The NBA Time Machine: 1960

Published December 16, 2022

The NBA Time Machine:


Change In Philadelphia

Dating back to 1955, the NBA allowed a “territorial draft” rule – teams could exchange a first-round pick for the ability to claim a local college player from their area. The Philadelphia Warriors had their eyes on rising basketball phenomenon Wilt Chamberlain – while he went to the University of Kansas, Philadelphia argued he should be eligible due to playing there in high school. Since there was no team that could directly tie itself to Kansas, the league obliged and let the wilting Warriors have their way.

Under the guidance of former franchise star Neil Johnston – who retired the year prior due to injuries – the Warriors improved by seventeen games and were the best team in the East behind the defending champion Boston Celtics. Chamberlain’s impact was immediate – although the team ranked amongst the worst offenses, they still won games off of his unstoppable prowess on both ends. Not much was needed from the team scoring-wise besides big games from him, Paul Arizin, and Tom Gola.

Offense Wins Games

With the turn of the decade, the NBA‘s playing habits saw a major overhaul. Scoring never held more importance – the league-wide field goal percentage was above 40% for the first time, per game scoring went up by seven points, and assists numbers rose again after a few down years.

Speaking of Games…

The NBA schedule was slightly expanded, going from seventy-two games to seventy-five.

Coaching Habits

Something peculiar about the league in this period was that coaching personnel were almost always deeply tied to the team already. Seven of the eight coaches by the end of the season were either player-coaches or former players for their franchise – this included Neil Johnston, Paul Seymour, Carl Braun, Ed Macauley, Dick McGuire, Jim Pollard, and Tom Marshall. Marshall was the only non-former All-Star of the bunch.

The Plane Emergency

Mere days before the All-Star Game, the Minneapolis Lakers were headed home from a loss against the St. Louis Hawks. On the way, the plane lost nearly all functionality and it was reported that only the generator worked. The pilots, who had to open windows to manually remove snow, had no clue where they were going and suffered from frostbite.

The Lakers players had mixed reactions to the emergency, but all of them surely felt relief when the plane managed to land safely in an Iowa field. The belief was that had they landed any several yards further, the plane would have went into a gorge and exploded – thankfully, the world did not have to mourn the loss of so many lives.

Standout Players

Wilt Chamberlain

Chamberlain debuted looking like the best athlete the league has ever seen. He became the first player to average over thirty points, twenty-five rebounds, and forty-five minutes, which was a testament to his ridiculous conditioning. Lifting Philadelphia to relevance again also made him the favorite for the M.V.P. award, making him the first rookie to win it.

Bill Russell

Although he had a new rival big man in town, Russell remained the league’s best winner. He achieved career high averages in every major statistic and led the Celtics to their second-straight season over fifty wins.

Bob Pettit

Pettit and his Hawks terrorized the Western Division once again, thanks to the power forward’s continued growth as a player. Although he was getting to the line less, he began to embrace playmaking more and increased his minutes even further.

Bob Cousy

Despite being in his thirties at this point, Cousy’s offense never wavered. He adjusted to the new pace of the league well, becoming the first player in NBA history to average over nine assists. The Celtics may have been a defense-first squad, but their offensive successes were still heavily dependent on Cousy’s presence.

Dolph Schayes

The ’59 season was not one to remember for Syracuse, but they bounced back nicely behind Dolph Schayes’ leadership. He was also the first of many to eclipse 15,000 points, further cementing his place as the all-time leading scorer.

Elgin Baylor

The Lakers weren’t as magical in Baylor’s sophomore season, but he continued to improve. His scoring hit new heights, which was largely thanks to his contact-drawing talents. Minneapolis remained grateful for his presence, staying afloat another year as a franchise after nearly going bankrupt two seasons ago.

