The NBA Time Machine: 1950

Published September 11, 2022

The NBA Time Machine:

Welcoming…the NBA


After the Minneapolis Lakers jumped ship to the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1949, the National Basketball League (NBL) failed to stay afloat without any significant star power. The BAA‘s combination of large market teams and superstars made them just about untouchable in notoriety, and the NBL gave in through a merger.

With this merger came a whopping seven teams – the Anderson Packers, Denver Nuggets, Sheboygan Red Skins, Syracuse Nationals, Tri-Cities Blackhawks, and Waterloo Hawks, as well as the Indianapolis Olympians, who were already planned as an expansion team in the NBL. The Providence Steamrollers and Indianapolis Jets also folded before the beginning of the season, resulting in seventeen final clubs.

The league adjusted to this significant development through introducing a new division – the Central Division. Former Western Division teams were moved here, while the majority of the expansion teams joined the current Western Division. The only one not to was Syracuse, who instead infested the East.

Playoff Format

Being a somewhat experimental year, the 1950 Playoffs featured some key differences. Each division had their own semifinals and finals rounds, and the Division Finals winner with the best record immediately earned a Finals spot – that was the Nationals, who slightly edged out the Lakers and had a comfortably better record than Anderson.

The winner of the league-wide Semifinals would engage in the championship round.


One significant product of the merger was the sharp increase in talent between the two leagues – field goal percentage and assist numbers steadily rose as more players refined their games, and there were a handful of rookies making names for themselves.

While it would be blasphemous to say anybody but George Mikan was the league’s best a season ago, he now had a couple guys garnering attention themselves – Alex Groza and Dolph Schayes, namely.

Standout Players

George Mikan

While Mikan downgraded slightly in his sophomore season, he was still far and away the league’s best player. The Lakers’ record improved even more from their stellar 1949 campaign, as Mikan formed an all-time great frontcourt alongside Jim Pollard and rookie Vern Mikkelsen.

Alex Groza

Previously one of the greatest college basketball players, Groza joined the league as the second overall pick and immediately led the expansion Olympians to significant heights. He was an elite scorer, finishing second in points per game while also leading the league in field goal percentage – he looked capable of dethroning George Mikan.

Dolph Schayes

Already a growing force in the NBL, Schayes translated to his new league with ease. Considered the original “stretch big”, Dolph’s outside shot was so deadly that he forced opponents to gameplan differently against his Nationals. This helped them secure the best record in the NBA.

Bob Davies

Davies had regressed statistically, but that could partially be attributed to the development of his teammates, who helped with offense. He was still easily the best point guard in the league, and the Royals finished high in seeding once more.

Around the League

Team Standings

An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.

Eastern DivisionWLCentral DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Syracuse Nationals*5113Minneapolis Lakers*5117Indianapolis Olympians*3925
New York Knicks*4028Rochester Royals*5117Anderson Packers*3727
Washington Capitols*3236Fort Wayne Pistons*4028Tri-Cities Blackhawks*2935
Philadelphia Warriors*2642Chicago Stags*4028Sheboygan Red Skins*2240
Baltimore Bullets2543St. Louis Bombers2642Waterloo Hawks1943
Boston Celtics2246Denver Nuggets1151

Fun Facts

  • The amount of games played by teams had inconsistencies – they played anywhere between sixty-two to sixty-eight.
  • The infamously bad Providence Steamrollers folded before the season, becoming the final major American sports team to be based in Rhode Island.
    • A few of its members flocked to the Boston Celtics following the disbandment.
  • While the Philadelphia Warriors had already been on a downwards spiral, Joe Fulks having a major down year solidified them as one of the worst offenses in the league.

Notable Movement


The player stats listed are based on their last tenure, whether it be with their former team or the previous season.
Name(s) under the “Top Draft Picks” section with a plus (+) opted to play in another league instead of the NBA this season.

