Monday, March 4, 2019

1952-53 NBA

By 1952, the NBA was the premiere basketball league in the country and attracted the best basketball talent. The sport did not draw like the NHL, NFL or Major League Baseball, nor did pay as well, but it was fairly stable for what was at the time a niche sport. The NBA still used the American Basketball League (in its final season in existence) and the Eastern Basketball League as a farm team of sorts, but more and more NBA players would be coming through the league's draft. West Virginia's Mark Workman was the number one pick overall by the Milwaukee Hawks. (Bill Mlkvy, Temple's "Owl Without A Vowel," was picked by the Philadelphia Warriors in a territorial draft pick.)  The defending champion Minneapolis Lakers drafted Clyde Lovellette with the last pick of the first round. Lovellette would play 11 seasons and appear in four All-Star games on his way to the Basketball Hall of Fame.  A couple of other notable players selected included Dick Groat (1st round, 4th overall by the Fort Wayne Pistons) and Gene Conley (20th overall). Groat would play the season with the Pistons, but made his name on the baseball diamond, playing 14 seasons in the major leagues. Groat was a 5-time All-Star shortstop and was elected the National League's MVP in 1960 as he lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series victory. Conley would leave basketball after the season to concentrate on his career as a pitcher. Ge returned to the NBA in 1958, and for a time was a two-sport star. He was fortunate enough to be able to call both Bob Cousy and Hank Aaron teammates.

The Minneapolis Lakers were a favorite to repeat in the quest for the NBA Championship. They won the Western Division as George Mikan lead the NBA in rebounding. The Lakers battled the Pistons in the Western Division Finals, coming out ahead in the best-of-five series. The Eastern Division saw the New York Knicks squeak out the regular season division title by a mere half-game over the Syracuse Nationals. The Boston Celtics. who finished third but only a game and a half behind the Knicks, dispatched the Nationals in the opening round of the divisional playoffs but fell to the Knicks in the Eastern Division Finals. The Lakers would go on to defeat the Knicks in the NBA Finals for their third NBA Championship in four of the years of the NBA's existence. (Or four in five years if you count the last season of the BAA before merging with the NBL to form the NBA. Or five in six years if you count the NBL title the team won before moving to the BAA.)

Eastern Division:
Baltimore Bullets
Boston Celtics
New York Knicks
Philadelphia Warriors
Syracuse Nationals

Western Division:
Fort Wayne Pistons
Indianapolis Olympians
Milwaukee Hawks
Minneapolis Lakers
Rochester Royals

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