The NBA Time Machine: 1956

Published October 9, 2022

The NBA Time Machine:

The Most Valuable

Updated Awards

The All-NBA Teams were changed – instead of being voted in a position-less fashion, the teams now followed a lineup-based format. Two guards, two forwards, and one center occupied the five slots respectively.

This had its advantages and setbacks – on one hand, it showcased the best talent in the league at each position. This was incredibly important in an era like the 50’s, where most of the best players were big men – great guards like Bill Sharman couldn’t sniff a First Team selection before this rehaul.

However, it also hurt players at the deepest positions. For example, the third best center in the league – Larry Foust – never received an All-Team selection again, because he was simply never amongst the two best at the position. That didn’t make him any less great, but somebody that only focused on his voting-based accomplishments would assume otherwise.

The M.V.P.

The league also implemented the Most Valuable Player award, which intended to highlight the best performer during the regular season. Players would cast in five contenders in descending order, and the higher somebody’s voting placement was, the more points they received.

Sophomore Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks won the very first MVP award.

Franchise Movements

The Milwaukee Hawks relocated to St. Louis – they had been established in three different locations over the course of seven years.

A Brief Return

Basketball legend George Mikan returned for the second half of the season, participating in one last stint with his beloved Minneapolis Lakers. Mikan was still relatively productive, but his numbers had dwindled due to a smaller role.

Standout Players

Paul Arizin

After a lukewarm comeback year, Arizin jumped to elite levels again in his fourth season. The Warriors finished with the best record in franchise history and were light-years ahead of their competition.

Bob Pettit

Named the first “Most Valuable Player”, Pettit’s sophomore campaign was excellent. He immediately solidified himself as the number one talent in the NBA, leading in scoring and total rebounds.

Maurice Stokes

The second overall pick had what was arguably the greatest rookie season up to that point, instantly becoming the most effective rebounder ever. Despite his Royals being a league-worst offense, he still led them to thirty wins because of his phenomenal defensive abilities.

Bill Sharman

The Celtics shooting guard continued to improve year-after-year, reaching career highs in points, assists, and minutes. He became their go-to for buckets, leading the team in scoring for the first time above teammate Bob Cousy.

Neil Johnston

Despite Johnston not clinching the scoring title for the first time in three years, he had what was arguably his best season to date. He made a proper impact as Philadelphia’s second option, now able to focus on efficiency with a superstar next to him.

Bob Cousy

Cousy began to place less emphasis on his scoring, with his points average of 18.8 being his lowest since 1951. However, he set the all-time record for assists per game in a season, with 8.9. This helped keep the Celtics on their toes offensively.

Clyde Lovellette

With most of the dynasty core gone or exiting their primes, Lovellette officially became the face of the Lakers. He improved on all fronts, despite the franchise experiencing their first losing record.

Around the League

Team Standings

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

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Philadelphia Warriors*4527Fort Wayne Pistons*3735
Boston Celtics*3933Minneapolis Lakers*3339
Syracuse Nationals*3537St. Louis Hawks*3339
New York Knicks3537Rochester Royals3141

Fun Facts

  • The New York Knicks‘ nine-year streak of winning records since the league’s conception was snapped, as they finished two wins below the requirement.
    • The Minneapolis Lakers also had their first losing record after seven dominant years.
  • For the first time since 1952, the Boston Celtics were not the top-ranked offense.
  • The NBA had multiple teams score over one-hundred points per game for the first time. Those teams were the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia Warriors and New York Knicks.
  • After a long period of stability, the Western Division began to decline and resemble its mediocre form in the early-50s. Only the Detroit Pistons, who had just been to the finals, looked like a formidable team.

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

St. Louis Hawks
Rochester Royals
Philadelphia Warriors
Boston Celtics
New York Knicks
Minneapolis Lakers
Syracuse Nationals
Fort Wayne Pistons
St. Louis Hawks
Rochester Royals
Dick Ricketts
Maurice Stokes
Tom Gola*
Jim Loscutoff
Kenny Sears
Dick Garmaker*
Ed Conlin
Johnny Horan
Jack Stephens
Jack Twyman


n/aGeorge MikanMinneapolis LakersUn-retiredn/a(18.1p/14.3r/2.4a)
October 26, 1955Arnie RisenRochester RoyalsSoldBoston Celtics(11.6/p/10.2r/1.6a)

Other Personnel

April 28, 1955Coach Les HarrisonRochester RoyalsResignedRecord: 29-43
April 28, 1955Player-coach Bobby WanzerRochester RoyalsHiredRecord: 31-41
January 27, 1956Coach Joe LapchickNew York KnicksResignedRecord: 26-25
February 9, 1956Coach Vince BorylaNew York KnicksHiredRecord: 9-12


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Bob DaviesRochester Royals1x Champion
5x All-Team
4x All-Star
1x Assists Leader
Jim PollardMinneapolis Lakers5x Champion
5x All-Team

4x All-NBA
4x All-Star
Fred ScolariWashington Capitols
Syracuse Nationals
Baltimore Bullets
Fort Wayne Pistons
Boston Celtics
2x All-BAA
2x All-Star

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)

