The NBA headed into the 1953-54 season with only nine team, as the Indianapolis Olympians had folded. The Olympians had qualified for the playoffs in all four years of their existence, but after a first-place finish in their inaugural 1949-50, the team slowly faded. The teams decline was not without controversy. The only team in NBA owned by its players (Ralph Beard, Alex Groza, Cliff Barker and Wally "Wah Wah" Jones), turmoil ensued when Beard and Groza received lifetime suspensions for their part in a point-shaving scandal back in their days at the University of Kentucky. They were forced to share their stake in the club at a substantial loss. Groza would go on to be a successful collegiate coach at Bellarmine College and would be a fixture in various duties with the Kentucky and San Diego entries in the ABA. Beard would work in the pharmaceutical industry, briefly working for the ABA's Kentucky club as a scout.
The 1953 NBA draft saw Ray Felix of LIU get drafted by the Bullets in the first overall pick. Felix had actually graduated a year prior, but spent the 1952-53 season playing with the independent pro basketball team, the New York Rens, and putting some time in with the Manchester British Americans in the ABL. Felix would appear in every game that year (and for the next five seasons, too) and average 17.6 PPG, being named the NBA's rookie of the year. The Celtics drafted three players from the University of Kentucky: Frank Ramsey, Lou Tsioropoulos and Cliff Hagan. All three players chose to play another season at UK as grad students (they still had a year of eligibility left because the Kentucky program had been suspended for 1952-53. Kentucky would go an unbeaten 25-0 in the regular season but since there was a rule preventing grad students from playing in the NCAA tournament, coach Adolph Rupp declined to participate. The three afore mentioned players would eventually get the NBA. Ramsey would eventually join the Celtics in 1954 and would play 9 years with Boston and was a huge part of the great Celtic dynasty of the early 60's, winning seven rings. He would wind up in the Hall of Fame, as would Hagan. Hagan, however, entered the U.S. Army and his rights were traded to the St. Louis Hawks in 1956 where he would star for 10 seasons. Tsioropoulos also entered the army and joined the Celtics in 1956.
For the playoffs this year, the NBA adopted a round-robin format to help determine the division champions. The top three teams in each division would play each other twice, and the top two teams would then meet in a best-of-three series to determine the division champion. The Knicks, the first place team in the East, shockingly lost all four games of the round robin and were bounced. Syracuse, who won all four of their round robin games, swept the Celtics to claim the East. In the Western Division, Minneapolis and Rochester advanced out of the round robin and the Royals were knocked out by the Lakers in 3 games in the divisional finals.
It was up to the Nats to try and end the Lakers reign, but the Lakers held on to take the crown in a tough series that was pushed to seven games. It was the Lakers' third-straight NBA crown and fifth title in six seasons.
The defending champions Minneapolis Lakers held off the Rochester Royals to win the Western Division regular season title. The Knicks had to fend off Syracuse and the Celtics to win the East, which they did by the same margin of two games.
New York Knicks
Fort Wayne Pistons