Published December 19, 2022
The NBA Time Machine:
Welcoming the West
During the 1959-60 season, the Minneapolis Lakers experimented with playing a few games in California – one in Los Angeles against the Philadelphia Warriors, and another couple against the St. Louis Hawks some weeks later. Franchise owner Bob Short took note of the significantly better fan attendance in those neutral settings than that of Minneapolis – he immediately hinted at considering relocation afterwards.
Once he proposed the idea, the NBA was hesitant on approving the decision – however, they allowed it under a couple costs:
- That Bob Short draw a satisfactory schedule amongst their home arenas
- And that he paid off travel costs for the rest of the league
Due to the latter, teams often played back-to-backs when in Los Angeles – it decreased the frequency of travel and therefore conserved funds.
Following the move, the Lakers not only became the NBA‘s first west coast team, but also the final member of the Western Division to abandon their original location. The Hawks had left Milwaukee, the Pistons abandoned Fort Wayne, and the Royals relocated from Rochester.
The top two picks in the 1960 draft were point guards Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, who both played excellently in college. Robertson regularly stuffed the stat sheet and was unstoppable offensively – standing at 6’5″, he was abnormally large for a guard and therefore succeeded scoring anywhere on the court.
West was nearly as versatile himself, averaging 29.3 points and 16.5 rebounds per game during his final college season. His resiliency was exciting to teams, and he co-captained the gold medal-winning Olympics team this year alongside Robertson.
Ultimately, Robertson was drafted first by the Cincinnati Royals via territorial rules. Coinciding with their move to California, the Los Angeles Lakers chose West with the second pick.
More and More
In light of stability amongst the league’s franchises, the NBA increased its amount of games for the second consecutive year. This time they reached for 79 from 75.
The reigning M.V.P. showed no signs of a sophomore slump, improving his scoring and rebounding averages while also becoming the first player in league history to average 50% on field goals for the year. Behind his paint presence, the Warriors also remained a top ranked defense.
Offensively, this season was nothing to write home about for Russell – however, his defense was so mind-blowingly dominant that it exhausted opponents on a regular basis. After another campaign well over fifty wins for the Celtics, Russell was awarded his second M.V.P. award.
Now paired with an elite playmaker in the rookie Jerry West, Baylor improved on all fronts and became nearly unstoppable. His offense both on and off-ball was so refined that he was able to surpass thirty points per game, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Jack Twyman and Oscar Robertson as the only players to accomplish such.
The Cincinnati rookie was instantly one of the best players around upon arrival. He could get any shot he wanted, rebounded at an absurdly high rate for a guard, and was immediately the best passer in the league. On top of all of this, he was efficient – the Royals’ fourteen-win improvement was no surprise.
Pettit continued ripping his competition apart amidst his prime. The Hawks surpassed fifty wins for the first time in franchise history – Pettit contributed through being a top scorer yet again, and his defensive abilities saw improvement as well.
A surprising story of the season was the uprising of Pistons sophomore Bailey Howell. He wasn’t quite a superstar by any means, but was one of the most efficient volume scorers and contributed to Detroit becoming the second best offense in the NBA.
Around the League
An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.