The Early Years: Starting Five for the NBA’s First Decade

Photo source: Getty Images

On June 6th, 1946, the Basketball Association of America, or BAA, was formed. Meanwhile, the National Basketball League was thriving, going on their tenth season. Then, on August 3rd, 1949, over three years after the BAA was formed, the BAA and the NBL merged to create the National Basketball Association, or NBA. The NBA considers the BAA its official predecessor. Therefore, the NBL’s player and team stats, despite the merger, are not official NBA stats, but those from the BAA are. The only two NBA teams around today in the same city with the same name as they did when the BAA formed in 1946 are the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics. The Philadelphia Warriors are the only other team that still exists in today’s league, but they have made a couple changes since 60 years ago; moving to San Francisco, and then moving from there to Oakland. Without further ado, let’s go on to the starting five of the best players from 1946-1956.


img_5102Photo: Hy Peskin, Getty Images

Point Guard: Bob Cousy

Cousy was the first great point guard in the NBA. From 1950-1956, Cousy averaged 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists per game and revolutionized the point guard position. His flashy passes and dribbles were something few dared to do and paved the way for other point guards in he future. All six of those seasons were as a Boston Celtic.

Honorable Mention: Slater Martin, who won four rings from 1950-1954 with the Minneapolis Lakers.



img_5103Photo: National Basketball Association, Getty Images

Shooting Guard: Paul Arizin

“Pitchin'” Paul Arizin was one of the NBA’s first superstars. In his second season, as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors, he led the league in scoring with 25.4 points per game. He was selected to the All-Star game in every season he played in the league. He was also one of the pioneers of the jump shot.
Honorable Mention: Bill Sharman, who made four All-Star games from 1950-1956.



fee3564b-a555-4931-b9a9-3809f57978e1Photo: Charles T. Higgins, Getty Images

Small Forward: Joe Fulks

“Jumpin'” Joe Fulks was the BAA’s leading scorer in the first ever season, averaging over 23 points per game. He led his team, the Philadelphia Warriors, to the first NBA (then BAA) championship. The 6’5″ forward made only two All-Star teams, but that’s because the game was implemented into the league after his prime.
Honorable Mention: Jim Pollard, the “Kangaroo Kid,” played with the Minneapolis Lakers and won 5 NBA championships.



img_5105Photo: National Basketball Association, Getty Images

Power Forward: Dolph Schayes

Dolph Schayes was a great big man for the Syracuse Nationals. He led the league with 16.4 rebounds in 1950-51, and averaged a double-double every season from 1951-56, and he was a 6-time all-star in that same span. Schayes led the Nationals to an NBA championship in the 1954-55 season. His son, Danny, also played in the NBA and was a solid contributor for seven teams in his 18 year career.
Honorable Mention: Bob Pettit: if we were not talking about only until 1956, Pettit would have this spot, as he won the first ever MVP award in that 1956 season, but he only played two seasons in that time, so that puts Schayes ahead of him.



img_5106Photo: Bettman, Getty Images

Center: George Mikan

Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers to 5 NBA championships in 6 years, and was the most dominant player of his time. There was simply nobody that could match up against him. George Mikan was probably the best player in the NBA’s first ten years. In addition to his 5 NBA championships, Mikan also won an NBL championship in 1948 with the Lakers and the World Professional Basketball Tournament in that same year.
Honorable Mention: Neil Johnston, who could very well be the next best player in this time, was a very good center, but Mikan was just too dominant not to be starting.


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