Similarly, the world as we know it today was only just beginning to form. Harry Truman proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball, India declared independence from Great Britian, Chuck Yeager broke the speed of sound, and the Soviet Army adopted the AK-47. In addition, the world parted ways with Al Capone, Henry Ford, and Max Planck, while welcoming Mike Krzyzewski, Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Pete Maravich, O.J. Simpson, and Hillary Rodham.
[Note: Kirilenko fans will be happy to know that AK-47 recently
won the VTP (Eastern Europe) League's Regular Season MVP Award.
AK currently plays for CSKA Moscow along with Nened Krstic.]
Photo by Christopher Johnson (Flickr: IMG_4710)
Before the beginning of the 1947-48 season, the BAA lost four franchises: the Cleveland Rebels, Detroit Falcons, Pittsburgh Ironmen, and Toronto Huskies. With the losses of Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Toronto, the BAA was even more heavily representative of the nation's coastal cities. In addition, these changes left the BAA's Western Division with only two teams: Chicago and St. Louis. To address this disparity, the Washington Capitols moved from the Eastern Division and the BAA added the Baltimore Bullets, named after a nearby shoe company, from the the American Basketball League (ABL). As we'll discuss in later posts, these Capitols and the Bullets franchises would not survive long enough to become the official predecessors to today's Washington Wizards [former home of the best NBA player to have ever sported an Abe Lincoln neck tattoo].
Photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0],
The regular season concluded with every team having held the belt but the Boston Celtics. Even the lowly Providence Steam Rollers, who would soon fade into the sunset, held the belt for one night. [Steam Rollers was a rather ironic name given the team's final record of 6 wins and 42 losses.] Imagine the excitement in Providence on the night the Steam Rollers won the belt!
Providence, RI Postage Stamp
By Providence Post Office
A glance at the final season standings shows that, other than Boston and Providence, team strength was distributed relatively equally (and Boston is debatable; the Celtics had a losing record, but it was much better than the Steam Rollers). We'll address the correlation between holding the belt and final team records in detail in another post, but for now we'll simply note that the teams who held the belt for the greatest number of nights generally also had the best records. This makes sense during the 1947-48 season. There were only eight teams in the league and they played a 48 game schedule, so there were many opportunities for rematches. However, it will be interesting to see how strongly this correlation holds throughout the years as the league expands.
So, who were the top teams based on the number of times teams raised the belt? Washington and Chicago led the league by both holding the belt for 11 nights, while Baltimore (10), Philadelphia (9), and New York (8) followed close behind. The St. Louis Bombers are an outlier, as they finished with a winning record but only held the belt for two nights. In fact, the Bombers had the best regular season of all teams in the Western Division. However, that wasn't saying much given that they only finished one game ahead of the three other teams in their division (who all tied for second place). As we'll see later, this led to several playoff tiebreaker games.
Player strength was also relatively balanced. For each of the games during the season, TBCB assigned a player of the game (POG) based on the documented box scores. Out of the 51 regular season games involving the belt, only four players won our POG more than twice: Bob Feerick (6), Max Zaslofsky (6), Joe Fulks (5), and Chick Reiser (4).
(scanned from the author's collection)
Since the Capitols would take the belt into the playoffs, we'll continue to follow the belt until the season's very end. However, just as the NBA keeps separate sets of statistics for the regular season and the playoffs, so will we. The Capitols only held the belt for one game during the playoffs: A tiebreaker game against the Chicago Stags which the Caps lost 74-70. The Bullets then defeated the Stags in yet another tiebreaker game before defeating the Knicks two games to one. Oddly enough, the Bullets then advanced to play the Stags, who they had already defeated in their earlier tiebreaker game (Odd things happen when the entire Western Division basically ties with each other.). The Bullets swept the Stags in a two game series to advance to the Finals. In the Finals, the Bullets would play the reigning BAA champs, Joe Fulks and the Philadelphia Warriors.
It seems appropriate that the Bullets and Warriors would clash in the finals. The Bullets were the new kids on the block, but they were by no means a typical expansion team. They had won an ABL championship before joining the BAA, and they were immediately competitive. The Warriors, on the other hand, were the reigning champs. The finals were a best of seven affair, with home court playing a large role as only one game was won on the road. The Warriors, led by Chick Halbert and Joe Fulks, jumped out to an early lead in the opening game and cruised to a 71-60 triumph. The Bullets would then defeat the Warriors in the second game to split the first two games in Philadelphia. Back in Baltimore for games 3 and 4, the Bullets would hold court, giving them a 3-1 lead as the series moved back to Philadelphia. The Warriors then won on their home court, sending the series back to Baltimore for game 6. In the final game, the Warriors were led by Bob O'Brien's 34 points and Fulks' 28 (note that scoring 34 points was an incredible feat in 1948). However, the balanced attack of Baltimore was too much for the Warriors, as five players scored in double figures: Chick Reiser (16), Paul Hoffman (15), Buddy Jeannette (15), Connie Simmons (12), and Kleggie Hermsen (12). In the end, the Bullets would finish with a decisive win at home, 88-73.
With this win,the Baltimore Bullets would end the 1947-48 season as the owners of our All-Time Basketball Champs Belt.
In subsequent posts, we'll profile both Joe Fulks and the Baltimore Bullets. As we move ahead and cover the 1948-49 season, the Minneapolis Lakers will make their first appearance in the BAA and begin their long run of success. In 1949, the BAA will join forces with the NBL to form the NBA, which will introduce us to even more teams during the 1949-50 season. Also, after the conclusion of the 1949-50 season, we'll crown our 1940's All Decade Team, name our player of the decade, and begin a deeper exploration of the 1940's Champs Belt data. Each decade that follows will be treated similarly, with an All-Decade team, a Player of the Decade, and lots of stats and analysis. Stay tuned!
[Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons]
"Life never presents us with anything which
may not be looked upon as a fresh stating point..."
may not be looked upon as a fresh stating point..."
Andre Gide, 1947 recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature.
Sources: wikipedia (general historical information); wikimedia commons (photos); youtube (video); basketball-reference.com (data); this author (wit and analysis).