Published November 29, 2022
The NBA Time Machine:
Things Come and Go
Two teams made significant changes to their home city in this season – the Fort Wayne Pistons relocated to Detroit, and the Rochester Royals moved to Cincinnati.
The Pistons primarily did so because of Fort Wayne’s lack of sustainability for an NBA franchise – Detroit was not a particularly big basketball city either, missing a professional team for about a decade at that point. Regardless, the move was still profitable.
The decision to move to Cincinnati was a more rational one for the Royals – the college basketball fanbase there was enormous, and there was no football team for them to compete with. As a result, a strong focus could be placed on getting the city to identify with their new basketball team.
After two consecutive seasons of a losing record and relatively forgettable playoff efforts, the Minneapolis Lakers focused on changing their roster. They traded star Clyde Lovellette away to Cincinnati in the off-season alongside young forward Jim Paxson, and received a plethora of players in return.
They also made moves to acquire six-time All-Star Larry Foust from the Detroit Pistons, who had led that team to back-to-back Finals appearances. The move seemed like a steal, but Foust could not anchor a team without an identity – his numbers jumped in the new role, but the winning impact was nonexistent.
Minneapolis also hired franchise great George Mikan as head coach to immediate disaster. He could not get the largely young core to commit to playing well on either end of the floor, and was fired mid-season after accumulating a 9-30 record. Long-term coach John Kundla returned to the position afterwards to similarly low levels of success.
Loss of a Star
On the final game of the regular season, Royals franchise player Maurice Stokes was knocked unconscious following a drive to the basket. He injured his head after rough contact with the floor, but continued the game after revival via smelling salts.
Following the first-round playoff opener against Detroit, Stokes began to feel sick and eventually had a seizure. This paralyzed him for life, rendering him unable to play and stripping the league of a future all-time talent.
In light of the unfortunate circumstances, teammate Jack Twyman regularly visited Stokes to support him and keep his spirits up. Twyman eventually became his legal guardian, and continued to take care of his friend until Stokes passed away in the early-70s.
The Celtics-drafted sophomore had a much-anticipated breakout season following his amazing playoff run in 1957. He made the Celtics the team to beat – they were the first-ranked defense behind his rim protection, and lost every game he sat out in. As a result, he won the Most Valuable Player award – the first person of African-American descent to do so.
Going into the next year, Pettit had something to prove as the arguable best player in the league. He led St. Louis to their second consecutive first seed – this time without much resistance – and ranked top three in both scoring and rebounding averages.
The king of consistency struck again with a low-key M.V.P. campaign of his own. Voters selected him as the runner-up for the award, largely thanks to the Nationals surpassing forty wins for the first time since their championship season.
The reigning M.V.P. maintained the basketball world’s respect through leading the NBA in assists for the sixth year in a row. He was no longer the consensus best player on the Boston Celtics, but he was still integral to their team – his playmaking upheld an otherwise subdued offense.
Yardley had silently been climbing his way up the league’s top ranks, eventually settling as the annual leading scorer this time around. Detroit mourned the trading of franchise cornerstone Larry Foust, but Yardley ensured they had nothing to worry about – they only finished with one less win.
Pettit amassed all the attention on the Hawks, but Cliff Hagan was a star second option that bolstered their success rate. Practically having a 20/10 season, his combination of ridiculous efficiency and rebounding launched him into the top three small forwards of the NBA.
Around the League
An asterisk (*) indicates that the team qualified for the playoffs.