Baseketball Hoop

Jan. 19, 1954

Even back in the day, big-league sports owners bickered amongst themselves. Their coffers weren’t overflowing, as many are today, but there were factions that feuded on just about anything.

Boston Celtics founder and owner Walter Brown hosted weekly luncheons for media members, and occasionally offered more than free eats. On this day, he focused on the NBA’s warring factions, of which he stood with the minority.

“There is a 5-4 vote among the owners on just about every issue of importance,” Brown said, as reported by the Boston Globe.

“Rochester, Syracuse, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Philadelphia can’t seem to get away from the days when basketball was played in barns and such.”

The progressive wing of the NBA included the Celtics, New York, Baltimore and Fort Wayne.

From a distance of seven decades, it is generally agreed that the NBA of 1954 was the era of barns and dance halls. Syracuse, Rochester and Fort Wayne weren’t exactly major cities.

Television, which had made great strides with the NFL and Major League Baseball, remained a newfangled gimmick to the majority of NBA franchises.

At their owners’ meetings, which began one day after Brown lamented the league’s internal strife, they made a gentlemen’s agreement to clean up late-game fouls and other such stall tactics.

Clearly, there weren’t many real gentlemen attending that meeting.

The owners also voted in favor of a round-robin system to open the playoffs, necessitated by having five teams in one division and four in the other.

It proved too mind-bending to have any chance of success.

Eventually, the barn-and-dance hall franchises played musical chairs. The Syracuse Nationals became the Philadelphia 76ers. The Rochester Royals became the Cincinnati Royals – then the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, then the Sacramento Kings. Fort Wayne Pistons moved to Detroit. The Milwaukee Hawks went to St, Louis and eventually landed in Atlanta.

Two of Brown’s allies abandoned their birth towns. Minneapolis scooted to Los Angeles and the Philadelphia Warriors went to San Francisco. The Baltimore Bullets made the short drive to Washington.