Sunday, March 17, 2013
the last book I ever read (The Big O by Oscar Roberston, excerpt seven)
from The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game by Oscar Robertson:
During the late 1920s, the American Basketball League (ABL) emerged as the strongest of these early leagues. Along with the Midwestern Basketball League (founded later, in 1937), the ABL provided part of the foundation for what would eventually become the National Basketball League (NBL). The NBL had franchises in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Indiana. Initially, it was a regional, almost provincial league. Three of its eight teams—Buffalo, Rochester, and New York City—were within New York State. Other teams based in relatively small and obscure towns (Oshkosh, Dayton, Fort Wayne) came and went. In those days, the National Basketball League’s status was national in name only.
The NBL and a few smaller leagues eventually consolidated in 1949 to become the league we all know today as the National Basketball Association (NBA). At the end of World War II, however, the NBA was a fledgling and struggling organization. CBS’s broadcast of a double-overtime game between the Boston Celtics and the St. Louis Hawks for the 1956-57 NBA finals was the first nationally televised basketball game. For the following season, NBC paid five hundred thousand dollars to televise Saturday games into the twelve million homes with television sets. But their broadcasts generated so little interest that Nielsen reported the ratings as IFR (Insufficient for Reporting)—the numbers were too small to be measured.
Things began to change in 1960 when the Lakers moved their franchise from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. For the first time, the league had a truly coast-to-coast, national presence. Just as importantly, 1959 to 1960 marked Wilt Chamberlain’s debut with the Philadelphia Warriors. I’ve always thought that his gargantuan appeal had a lot to do with that season’s attendance figures jumping twenty-three percent.