Name(s) under the “Top Draft Picks” section with an asterisk (*) were selected with a territorial draft pick.
p – points
a – assists

Top Draft Picks

Providence Steamrollers
Indianapolis Olympians
Fort Wayne Pistons
Boston Celtics
St. Louis Bombers
Philadelphia Warriors
Baltimore Bullets
New York Knicks
Washington Capitols
Chicago Stags
Howie Shannon
Alex Groza
Bob Harris
George Kaftan*
Ed Macauley*
Vern Gardner
Ron Livingstone
Dick McGuire*
Wah Wah Jones
Ralph Beard


July 16, 1949Kenny Sailorsn/aSignedDenver Nuggets(15.8p/3.7a)


November 1949Coach Roger PotterTri-Cities BlackhawksFired
November 1949Coach Red AuerbachTri-Cities BlackhawksHired
March 10, 1950Player-coach Bob Feerick Washington CapitolsExpected to resign
March 10, 1950Player-coach Bones McKinneyWashington CapitolsHired
March 22, 1950Coach Alvin Julian Boston CelticsResigned


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Ernie CalverleyProvidence Steamrollers1x All-BAA
1x Assists Leader
Howie DallmarPhiladelphia Warriors1x All-BAA
1x Assists Leader

League Leaders


PTS – total points
AST – total assists
FG% – field goal percentage (percentage of shots that hit)
FT% – free throw percentage (percentage of foul shots that hit)

PTSGeorge Mikan (1865)
Alex Groza (1496)
Frankie Brian (1138)
Max Zaslofsky (1115)
Ed Macauley (1081)
ASTDick McGuire (386)
Andy Phillip (377)
Bob Davies (294)
Al Cervi (264)
George Senesky (264)
FG%Alex Groza (47%)
Dick Mehen (42%)
Bobby Wanzer (41%)
Harry Boykoff (41%)
George Mikan (40%)
FT%Max Zaslofsky (84%)
Chick Reiser (83%)
Al Cervi (82%)
Belus Smawley (82%)
Fran Curran (82%)


Tiebreaker Rounds

Minneapolis Lakers beat Rochester Royals, 1-0
The battle for first seed was a repeat of last year, ending with the Royals falling once again to a dominant George Mikan.

The difference this time around is that Royals star Bob Davies had a phenomenal outing – he dropped twenty-six points and six assists on incredible efficiency, rivaling Mikan for the player of the game. It was poor efforts from teammates Bobby Wanzer and Arnie Risen that soiled their chances at winning – especially the latter’s weak defense.
Fort Wayne Pistons beat Chicago Stags, 1-0
The Stags’ underwent one of the biggest transitions this season, going from an offensive juggernaut to a well-balanced, nearly defensively-minded squad. Unfortunately, the Pistons were unfazed by this philosophy.

Both squads had balanced scoring efforts, but Fort Wayne had four double-digit scorers in comparison to Chicago’s two – combine that with a lackluster performance from Max Zaslofsky, and the Pistons suddenly found themselves clinching the third seed in the tiebreaker.

Division Semifinals

East / New York Knicks beat Washington Capitols, 2-0
And there it is…a Knicks road win!

New York avenged themselves handily in their matchup with the Capitols, handing out a sweep in back-to-back games. Carl Braun and Harry Gallatin began to make a name for themselves, seemingly guys who achieved in the playoffs despite not standing out during the regular season.

Meanwhile, former Capitols stars Bob Feerick and Bones McKinney continued to show signs of regression, forcing Fred Scolari to pick up the slack. A deflating loss at home in Game 1 was ultimately the dealbreaker for their downfall, ending an already mediocre season on a sour note.
East / Syracuse Nationals beat Philadelphia Warriors, 2-0
Philadelphia’s collapse was never more apparent, struggling to display any signs of composure through this two-game series. Joe Fulks looked entirely washed, scoring fifteen points over two games on horrific splits.

The true indicator that this was Syracuse’s to win was that superstar Dolph Schayes scored only five points in Game 1, yet they still left victorious. The low-scoring Game 2 was no different, even though both clubs shot terribly from the field.
Central / Fort Wayne Pistons beat Rochester Royals, 2-0
In one of the postseason’s biggest upsets, the Pistons – who by all metrics were nothing more than an above-average team – defeated the second-seeded, dominant Royals in two close games.

The Pistons resembled the ’48 Baltimore Bullets, winning through intangibles rather than star power. A phenomenal first half of Game 1 secured them a win for good, and Game 2 featured an overtime period where they narrowly prevailed by one point. In both matches, they did well in deflating Royals star Bob Davies’ confidence.
Central / Minneapolis Lakers beat Chicago Stags, 2-0
In a direct semifinals rematch of the ’49 season, the Lakers and Stags once again faced off. Minneapolis took it with ease once more – Chicago never led at any point in the series.