PPGBob Pettit (25.7)
Paul Arizin (24.2)
Neil Johnston (22.1)
Clyde Lovellette (21.5)
Dolph Schayes (20.4)
RPGMaurice Stokes (16.3)
Bob Pettit (16.2)
Clyde Lovellette (14)
Neil Johnston (12.5)
Dolph Schayes (12.4)
APGBob Cousy (8.9)
Jack George (6.3)
Slater Martin (6.2)
Andy Phillip (5.9)
Tom Gola (5.9)
FG%Neil Johnston (45%)
Paul Arizin (44%)
Larry Foust (44%)
Kenny Sears (43%)
Bill Sharman (43%)
FT%Bill Sharman (86%)
Dolph Schayes (85%)
Dick Schnittker (85%)
Bob Cousy (84%)
Carl Braun (83%)


Tiebreaker Rounds

Syracuse Nationals beat New York Knicks, 1-0
A rather unremarkable tiebreaker game ended in Syracuse taking the third seed. Nobody on their squad looked particularly great, but they still managed to enjoy a victory due to a strong second quarter.

New York had a few standout performances from the likes of Harry Gallatin, Nat Clifton, and Kenny Sears, but that was not enough to overpower a balanced Nationals squad and make the playoffs.
Minneapolis Lakers beat St. Louis Hawks, 1-0
A twenty-eight point game on amazing efficiency from point guard Slater Martin secured an immediate win for Minneapolis.

Add a good game from George Mikan and some extra production from other players, and the Hawks – who were far too dependent on All-Star Bob Pettit and the enormous Chuck Share – were destined for a three seed from the start.


East / Syracuse Nationals beat Boston Celtics, 2-1
The Nationals were shocked when the less-experienced Celtics drove them out of town in Game 1. Dolph Schayes shot three-for-thirteen, and only fellow frontcourt members Red Kerr and Ed Conlin played well. Meanwhile, two Celtics players nearly grabbed triple-doubles in Bob Cousy and Jack Nichols.

The Nationals swiftly got it together in Game 2, narrowly winning despite another poor outing from Schayes. The star forward then dominated the tiebreaker game to win the series, delivering 27-17-5 in a comeback.
West / St. Louis Hawks beat Minneapolis Lakers, 2-1
Considering the outcome of the tiebreaker game for seeding, the Hawks pulling out the first series win in franchise history was a special outcome.

The league M.V.P. Bob Pettit immediately showed out in Game 1 with twenty-five points, although his Hawks were silenced in Game 2. He had a terrible shooting night, and the entire Lakers roster scored at least ten each en route to a fifty-eight point blowout.

However, Pettit wanted nothing to do with such disrespect from the opponent. He dropped forty-one points on 58% shooting to kill the noise and send the Lakers home in a thriller Game 3. He wanted St. Louis to succeed at any cost, and his wish was granted.

Division Finals

East / Philadelphia Warriors beat Syracuse Nationals, 3-2
Going into this series, the biggest question was – could the Warriors’ momentum trump over the defending champions’ playoff experience?

As we can see, it absolutely did.

The two clubs traded wins, with Game 2 notably featuring a Neil Johnston and Dolph Schayes duel – they scored forty-three and thirty-three, respectively. Ultimately, it was Philadelphia’s star power that manifested success – Johnston and Arizin combined for over sixty points in each of the final two games, which was a degree of dominance not even Dolph Schayes could soften.
West / Fort Wayne Pistons beat St. Louis Hawks, 3-2
Perhaps the most boring series of the playoffs also featured one of the worst superstar performances the league had ever seen.

After holding a commanding 2-0 lead, the Hawks looked prepared to reach their first NBA Finals. However, stale offense caused them to lose three straight – and Bob Pettit was a no-show the entire time.

The Pistons boasted one of the best playoff defenses, and their concentration frustrated Pettit to the point of throwing his aspirations away. They managed to reach a second consecutive Finals as a result, this time against a new opponent.


Philadelphia Warriors beat Fort Wayne Pistons, 4-1
Going in, the Warriors were undeniable favorites. They were the only team to reach forty wins in the regular season and just dropped off the defending champions, Syracuse.

Paul Arizin was the unrivaled hero, delivering quite possibly the greatest Finals performance of the era. Against a gritty Pistons lineup that had completely neutralized teammate Neil Johnston, Arizin scored effortlessly in all five games. The only real threat to his dominance was the underrated George Yardley, who
is really the only reason the Pistons even managed one win.

In only four seasons of play, Arizin had managed to revive a franchise, deliver an all-time rookie campaign, come back from the military unscathed, and lead a championship team. His status as one of the greats was solidified.
The Philadelphia Warriors win the 1956 NBA championship!


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 YearMVP
Maurice StokesBob Pettit


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
Bob Cousy
Bill Sharman
Paul Arizin
Bob Pettit
Neil Johnston
Slater Martin
Jack George
Maurice Stokes
Dolph Schayes
Clyde Lovellette


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Paul Arizin
Carl Braun
Bob Cousy
Harry Gallatin
Jack George
Neil Johnston
Red Kerr (IR)
Ed Macauley
Dick McGuire
Dolph Schayes

Bill Sharman
Larry Foust
Bob Harrison
Mel Hutchins
Clyde Lovellette
Slater Martin
Vern Mikkelsen
Bob Pettit
Maurice Stokes
Bobby Wanzer
George Yardley
West beats East, 108-94

All-Time Championship Leaderboard

The Baltimore Bullets (1947-1954) won the championship in 1948, but are defunct. As a result, they are not listed.

Lakers51949, 1950
1952, 1953
Warriors21947, 1956

Leave a Reply