Around the League

Team Standings

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

Eastern DivisionWLWestern DivisionWL
Boston Celtics*5916St. Louis Hawks*4629
Philadelphia Warriors*4926Detroit Pistons*3045
Syracuse Nationals*4530Minneapolis Lakers*2550
New York Knicks2748Cincinnati Royals1956

Fun Facts

  • This season marked three straight years of no Western Division teams besides the St. Louis Hawks having a positive win-loss record.
  • The Boston Celtics joined the ’47 Washington Capitols and ’50 Syracuse Nationals as the only NBA teams to have a win-loss percentage higher than .750.
    • However, Boston did so with a much larger slew of games – they played seventy-five compared to the Nationals’ sixty-four and the Capitols’ sixty.
  • Having good rim protection became an increasing necessity to be a premier center – the top two defenses being the Boston Celtics and Syracuse Nationals were proof.
    • This is further supported when considering these two teams were also the best in the NBA.
  • The Minneapolis Lakers already had a rather shaky offensive foundation last season, but they were outright exposed this year – ranking eighth in offense and sixth in overall record was not a good look.

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

Cincinnati Royals
Detroit Pistons
Philadelphia Warriors
Minneapolis Lakers
Syracuse Nationals
New York Knicks
St. Louis Hawks
Boston Celtics
Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons
Bob Boozer +
Bailey Howell
Wilt Chamberlain*
Tom Hawkins
Dick Barnett
Johnny Green
Bob Ferry*
John Richter
Tom Robitaille +
Don Goldstein


January 24, 1960Dick GarmakerMinneapolis LakersTradedNew York Knicks(11.7p/4.3r/3a)
February 1, 1960Larry FoustMinneapolis LakersTradedSt. Louis Hawks(13.3p/9.3r/1.6a)

Other Personnel

August 24, 1959Coach Neil JohnstonPhiladelphia WarriorsHiredRecord: 46-29
December 18, 1959Coach Andrew LevaneNew York KnicksResignedRecord: 8-19
December 18, 1959Player-coach Carl BraunNew York KnicksHiredRecord: 19-29
December 28, 1959Coach Red RochaDetroit PistonsFiredRecord: 13-21
December 28, 1959Player-coach Dick McGuireDetroit PistonsHiredRecord: 17-24
January 2, 1960Coach John CastellaniMinneapolis LakersResignedRecord: 11-25
January 2, 1960Interim coach Jim PollardMinneapolis LakersHiredRecord: 14-25
March 16, 1960Player-coach Paul SeymourSyracuse NationalsResignedRecord: 45-30


PlayerTeam(s)Notable Accomplishments
Neil JohnstonPhiladelphia Warriors1x Champion
5x All-NBA
6x All-Star
3x Scoring Leader
1x Rebounds Leader
Ed MacauleySt. Louis Bombers
Boston Celtics
St. Louis Hawks
1x Champion
4x All-NBA
7x All-Star
1x All-Star Game MVP
Vern MikkelsenMinneapolis Lakers4x Champion
4x All-NBA
6x 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)

PPGWilt Chamberlain (37.6)
Jack Twyman (31.2)
Elgin Baylor (29.6)
Bob Pettit (26.1)
Cliff Hagan (24.8)
RPGWilt Chamberlain (27)
Bill Russell (24)
Bob Pettit (17)
Elgin Baylor (16.4)
Willie Naulls (14.2)
APGBob Cousy (9.5)
Guy Rodgers (7.1)
Richie Guerin (6.3)
Larry Costello (6.3)
Tom Gola (5.5)
FG%Kenny Sears (47%)
Hal Greer (47%)
Clyde Lovellette (46%)
Bill Russell (46%)
Cliff Hagan (46%)
FT%Dolph Schayes (89%)
Gene Shue (87%)
Kenny Sears (86%)
Bill Sharman (86%)
Larry Costello (86%)



East / Philadelphia Warriors beat Syracuse Nationals, 2-1
A little fun fact the league failed to remember – Paul Arizin was still that guy. If they thought dealing with him and Neil Johnston amidst their championship run four years ago was a big task, imagine Johnston with half a foot added, tons of bulk, legit defense, and fresh legs.

The man in question – Wilt Chamberlain – combined with Arizin for seventy-five points in the series opener.