Mikan was simply too good a playoff performer, reaching a sixty-four point total. Even with an impressive retaliation from Max Zaslofsky in Game 2, the Stags couldn’t get by – they lacked the interior presence to ward off the Lakers superstar.
West / Anderson Packers beat Tri-Cities Blackhawks, 2-1
The two expansion franchises underwent a pretty lopsided series, even if it went to three games. The Packers led comfortably in both victories, and the Blackhawks won theirs by a mere point.

Star Frankie Brian kept Anderson alive offensively, and Jack Nichols of the Blackhawks – who was traded to them mid-season – was the hero of his squad. Neither player reached expectations in the closing Game 3, but the Packers supporting cast stepped up to influence a blowout win.
West / Indianapolis Olympians beat Sheboygan Red Skins, 2-1
The Olympians sported two of the league’s freshest talents in center Alex Groza and guard Ralph Beard, and both met the standards they set during the regular season.

In three meetings, they averaged a combined forty-one points per game, including an takeover from Groza in the closing match. The Red Skins, who possessed one of the worst defenses in the NBA, could not contain that sort of scoring prowess.

Division Finals

East / Syracuse Nationals beat New York Knicks, 2-1
If there’s one indicator of Dolph Schayes’ immediate path to greatness, it’s right here.

The attention required to defend him was overwhelming for the Knicks. Despite having scrappy interior players like Harry Gallatin and veteran Connie Simmons, Dolph’s scoring versatility proved to be too much as he secured a successful series for Syracuse.

New York’s backcourt were the most impressive throughout, but could not do enough alone to win – Dick McGuire was more of a facilitator than scorer, and Carl Braun could only carry them so far. This series is a good example of how the NBA had shifted towards favoring the big man, as New York needed one that could take over games.
Central / Minneapolis Lakers beat Fort Wayne Pistons, 2-0
This was a battle of star players, through and through.

George Mikan and Fred Schaus, of the Lakers and Pistons respectively, handled most of the scoring loads for their teams. The supporting casts definitely had their fair share of input – especially in the first game – but the attention was all on the league’s newfound talents. It’s no surprise that Minneapolis left undefeated, though – the Pistons didn’t seem remotely capable of triumph.
West / Anderson Packers beat Indianapolis Olympians, 2-1
While the Olympians were certainly the superior squad on paper, availability issues hurt their potential. Starting guard Ralph Beard hardly played Game 1 and missed the second, which punctured their scoring punch.

The Packers held on through sharing the offensive load and building a lead in Game 3. Indianapolis nearly knocked them down in a high-speed fourth quarter, but Anderson held on – they were the rulers of their division, much like the Nationals and Lakers.


Minneapolis Lakers beat Anderson Packers, 2-0
Minneapolis had to go through yet another opponent en route to the Finals, but they were unworried. Quite frankly, the Packers were amidst a bit of a Cinderella run – they didn’t compare to the other remaining teams in the slightest.

George Mikan completely dismantled them, and rookie Vern Mikkelsen put himself on the map with an excellent twenty-three point show in which he also shot perfect from the foul line. Neither game was too competitive, and it almost makes you wonder why the league opted to have a Semifinals round in the first place.


Minneapolis Lakers beat Syracuse Nationals, 4-2
In reality, the Nationals were over-achievers. That isn’t to take away from their phenomenal season, but the playoff experience of their foe is what blocked them from going all the way.

The 1950 Finals marked the emergence of the first dominant “big three” in NBA history – forwards Jim Pollard and Vern Mikkelsen alongside superstar George Mikan. All three were absolutely lethal in this conclusive round, accounting for well over half of the Lakers’ total points per game.

It was overwhelming enough that Mikan could score literally anything he wanted, but when you had two other capable forwards adding onto that pressure, it became too much. Rookie Dolph Schayes simply couldn’t weigh up – he wasn’t a Joe Fulks type of power forward that willed teams to wins off his scoring alone.

All of these factors, combined with the fact that Game 1 ended on the first Finals buzzer beater of all-time, demotivated Syracuse quickly. They still stole a couple games, but it seemed clear that the league was seeing its very first back-to-back championship team.
The Minneapolis Lakers win the 1950 NBA championship!


Note: All-Team selections were not yet selected based on position yet. This was the only major award given at the time.

All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
George Mikan
Jim Pollard
Alex Groza
Bob Davies
Max Zaslofsky
Frank Brian
Fred Schaus
Dolph Schayes
Al Cervi
Ralph Beard

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

Lakers21949, 1950
Enjoy Your Read? Subscribe and Never Miss a Post!

Leave a Reply