Regular Season Summary
The Lakers began the 1949-50 season by defending the belt on November 2 with a win over the Philadelphia Warriors. They defended the belt three more times before losing it to Max Zaslofsky and the Chicago Stags. Zaslofsky then led the Stags in defending the belt three times before the Warriors took it on November 18. The Warriors lost he belt the following night to the New York Knicks, who then held the belt for a total of six nights. In a season with few belt streaks longer than three games, this six game belt streak equaled the longest of the season (the Lakers would equal this streak in the season's second quarter). During this streak, the Knicks were led by Carl Braun and Harry Gallatin, who each earned player of the game honors twice.
The season's second quarter was dominated by the reigning champion Minneapolis Lakers. The Lakers took the belt from the Knicks on November 30, but only held it one night before losing it to the Olympians in a game in which Alex Groza outscored George Mikan 38-33. Despite this loss, the Lakers won or defended the belt during nine of the seventeen games between November 30 and January 4, including a six game stretch that lasted from Christmas Day until January 4. During the season's second quarter, the Lakers were led by George Mikan, who won player of the game honors for eight of the nine Laker victories. The Ft. Wayne Pistons were the Lakers' closest competitors during this time, raising the belt after three of the same seventeen contests.
Ft. Wayne in 1868
By Zach Klein [CC-BY-2.0],
The Rochester Royals led the way during the season's third quarter, winning or defending the belt during seven of the next seventeen games. The Royals were led by Bob Davies and Bobby "Hooks" Wanzer (who is tied for our number nine player of the decade), with either Davies or Wanzer winning player of the game honors for each of these games. During this same period, the Knicks raised the belt on four nights and the Tri-Cities Black Hawks on three.
The season's final quarter was led by the Knicks, who won the belt on February 22 behind a 38 point outburst from Carl Braun. The Knicks then defended the belt four times before losing it to the Minneapolis Lakers. During the five games that the Knicks held the belt, Carl Braun won player of the game honors twice, becoming the only Knick to win player of the game honors more than once during this stretch. Other teams of note were the Ft. Wayne Pistons, Syracuse Nationals, and Indianapolis Olympians, who each held the belt for three nights. During the season's final quarter, Dolph Shayes of the Nationals, who won three player of the game awards, was the only player to win the award more than twice. Two-time winners included Carl Braun and Alex Groza. The regular season concluded with the Indianapolis Olympians, who won the belt by defeating the Nationals on March 14, defeating the Denver Nuggets and taking the belt into their first round playoff series against the Sheboygan Red Skins.
New York City in 1931
In the first round, the Olympians defeated the Red Skins two games to one with Alex Groza winning player of the game honors in both victories. In the second round, the Anderson Packers defeated the Olympians two games to one, with Bill Closs and Frankie Brian leading the way. The Lakers and the Packers then faced off, with the winner earning the right to play for the first NBA Championship. In this round, George Mikan once again reigned supreme as he led the Lakers to a two game sweep.
The 1950 NBA Finals had the Minneapolis Lakers facing off against the Syracuse Nationals, two former NBL teams who would dominate the NBA during the early part of the 1950s. The Nationals and Lakers split the first two games in Syracuse, with the Nationals leaving for Minneapolis with the belt after winning game two. The Lakers then took the belt and a three games to one lead by winning both games in Minneapolis. The Nationals took game five in Syracuse, but then traveled back to Minneapolis where George Mikan scored 40 points in game six to lead the Lakers to their second consecutive championship.
Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis, Minnesota
via Wikimedia Commons
Leaders & Awards
Although the Lakers did quite well during the season and took the NBA Championship and the belt back for another summer in Minneapolis, they were only the second best team during the regular season as judged by the number of games in which they won or defended the belt. Specifically, the Lakers raised the belt 14 times, winning it on five different occasions and defending it a total of nine times. However, the New York Knicks, our 1949-50 TBCB Team of the Year, were even better as they won the belt on three different occasions and defended it 12 times, for a total of 15 nights as champion. The Rochester Royals finished third in our belt standings, winning the belt on four different occasions and defending it for another four, for a total of eight nights as champion.
Quantum theory allows one to argue the possibility that events that occur today can influence actions that occur in the past. With this in mind, our experiment with the belt must have influenced the Knicks' performance in 1949-50, as they performed exceptionally well in games when the belt was on the line. Specifically, about 38 percent of the Knicks' 40 total wins involved winning or defending the belt. In contrast, about 27 percent of the Lakers 51 wins involved the belt, while only about sixteen percent of the Royals 51 wins included winning or defending it. The Knicks and Lakers made significent improvements from the previous season, as they both raised the belt 12 more times than during 1948-49. In contrast, the Royals dropped significantly, falling from 22 nights as champion in in the previous season to eight during the 1949-50 season.
While the Knicks were the 1949-50 TBCB Team of the Year, the Lakers' George Mikan won the Player of the Year award, as he won player of the game honors on ten different occasions during the regular season. Mikan was followed by the Knicks' Carl Braun (6), the Royals' Bob Davies (4), the Knicks' Harry Gallatin (4), the Lakers' Jim Pollard (4), and the Stags' Max Zaslofsky (4). Mikan, clearly an unstoppable force and the class of the NBA, also led the lead the league in scoring, with Zaslofsky, Pollard, and Braun also landing in the season's top five.
Coming soon, we'll announce the first inductees to the TBCB Hall of Fame, recap the 1940s, and then begin our exploration of the 1950s.
Winner of the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature
"Don't bother just to be better than your
contemporaries or predecessors.
Try to be better than yourself."
-Faulkner's advice to aspiring NBA stars-
Sources: Wikipedia, Basketball-Reference.com, Youtube, Twitter, Neft and Cohen's Sports Encylopedia of Basketball (Fifth Edition), author's analysis, and previous blog posts.