his small-time role, was one of the big-time losers.

NBA Commissioner Maurice Podoloff, affectionately known as “Poodles” by owners who had no respect for him whatsoever, banned Groza for life from professional basketball for actions that occurred in amateur basketball. The decision was horribly high-handed and robbed the NBA of one its singular, amazing talents. Continue reading