George Lawrence Mikan Jr. nicknamed Mr. Basketball, was an American professional basketball player for the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League and the Minneapolis Lakers of the NBL, the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball Association. Invariably playing with thick, round spectacles, the 6 ft 10 in, 245 pounds Mikan is seen as one of the pioneers of professional basketball, redefining it as a game of so-called big men with his prolific rebounding, shot blocking, his talent to shoot over smaller defenders with his ambidextrous hook shot, the result of his namesake Mikan Drill, he utilized the underhanded free-throw shooting technique long before Rick Barry made it his signature shot. Mikan had a successful playing career, winning seven NBL, BAA, NBA championships, an NBA All-Star Game MVP trophy, three scoring titles, he was a member of the first four NBA All-Star games, the first six All-BAA and All-NBA Teams. Mikan was so dominant that he caused several rule changes in the NBA: among them, the introduction of the goaltending rule, the widening of the foul lane—known as the "Mikan Rule"—and the creation of the shot clock.
After his playing career, Mikan became one of the founders of the American Basketball Association, serving as commissioner of the league. He was vital for the forming of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his years, Mikan was involved in a long-standing legal battle against the NBA, fighting to increase the meager pensions for players who had retired before the league became lucrative. In 2005, Mikan died after a long battle with diabetes. For his accomplishments, Mikan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959, made the 25th and 35th NBA Anniversary Teams of 1970 and 1980, was elected one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1996. Since April 2001, a statue of Mikan shooting his trademark hook shot graces the entrance of the Timberwolves' Target Center. George Mikan was born in Joliet and was of Croatian descent; as a boy, he shattered one of his knees so badly that he was kept in bed for a half. In 1938, Mikan attended the Chicago Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary and wanted to be a priest, but moved back home to finish at Joliet Catholic.
Mikan did not seem destined to become an athlete. When Mikan entered Chicago's DePaul University in 1942, he stood 6' 10", weighed 245 pounds, moved awkwardly because of his frame, wore thick glasses for his near-sightedness. However, Mikan met 28-year-old rookie DePaul basketball coach Ray Meyer, who saw potential in the bright and intelligent, but clumsy and shy, freshman. Put into perspective, Meyer's thoughts were revolutionary, because at the time it was believed that tall players were too awkward to play basketball well. In the following months, Meyer transformed Mikan into a confident, aggressive player who took pride in his height rather than being ashamed of it. Meyer and Mikan worked out intensively, Mikan learned how to make hook shots with either hand; this routine would become known as the Mikan Drill. In addition, Meyer made Mikan punch a speed bag, take dancing lessons, jump rope to make him a complete athlete. Mikan dominated his peers from the start of his National Collegiate Athletic Association college games at DePaul.
He intimidated opponents with his size and strength, was unstoppable on offense with his hook shot, soon established a reputation as one of the hardest and grittiest players in the league playing through injuries and punishing opposing centers with hard fouls. In addition, Mikan surprised the basketball world with his unique ability of goaltending, i.e. jumping so high that he swatted the ball away before it could pass the hoop. In today's basketball, touching the ball after it reaches its apex is a violation, but in Mikan's time it was legal because people thought it was impossible anyone could reach that high. "We would set up a zone defense that had four men around the key and I guarded the basket", Mikan recalled his DePaul days. "When the other team took a shot, I'd just go up and tap it out." As a consequence, the NCAA and the NBA, outlawed goaltending. Bob Kurland, a seven-footer from Oklahoma A&M, was one of the few opposing centers to have any success against Mikan. Mikan was named the Helms NCAA College Player of the Year in 1944 and 1945 and was an All-American three times.
In 1945, he led DePaul to the NIT title. Mikan led the nation in scoring with 23.9 points per game in 1944–45 and 23.1 in 1945–46. When DePaul won the 1945 National Invitation Tournament, Mikan was named Most Valuable Player for scoring 120 points in three games, including 53 points in a 97–53 win over Rhode Island. After the end of the 1945–46 college season, Mikan signed with the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League, a predecessor of the modern NBA, he played with them for 25 games at the end of the 1946–47 NBL season, scoring 16.5 points per game as a rookie. Mikan led the Gears to the championship of the World Basketball Tournament, where he was elected Most Valuable Player after scoring 100 points in five games, voted into the All-NBL Team. However, before the start of the 1947–48 NBL season, Maurice White, the president of the American Gear Company and the owner of the American Gears NBL team, pulled the team out of the league. White planned to create a 24-team league called the Professional Basketball League of America, in which he owned all the teams and arenas.
However, the league folded after just a month, the players of White's teams were distribu
The Sacramento Kings are an American professional basketball team based in Sacramento, California. The Kings compete in the National Basketball Association as a member of the Western Conference's Pacific Division; the Kings are the only team in the major professional North American sports leagues located in Sacramento. The team plays its home games at the Golden 1 Center; the Kings are one of the oldest continuously operating professional basketball franchises in the nation. They originated in Rochester, New York, as the Rochester Seagrams in 1923 and joined the National Basketball League in 1945 as the Rochester Royals, they jumped to the Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the NBA, in 1948. As the Royals, the team was successful on the court, winning the NBA championship in 1951; the team, found it difficult to turn a profit in the comparatively small market of Rochester and relocated to Cincinnati in 1957, becoming the Cincinnati Royals. In 1972 the team relocated to Kansas City and was renamed the Kansas City-Omaha Kings because it split its home games between Kansas City and Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1975, the Kings ceased playing home games in Omaha and became the Kansas City Kings. The team again failed to find success in its market and moved to Sacramento in 1985; the Royals defected to the NBL's rival, the Basketball Association of America, in 1948. In 1949, as a result of that year's absorption of the NBL by the BAA, the Royals became members of the newly formed NBA along with the Fort Wayne Pistons, Minneapolis Lakers, Indianapolis Jets. A year the BAA absorbed the remaining NBL teams to become the National Basketball Association; the move to the BAA took away Rochester's profitable exhibition schedule, placed it in the same Western Division that Minneapolis was in. Of the two best teams in pro basketball, only one of them could play in the league finals from 1949 to 1954. Minneapolis, with George Mikan, was always a little better at playoff time than the Royals. With their smallish arena and now-limited schedule, the Royals became less profitable as Harrison maintained a remarkably high standard for the team, which finished no lower than second in its division in both the NBL and BAA/NBA from 1945 to 1954.
Harrison knew that the NBA was outgrowing Rochester, spent most of the 1950s looking for a buyer for his team. The Royals won the NBA title in 1951 by defeating the New York Knicks 4–3, it is the only NBA championship in the franchise's history. The title, did not translate into profit for the Royals; the roster turned over except for Bobby Wanzer. Now a losing team filled with rookies, the Royals still did not turn a profit. Meanwhile, the NBA was putting pressure on Harrison to relocate his team to a larger city. With this in mind, the 1956–57 season was the Royals' last in Rochester; the Royals' stay in Rochester featured the services of nine future members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, one member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a Hollywood Walk of Famer: Al Cervi, Bob Davies, Alex Hannum, Les Harrison, Red Holzman, Arnie Risen, Maurice Stokes, Jack Twyman, Bobby Wanzer, Otto Graham, Chuck Connors and Jack McMahon. In April 1957, the Harrison brothers moved the Royals to Cincinnati; this move followed a well-received regular season game played at Cincinnati Gardens on February 1, 1957.
The change of venue had been said to have been suggested by Jack Twyman and Dave Piontek, who were two of several roster players on the new Royals from that region. Cincinnati, which had a strong college basketball fan base and no NFL franchise to compete with, was deemed the best choice for the Harrisons; the Royals name continued to fit in Cincinnati known as the "Queen City". During the team's first NBA draft in Cincinnati, the team acquired Clyde Lovellette and guard George King, they teamed with the 1–2 punch of Maurice Stokes and Twyman to produce a budding contender in the team's first season in the Queen City. Injury to Marshall and the loss of star guard Si Green to military service dropped the team into a tie for second place in the NBA Western Division during the 1957–58 season's second half. In the season's finale, All-Pro star Maurice Stokes struck his head when he fell after pursuing a rebound, he shook off the effects of the fall as he had been unconscious. After Game One in the playoffs three days Stokes' head injury was aggravated by airplane cabin pressure during the flight back to Cincinnati for Game Two.
He suffered a seizure and was permanently hospitalized, a tragedy that shook the team. Stokes, a tremendous talent who could play center and guard, was 2nd in the NBA in rebounds and 3rd in assists, a double-feat only Wilt Chamberlain has matched for a full season. Without Stokes, the team nearly folded. Fellow All-Star Twyman rose to All-Pro level the next two seasons for Cincinnati as the team posted two 19-win seasons; the 1958–59 Cincinnati team featured five rookies, with Lovellette and other key players having left the team in the wake of Stokes' tragic injury. The Harrisons, under pressure to sell to a local group, sold to a local ownership headed by Thomas Woods; the fact that Stokes was dumped by the team and the new ownership infuriated many. Jack Twyman came to the aid of his teammate, legally adopted Stokes. Raising funds for Stokes' medical treatment, Twyman helped him until his death in April 1970; the 1973 feature film Maurie, which co-starred actors Bernie Casey and Bo Svenson, dramatized their story.
Shooting for the beleaguered team, Twyman was the second NBA player to average 30 points per game for an NBA season. Twyman and Stokes were late
John Albert Kundla was an American college and professional basketball coach. He was the first head coach for the Minneapolis Lakers of the National Basketball Association and its predecessors, the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League, serving 12 seasons, from 1947 to 1959, his teams won six league championships, one in the NBL, one in the BAA, four in the NBA. Kundla was the head basketball coach at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul for one season in 1946–47, at the University of Minnesota for ten seasons, from 1959 to 1968, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. Kundla was born in the mining town of Star Junction, Pennsylvania to parents from Jakubany, at that time Austria-Hungary, now Slovakia, he moved to Minneapolis at age 5. After attending and playing basketball for Minneapolis Central High School, Kundla attended the University of Minnesota and was a standout for the Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball the late 1930s.
Following graduation, he stayed on at the university as an assistant coach to Dave MacMillan. He moved to the high school ranks as the head coach of DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After two years there, the United States entered World War II, Kundla joined the Navy, where he was assigned to LST units in both the European and Pacific theaters. After the war, he was hired to coach the College of St. Thomas. Following the Tommies' 1946–47 season, the new franchise Minneapolis Lakers extended an offer to Kundla to coach the team playing in the National Basketball League. Kundla turned however, as he was not impressed with the professional ranks. Team representatives returned, this time the offer had been upped to $6,000 and Kundla took the job at age 31. Kundla and the Lakers were successful. A month into the 1947–48 season, future Hall of Fame center George Mikan became available when his old team, the Chicago American Gears, folded. Outhustling the rest of the NBL and the teams of the rival Basketball Association of America, the predecessor of the National Basketball Association, the Lakers signed Mikan.
Kundla guided the George Mikan-led Lakers, which included star Jim Pollard, to the 1948 NBL title. Moving to the BAA for the 1948–49 season, which became the NBA in 1949–50, Kundla's Lakers won five NBA titles in six years, with 1951 being the only gap in the team's run, a season in which Mikan broke his ankle at the end of the campaign, thus allowing the Rochester Royals to defeat the Lakers in the Western Conference championship series three games to one; the first team to repeat as league champions became the first team to three-peat, with Mikan healed for the 1951–52, 1952–53, 1953–54 seasons. Kundla moved to the Lakers front office ahead of the 1957–58 campaign and handed off the coaching duties to Mikan, but the team's record fell to 9-30, leading Mikan to step down, forcing Kundla back to the bench, his return was not the answer either though, as the team finished 19-53, recording one of the worst seasons in its history. In 1959, knowing that the Lakers franchise was going to be moved to Los Angeles and despite having future Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor on the team, Kundla chose to stay in Minnesota and resigned from the Lakers position to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.
While coaching he taught physical education at the university. He was the first Gophers coach to give scholarships to African-American players, resulting in him receiving hate mail. Kundla stayed with the Gophers for nine years before retiring from coaching after the 1967–68 season with a record of 110-105, he retired from teaching in 1981. In 1996, Kundla was voted as one of the 10 greatest coaches in the history of the NBA. In 11 years of coaching in the BAA/NBA, he had a record of 423–302 in the regular season and 60–35 in the playoffs. Kundla's 1947–48 NBL championship season team went 43–17 during the regular season with 14 more wins in the post-season, but does not count under official NBA records. Kundla was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, after being lamented as "all but forgotten" in a 1992 USA Today column. In 1996, he was voted one of the top-10 coaches in league history for the "N. B. A. at 50" celebration. After the Los Angeles Lakers won their 2002 championship, Kundla was awarded a championship ring along with other living Minneapolis Lakers players at a ceremony at the Staples Center.
Kundla met Marie, as undergraduates. After resigning from the Lakers, he stayed close with Mikan and Vern Mikkelsen meeting his former players for breakfast. Kundla is the grandfather of former Michigan State Spartans men's basketball player, Isaiah Dahlman, former Wofford Terriers men's basketball player, Noah Dahlman, named the Southern Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year in 2009–10, his wife died in 2007. He died on July 23, 2017, twenty days after his 101st birthday. 1947-48 60 43–17.717% 1st in Western Division 10 PG 8 wins 2 losses.800% NBL champions John Kundla at Naismith Hall of Fame https://web.archive.org/web/20180705005420/http://www.hoophall.com/hall-of-famers/john-kundla/ Coaching statistics at basketball-reference.com John Kundla at Find a Grave
Minneapolis Auditorium was an indoor arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It hosted the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers from 1947 until they moved to the Minneapolis Armory in 1959; the arena held 10,000 people and was built in 1927. The building fell into obscurity after the opening of the Met Center in suburban Bloomington, it was demolished in 1989 to make way for the Minneapolis Convention Center. According to the Minneapolis magazine, when opened it opened on June 4, 1927, the Auditorium had a seating capacity of 5,687 on its balcony, 4,160 on its floor, 698 on the stage, for a total of 10,545; the auditorium took two years to construct, cost $3 million, covered an area of 230 by 540 feet, had a stage 50 x 186 feet in area, 80 foot tall ceiling. Construction of the building took 3.25 million bricks, 15,000 yards of concrete, 5,000 tons of steel. Minneapolis Auditorium History
The Philadelphia 76ers are an American professional basketball team based in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The 76ers compete in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Atlantic Division and play at Wells Fargo Center. Founded in 1946 and known as the Syracuse Nationals, they are one of the oldest franchises in the NBA, one of only eight to survive the league's first decade; the 76ers have had a rich history, with many of the greatest players in NBA history having played for the organization, including Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson. They have won three NBA championships, with their first coming as the Syracuse Nationals in 1955; the second title came in 1967, a team, led by Chamberlain. The third title came in 1983, won by a team led by Malone; the 76ers have only been back to the NBA Finals once since then: in 2001, where they were led by Iverson and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
In 1946, Italian immigrant Daniel Biasone sent a $5,000 check to the National Basketball League offices in Chicago, the Syracuse Nationals became the Midwest-based league's easternmost team, based in the Upstate New York city of Syracuse. The Syracuse Nationals began play in the NBL in the same year professional basketball was gaining some legitimacy with the rival Basketball Association of America, based in large cities like New York and Philadelphia. While in the NBL with teams consisting of small Midwestern towns, the Nationals put together a 21–23 record, finishing in fourth place. In the playoffs, the Nationals would be beaten by the fellow upstate neighbor Rochester Royals in four games. In their second season, 1947–48, the Nationals would struggle, finishing in fifth place with a 24–36 record. Despite their struggles, the Nationals would make the playoffs, getting swept by the Anderson Duffey Packers in 3 straight games. Several teams began to leave the NBL for the BAA; the Nationals "recipe for success" began by recruiting Leo Ferris.
Staying in the NBL, Ferris signed Al Cervi to be player coach and outbid the New York Knicks for the services of Dolph Schayes who made his professional debut, leading the Nationals to a winning record for the first time with a record of 41–22. In the playoffs the Nationals would make quick work of the Hammond Calumet Buccaneers, winning the series in 2 straight games. However, in the semifinals the Nationals would fall to the Anderson Duffey Packers for the second straight season in four games. In 1949, the Nationals were one of seven NBL teams that were absorbed by the Basketball Association of America to form the NBA; the Nationals were an instant success in the NBA, winning the Eastern Division in the 1949–50 season, with a league best record of 51–13. In the playoffs the Nationals continued to play solid basketball, beating the Philadelphia Warriors in 2 straight. Moving on to the Eastern Finals, the Nationals battled the New York Knickerbockers, beating their big city rivals in a 3-game series.
In the NBA Finals, the Nationals faced. In Game 1 of the Finals the Nationals lost just their second home game of the season 68–66; the Nationals did not recover. Despite several teams leaving the NBA for the National Professional Basketball League before the 1950–51 season, the Nationals decided to stay put. In their second NBA season, 1950–51, the Nationals played mediocre basketball all season, finishing in fourth place with a record of 32–34. However, in the playoffs the Nationals played their best basketball of the season as they stunned the first place Warriors in two straight, taking Game 1 on the road in overtime 91–89. In the Eastern Finals the Nationals were beaten by the New York Knickerbockers in a hard-fought 5-game series, losing the finale by just 2 points. Cervi, playing less and coaching more, emphasized a patient offense and a scrappy defense, which led the league in the 1951–52 season by yielding a stingy 79.5 points per game as the Nationals won the Eastern Division with a solid 40–26 record.
In the playoffs the Nationals knocked off the Warriors again in a 3-game series. However, in the Eastern Finals the Nationals fell to the Knickerbockers again, dropping the series in four games; the Nationals would finish in second place in a hard-fought 3-way battle for first place in the Eastern Division for the 1952–53 season, with a record of 47–24. In the playoffs the Nationals would face the Boston Celtics dropping Game 1 at home 87–81. Needing a win in Boston to keep their hopes alive, the Nationals would take the Celtics deep into overtime before losing in quadruple OT 111–105, in what remains the longest playoff game in NBA history; the Nationals acquired Alex Groza, Ralph Beard as the Indianapolis Olympians folded leaving the NBA with just 9 teams for the 1953–54 season. Once again the Nationals would battle for the Division title falling two games short with a 42–30 record. In the playoffs the Nationals would win all four games of a round robin tournament involving the three playoff teams from the East.
In the Eastern Finals the Nationals would stay hot beating the Celtics in 2 straight games. However, in the NBA Finals the Nationals would lose to the Lakers in a hard-fought 7-game series where the 2 teams alternated wins throughout. With the NBA struggling financially and down to just 8 teams Nationals owner during the 1954–55 season, Biasone suggested the league limit the amount of time taken for a shot thus speeding up a game that ended with long periods of teams just holding the ball and playing keep away. Biasone and Nationals' general manager
The Atlanta Hawks are an American professional basketball team based in Atlanta, Georgia. The Hawks compete in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Southeast Division; the team plays its home games at State Farm Arena. The team's origins can be traced to the establishment of the Buffalo Bisons in 1946 in Buffalo, New York, a member of the National Basketball League owned by Ben Kerner and Leo Ferris. After 38 days in Buffalo, the team moved to Moline, where they were renamed the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. In 1949, they joined the NBA as part of the merger between the NBL and the Basketball Association of America, had Red Auerbach as coach. In 1951, Kerner moved the team to Milwaukee. Kerner and the team moved again in 1955 to St. Louis, where they won their only NBA Championship in 1958 and qualified to play in the NBA Finals in 1957, 1960 and 1961; the Hawks played the Boston Celtics in all four of their trips to the NBA Finals. The St. Louis Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968, when Kerner sold the franchise to Thomas Cousins and former Georgia Governor Carl Sanders.
The Hawks own the second-longest drought of not winning an NBA championship at 60 seasons. The franchise's lone NBA championship, as well as all four NBA Finals appearances, occurred when the team was based in St. Louis. Meanwhile, they went 48 years without advancing past the second round of the playoffs in any format, until breaking through in 2015. However, the Hawks are one of only four NBA teams that have qualified to play in the NBA playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons in the 21st century, they achieved this feat between 2008 and 2017. The other teams that have made it to at least 10 consecutive playoff appearances in the 21st century are the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks; the origins of the Atlanta Hawks can be traced to the Buffalo Bisons franchise, founded in 1946. The Bisons were a member of the National Basketball League, played their games at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium; the club was coached by Nat Hickey. Their first game – a 50–39 victory over the Syracuse Nationals – was played on November 8, 1946.
On the team was William "Pop" Gates, along with William "Dolly" King, was one of the first two African-American players in the NBL. The team, which needed to draw 3,600 fans per game to break struggled to draw 1,000 fans per game to the Auditorium; the franchise lasted only 38 days in Buffalo when, on December 25, 1946, Leo Ferris, the team's general manager, announced that the team would be moving to Moline, which at that time was part of an area known as the "Tri-Cities": Moline, Rock Island and Davenport, Iowa. Upon relocation to Moline, the team was renamed the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, played their home games at Wharton Field House, a 6,000-seat arena in Moline; the team featured guard/forward and coach Deanglo King, was owned by Leo Ferris and Ben Kerner. Pop Gates remained on the Blackhawks roster, finished second on the team in scoring behind future 1948 NBL MVP Don Otten. A Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member, Gates helped to integrate the league and become the first African-American coach in a major sports league, coaching Dayton in 1948.
In 1949 the Blackhawks became one of the National Basketball Association's 17 original teams after a merger of the 12-year-old NBL and the three-year-old Basketball Association of America. They reached the playoffs in the NBA's inaugural year under the leadership of coach Red Auerbach; the following season, they drafted three-time All-American Bob Cousy, but they were unable to reach a deal and traded him to the Chicago Stags. The Blackhawks missed the playoffs. By it was obvious that the Tri-Cities area was too small to support an NBA team. After the season, the franchise relocated to Milwaukee and became the Milwaukee Hawks. In 1954, the Hawks drafted Bob Pettit, a future NBA MVP. Despite this, the Hawks were one of the league's worst teams, in 1955 the Hawks moved, this time to St. Louis, Milwaukee's rival in the beer industry, became the St. Louis Hawks. In 1956, the St. Louis Hawks drafted legendary Bill Russell in the first round, they traded Russell to the Boston Celtics for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley, both Hall of Fame members.
In 1957, the Hawks finished four games under.500. However, the Western Division was weak that year, they won the division title and a bye to the division finals after defeating the Minneapolis Lakers and Fort Wayne Pistons in one-game tiebreakers. They defeated the Lakers in the division finals to advance to the Finals, losing to the Boston Celtics in a double-overtime thriller in game seven. In 1958, after tallying their first winning record, they again advanced to the Finals, where they avenged their defeat against the Celtics from the previous year, winning the series 4–2 and giving the Hawks their first and only NBA Championship. Bob Pettit scored 50 points in the final game of the series; the Hawks remained one of the NBA's premier teams for the next decade. In 1960, under coach Ed Macauley, the team advanced to the Finals, but lost to the Celtics in another game seven thriller; the following year, with the acquisition of rookie Lenny Wilkens, the Hawks repeated their success, but met the Celtics in the Finals again and lost in five games.
They would remain contenders for most of the 1960s, advancing deep into the playoffs a
The Detroit Pistons are an American professional basketball team based in Detroit, Michigan. The Pistons compete in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Central Division and plays its home games at Little Caesars Arena; the team was founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1941, a member of the National Basketball League where it won two NBL championships: in 1944 and 1945. The Pistons joined the Basketball Association of America in 1948; the NBL and BAA merged to become the NBA in 1949, the Pistons became part of the merged league. Since moving to Detroit in 1957, the Pistons have won three NBA championships: in 1989, 1990 and 2004; the Detroit Pistons franchise was founded as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, a National Basketball League team, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Owner Fred Zollner's Zollner Corporation was a foundry that manufactured pistons for car and locomotive engines; the Zollner Pistons were NBL champions in 1944 and 1945.
They won the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1944, 1945 and 1946. In 1948, the team became the Fort Wayne Pistons. In 1949, Fred Zollner brokered the formation of the National Basketball Association from the BAA and the NBL at his kitchen table. There are suggestions that Pistons players conspired with gamblers to shave points and throw various games during the 1953–54 and 1954–55 seasons. In particular, there are accusations that the team may have intentionally lost the 1955 NBA Finals to the Syracuse Nationals. In the decisive Game 7, the Pistons led 41–24 early in the second quarter before the Nationals rallied to win the game; the Nationals won on a free throw by George King with twelve seconds left in the game. The closing moments included a palming turnover by the Pistons' George Yardley with 18 seconds left, a foul by Frank Brian with 12 seconds left that enabled King's winning free throw, a turnover by the Pistons' Andy Phillip in the final seconds which cost them a chance to attempt the game winning shot.
Though the Pistons enjoyed a solid local following, Fort Wayne's small size made it difficult for them to be profitable as other early NBA teams based in smaller cities started folding or relocating to larger markets. After the 1956–57 season, Zollner decided that Fort Wayne was too small to support an NBA team and announced the team would be playing elsewhere in the coming season, he settled on Detroit. Although it was the fifth largest city in the United States at the time, Detroit had not seen professional basketball in a decade, they lost the Detroit Eagles due to World War II, both the Detroit Gems of the NBL and the Detroit Falcons of the BAA in 1947, the Detroit Vagabond Kings in 1949. Zollner decided to keep the Pistons name, believing it made sense given Detroit's status as the center of the automobile industry; the Pistons played in Olympia Stadium for their first four seasons moved to Cobo Arena. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Pistons were characterized by strong individuals and weak teams.
Some of the superstars who played for the team included Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Bob Lanier. At one point, DeBusschere was the youngest player-coach in the history of the NBA. A trade during the 1968–69 season sent DeBusschere to the New York Knicks for Howard Komives and Walt Bellamy, both of whom were in the stages of their careers. DeBusschere became a key player in leading the Knicks to two NBA titles. In 1974, Zollner sold the team to glass magnate Bill Davidson, who remained the team's principal owner until his death in 2009. While the Pistons did qualify for the postseason in four straight seasons from 1974 to 1977, they never had any real sustained success. In 1978, Davidson became displeased with Cobo Arena, but opted not to follow the Red Wings to the under-construction Joe Louis Arena. Instead, he moved the team to the suburb of Pontiac, where they played in the 82,000 capacity Silverdome, a structure built for professional football; the Pistons stumbled their way out of the 1970s and into the 1980s, beginning with a 16–66 record in 1979–80 and following up with a 21–61 record in 1980–81.
The 1979–80 team lost its last 14 games of the season which, when coupled with the seven losses at the start of the 1980–81 season, comprised a then-NBA record losing streak of 21 games. The franchise's fortunes began to turn in 1981, when they drafted point guard Isiah Thomas from Indiana University. In November 1981, the Pistons acquired Vinnie Johnson in a trade with the Seattle SuperSonics, they would acquire center Bill Laimbeer in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in February 1982. Another key move by the Pistons was the hiring of head coach Chuck Daly in 1983; the Pistons had a tough time moving up the NBA ladder. In 1984, the Pistons lost a tough five-game series to the underdog New York Knicks, 3–2. In the 1985 playoffs, Detroit won its first-round series and faced the defending champion Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals. Though Boston would prevail in six games, Detroit's surprise performance promised that a rivalry had begun. In the 1985 NBA draft, the team selected Joe Dumars 18th overall, a selection that would prove to be wise.
They acquired Rick Mahorn in a trade with the Washington Bullets. However, the team took a step backwards, losing in the first round of the 1986 playoffs to the more athletic Atlanta Hawks. After the series, changes were made in order to make the team more defensive-minded. Prior to the 1986–87 season, the Pistons acquired more key players: John Salley (