Dolph Schayes kept Syracuse in the race with a huge forty bomb the next game, but it was wraps by the tiebreaker. He had another great game, but Chamberlain dropped fifty-three points and grabbed twenty-two rebounds – the Nationals simply had no answer for his dominance.
West / Minneapolis Lakers beat Detroit Pistons, 2-0
Although the Pistons were generally the better team during the regular season, they weren’t nearly as effective as Minneapolis come playoff time. They lacked a powerful scoring option, something every other playoff team had – and for that reason, Elgin Baylor and the Lakers swept them.

The first game involved a huge blown lead from Detroit, and they never recovered from that collapse mentally. They were humiliated on the road the next day, resulting in yet another unremarkable post-season for the Michigan franchise.

Division Finals

East / Boston Celtics beat Philadelphia Warriors, 4-2
Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain.

Seeing the league transform into a game where two uber-athletic giants could face head-to-head was remarkable. Chamberlain instantly went off, collecting forty-two points in the opener – despite this, Philadelphia still lost. They did better in a Game 2 win behind a more balanced scoring effort, before getting embarrassed at home in the third match. Chamberlain was hopeless against Russell’s defense, being held to twelve points on sub-par efficiency.

After underperforming again in Game 4, questions began to arise regarding Chamberlain’s leadership – Arizin was doing his best to boost the Warriors offense, but Wilt needed to respond. And that he did – fifty points and thirty-five rebounds were his contribution once down 3-1, although he struggled to outperform his rival at home two nights later. The Celtics were just too good.
West / St. Louis Hawks beat Minneapolis Lakers, 4-3
Back-and-forth wins and random outbursts from Elgin Baylor defined the first half of this series, but the real surprise came in Game 5. Elgin dropped forty points on the road to secure a 3-2 lead in a manner reminiscent of last year. It seemed like Minneapolis could pull off yet another upset to reach the Finals.

Ultimately though, the Hawks shut that down. They began to give Baylor whatever he wants, watching him average thirty-five for the rest of the series – their focus was to limit the Lakers supporting cast instead, holding them to awful shooting splits and forcing a Baylor carry job. Such defense created the possibility of a series comeback, sending St. Louis to their third Finals appearance over the course of four seasons.


Boston Celtics beat St. Louis Hawks, 4-3
The greatest NBA rivalry presented itself once again at the brightest stage, and this was the year to see who was truly the better squad. Both Boston and St. Louis had won a championship against the other once – this was the mythical tiebreaker.

A near triple-double from Bill Russell defined a Celtics Game 1 win, with Pettit nearly amassing one immediately after in Game 2. The teams continued to trade wins behind great performances from Tom Heinsohn and Cliff Hagan alongside the superstars – supporting casts on both ends also came to play, although Bob Cousy in particular looked rough.

The Celtics failed to close out the series in Game 6, with nobody scoring twenty or more points. This generated the first Finals Game 7 since 1957, which featured the same matchup.

None of the Hawks’ best options seemed too animated in the final game, generally underperforming against a vicious Celtics defense. Bill Russell’s twenty-two points and thirty-five rebounds inspired his squad to remain consistent after a huge second quarter. Such resiliency from the guys in green resulted in a second consecutive championship and effective start to a dynasty.
The Boston Celtics win the 1960 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
Wilt ChamberlainWilt Chamberlain


All-NBA First TeamAll-NBA Second Team
Bob Cousy
Gene Shue
Elgin Baylor
Bob Pettit
Wilt Chamberlain
Bill Sharman
Richie Guerin
Jack Twyman
Dolph Schayes
Bill Russell


Eastern All-StarsWestern All-Stars
Paul Arizin
Wilt Chamberlain*
Larry Costello
Bob Cousy
Tom Gola (IR)
Richie Guerin
Willie Naulls
Bill Russell
Dolph Schayes
Bill Sharman
George Yardley
Elgin Baylor
Walter Dukes
Dick Garmaker
Cliff Hagan
Hot Rod Hundley
Clyde Lovellette
Chuck Noble
Bob Pettit
Gene Shue
Jack Twyman
East beats West, 125-115

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
Celtics31957, 1959
Warriors21947, 1956

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