Wednesday, May 2, 2018

American Basketball League (ABL-II) 1946-47

The 1946-47 basketball season is the turning point for the world of professional basketball. The BAA had large venues and stable financial backing and would quickly become the sole major league and owner of most, if not all, significant talent. The NBL would, in three years, be out of business, as would almost all minor leagues around the country.

The American League had come out of the war in good shape, but that success was short lived, and once the BAA had infiltrated both the Midwest and and East, the writing was on the wall. The crowds began to shrink, the better players left for the BAA, and the profitability waned. By the 1946-47 season, the ABL had essentially become a minor league. The once-powerful Philadelphia SPHA's had to rely on doubleheaders with the BAA's Philadelphia Warriors to get decent crowds to watch them, and in the last month of the season, it was announced that the ABL had become an affiliate of sorts with the BAA. In the 1947-48 season, they would play many more doubleheaders with BAA games league-wide in an attempt to remain relevant. By the early 1950's, the ABL would finally cease to exist, ending a roller coaster ride of almost 30 years.

The ABL could have possibly succeeded with better fortune. The first attempt, with a wider national scope and vision, was doing okay until the Great Depression came along and wiped it out. After a hibernation of a couple years, a rebirth of sorts brought new life and for the most part indicated some sort of stability... until World War 2 took its toll. During the 1930's and early 1940's, professional teams, for the most part, found it more financially viable to be a barnstorming squad as opposed to in league play. Many teams did both, but the leagues were a second priority to many teams. It took the shift in this philosophy to stable, structured, financially-secure leagues to ensure that a professional league could last. The ABL lacked this vision and leadership until it was too late. Of course, the change in the style of play also made the difference. The ABL experimented with different rules over the years, playing 3 periods instead of four quarters for a long while, forbidding picks, and trying to eliminate the jump ball after every basket. All leagues had their own style of play, including the collegiate game, and it was confusing to both players and fans to keep track of what was legal. A defensive set-up in the ABL might not be permitted in the New York State League, and vice versa. The BAA stabilized the rules and the game was quickly becoming a popular spectator sport. And there was only room for one major league in the country.

After the ABL dried up in 1952, the NBA (which formed when the BAA merged with the NBL) would be the only major basketball league until the ABA came along in the mid-60's. The Eastern League, also formed in 1946, would continue to exist as the highest minor league, and would actually survive into the 21st century (eventually becoming the Continental Basketball Association).

Despite the relegation of the ABL to a minor league at this point, I will keep exploring the players and seasons to the very end. So I hope you all are still with me at this point.

1 comment: