The NBA Time Machine: 1953

Published September 21, 2022

The NBA Time Machine:

Loss of Excitement

Departure of Arizin

Philadelphia Warriors forward Paul Arizin, fresh off a phenomenal season, left the league to serve in the Marines during the Korean War. This caused the Warriors to plummet from an average quality to an abysmal one, and the NBA lost its newest superstar.

On the positive side, this opened up an opportunity for Neil Johnston of the Warriors to develop, becoming the league’s scoring and percentage leader after an unimpressive rookie season.

Excessive Fouling

The biggest problem with the NBA was the increase in fouls during late-game situations, which took away from the intensity of the clutch. Teams would abuse fouling, opting to have an opponent possibly split their free throw points instead of getting a normal bucket.

There was an average of nearly fifty-eight fouls per game – it was an exhausting product to watch, and rule changes weren’t having any effect.

Standout Players

George Mikan

Mikan continued to decline a bit offensively but his presence in the paint never faltered. He led Minneapolis to their best win total since 1950, and was the main reason they ranked as the best defense in the NBA.

Neil Johnston

The Warriors were horrible after Paul Arizin left, but center Neil Johnston gave fans something to look forward to. He became the greatest scorer in the league, and crashed the glass effectively.

Bob Cousy

For the first time, the steadily growing Bob Cousy led the league in assists. He also finished top five in scoring, which instantly earned him the title of the best offensive player. Boston also surpassed forty wins for the first time under his leadership.

Ed Macauley

Another one of Boston’s stars, Ed Macauley had the best season of his career. He reached new heights as a passing big man, and still managed to be one of the most effective and noticeable scorers around.

Dolph Schayes

Yet another year of consistency for Dolph ended in him reaching a career high in scoring and helping the Nationals improve by seven wins. He also begun to be known as one of the elite free throw shooters, largely in part to the mechanics he inherited from his outside shot.

Around the League

Team Standings

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

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
New York Knicks*4723Minneapolis Lakers*4822
Syracuse Nationals*4724Rochester Royals*4426
Boston Celtics*4625Fort Wayne Pistons*3633
Baltimore Bullets*1654Indianapolis Olympians*2843
Philadelphia Warriors1257Milwaukee Hawks2744

Fun Facts

  • The Baltimore Bullets became the worst playoff team of all-time, clinching a spot with only sixteen wins.
    • This is because the top four seeds in each division advanced, regardless of record.
  • For the first time in league history, the reigning Finals teams – that being the New York Knicks and Minneapolis Lakers – carried their dominance over to the next regular season. Both held the first seed in their respective divisions.
  • Losing Paul Arizin caused the Philadelphia Warriors to drop by twenty-one games.
    • This was the worst change in win total since the defunct Providence Steamrollers went from twenty-eight to six in the first two years of the league.
  • The Hawks relocated from the “Tri-Cities” to Milwaukee.
  • Interestingly enough, the Indianapolis Olympians improved their record after losing stars Groza and Beard.
    • The primary force behind this was an improved defense, which puts into question how good Groza’s rim protection was.
  • The Boston Celtics continued to improve offensively, employing the same fast break techniques the Washington Capitols did many years ago. The denominator? Coach Red Auerbach.

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
r – rebounds
a – assists

Top Draft Picks

Milwaukee Hawks
Baltimore Bullets
Fort Wayne Pistons
Philadelphia Warriors
Indianapolis Olympians
New York Knicks
Boston Celtics
Syracuse Nationals
Rochester Royals
Minneapolis Lakers
Mark Workman
Jim Baechtold
Dick Groat
Bill Mlkvy
Joe Dean +
Ralph Polson
Bill Stauffer
Bob Lochmueller
Chuck Darling
Clyde Lovellette* +


November 28, 1952Andy PhillipPhiladelphia WarriorsSoldFort Wayne Pistons(11.8p/6.6r/8.5a)
February 16, 1953Fred ScolariBaltimore BulletsTradedFort Wayne Pistons(14.2/3.5r/4.3a)

Other Personnel

August 9, 1952Coach Doxie MooreMilwaukee HawksFiredRecord: 17-49
August 9, 1952Coach Andrew LevaneMilwaukee HawksHiredRecord: 27-44
November 12, 1952Coach Chick ReiserBaltimore BulletsFiredRecord: 0-3
November 12, 1952Coach Clair BeeBaltimore BulletsHiredRecord: 16-51


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Bones McKinneyWashington Capitols
Boston Celtics
2x All-BAA

League Leaders

If a stat is not listed, it was not recorded at the time. As time goes on, this section will begin to include steals per game, blocks per game, etc.


PPG – points per game
RPG – rebounds per game
APG – assists per game
FG% – field goal percentage (percentage of shots that hit)
FT% – free throw percentage (percentage of foul shots that hit)

PPGNeil Johnston (22.3)
George Mikan (20.6)
Ed Macauley (20.3)
Bob Cousy (19.8)
Dolph Schayes (17.8)
RPGGeorge Mikan (14.4)
Neil Johnston (13.9)
Harry Gallatin (13.1)
Dolph Schayes (13)
Larry Foust (11.5)
APGBob Cousy (7.7)
Andy Phillip (5.7)
George King (5.1)
Dick McGuire (4.9)
Paul Seymour (4.4)
FG%Neil Johnston (45%)
Ed Macauley (45%)
Harry Gallatin (44%)
Bill Sharman (43%)
Vern Mikkelsen (43%)
FT%Bill Sharman (85%)
Fred Scolari (84%)
Dolph Schayes (82%)
Carl Braun (82%)
Fred Schaus (82%)


Division Semifinals

East / Boston Celtics beat Syracuse Nationals, 2-0
Despite finishing one win over Boston in the regular season, Syracuse didn’t often look in control of this series. Boston led the majority of Game 1, with a lot of the Nationals’ players fouling out and underperforming.

And then came Game 2 – the greatest playoff performance the basketball world had seen up to that point.

Bob Cousy cemented his place as the number one guard in the league, dropping fifty points in a quadruple overtime classic that got the Celtics their first playoff series win in franchise history. It proved his underrated reputation as a finisher, being sent to the line a whopping thirty-two times and draining almost every foul shot.

With Schayes out of the game early and Boston’s superstar on fire, Syracuse couldn’t hold up – they were handed a first-round exit, something the successful franchise had never experienced prior.
East / New York Knicks beat Baltimore Bullets, 2-0
The outcome of this series wasn’t remotely surprising, given Baltimore had one of the worst records in the NBA – they practically handed New York a free series.

Neither game was terribly close, and more so served as an opportunity for some underrated Knicks players to show their worth. Nat Clifton and Ernie Vandeweghe were particularly good, considering that neither were known for their scoring.
West / Fort Wayne Pistons beat Rochester Royals, 2-1
Having acquired veteran guard Fred Scolari and the reigning assists champion in Andy Phillip, the Pistons had a sneakily good lineup. Not good enough to beat a team as elite as Rochester, though – or so everyone thought.

After trading the first two matches, the teams had a close tiebreaker in which Rochester struggled to get a lead over Fort Wayne – it didn’t help that their only player to score in double digits was Bobby Wanzer. Given that Bob Davies looked washed and Risen was inconsistent, it was safe to say the Royals “big three” that won a championship only two seasons ago had begun to decline.
West / Minneapolis Lakers beat Indianapolis Olympians, 2-0
The reigning champions made quick work of the relatively average Indianapolis squad, largely thanks to their sheer star power.

George Mikan had a bad series, but fellow stars Vern Mikkelsen and Jim Pollard took the pressure off of him. They both averaged more points per game, confirming that Minneapolis wasn’t just the Mikan show anymore – it was about the frontcourt as a whole.

Division Finals

East / New York Knicks beat Boston Celtics, 3-1
The Knicks’ silent successes resulted from two things – concentrated ball movement and excellent defense. A system like this was hard to beat, even when you’re the best offensive team in the NBA like the Celtics.

New York effectively limited the impact of Boston’s three stars, with Bill Sharman having a terrible series in particular. Cousy and Macauley were decent for their standards, but nothing they did could outplay the Knicks, who had six players average double digits in points.
West / Minneapolis Lakers beat Fort Wayne Pistons, 3-2
The Pistons may have been able to stomp on the Royals, but nobody expected them to take Minneapolis to five games.

Both squads had great centers, with Fort Wayne’s Larry Foust playing nearly as well as George Mikan throughout. The difference maker was that the Lakers supporting cast was better, as underrated as the Pistons’ was. Even with Vern Mikkselsen underperforming, the former persevered and ended the series on a blowout win at home, led by Slater Martin’s eighteen points.


Minneapolis Lakers beat New York Knicks, 4-1
For the first time in league history, the Finals matchup was a repeat of last year’s – and this time around, the Lakers wasted no time giving the Knicks hope.

New York took the first game on the road, largely thanks to great performances from Harry Gallatin and the recently reacquired Carl Braun – the latter returned from the military this season, and gave the Knicks a scoring punch in the playoffs.

Nonetheless, the Lakers took that surprise loss as motivation. They proceeded to win four games straight, including three on the road – there just wasn’t an answer for a team with four star-level guys like Mikan, Pollard, Mikkelsen, and Martin. In five years, the Lakers had now emerged victorious four times – and New York lost in the Finals for the third year in a row.
The Minneapolis Lakers win the 1953 NBA championship!


All-Team selections were not yet selected based on position yet.
Name(s) under the “All-Stars” section with an asterisk (*) were listed as the MVP of the All-Star Game that year. Those with “(IR)” next to their name were chosen to replace an injured star.

Major Awards

Rookie of the Year
Don Meineke


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
George Mikan
Bob Cousy
Neil Johnston
Ed Macauley
Dolph Schayes
Bill Sharman
Vern Mikkelsen
Bobby Wanzer
Bob Davies
Andy Phillip


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Don Barksdale
Carl Braun
Bob Cousy
Billy Gabor
Harry Gallatin
Neil Johnston
Ed Macauley
Dolph Schayes

Fred Scolari
Paul Seymour
Bill Sharman
Leo Barnhorst
Bob Davies
Larry Foust

Mel Hutchins
Slater Martin
George Mikan*
Vern Mikkelsen
Andy Phillip

Arnie Risen
Bobby Wanzer
West beats East, 79-75

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

Lakers41949, 1950
1952, 1953

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