The Cleveland Rebels were a Basketball Association of America team based in Cleveland, Ohio. The Rebels were an inaugural franchise in the BAA's first season; the team went 30–30, finishing 3rd in the Western Division and losing in the first round of the playoffs, two games to one to the New York Knickerbockers, in its only season before going out of business. The Rebels included notable early pro stars Kenny Sailors. Cleveland would not have another team in what would become the NBA until the Cavaliers joined the league in 1970. Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, % = Win–Loss % The following players are the all-time roster of the Cleveland Rebels; the following two coaches are the only two coaches of the Cleveland Rebels. Roy Clifford Dutch Dehnert List of defunct National Basketball Association teams
National Basketball League (United States)
The National Basketball League was a professional men's basketball league in the United States established in 1937. After the 1948–49 season, its twelfth, it merged with the Basketball Association of America to create the National Basketball Association; the predecessor of this league was the Midwest Basketball Conference in 1935. It changed its name in 1937 in an attempt to attract a larger audience; the league was created by three corporations: General Electric and Goodyear. It was made up of Great Lakes area small-market and corporate teams; the league began rather informally. Scheduling was left to the discretion of each of the teams, as long as the team played at least ten games and four of them were on the road. Games played increased yearly as the popularity of professional basketball and the NBL grew in America. Games consisted either of three fifteen-minute periods; the choice was made by the home team. Some of the teams were independent, while others were owned by companies that found jobs for their players.
Chicago newspaper sports editor Leo Fischer acted as president of the NBL from 1940–44. In 1946, the Basketball Association of America incorporated resulting in a three-year battle with the NBL to win both players and fans; the BAA played its games in larger venues. On August 3, 1949, representatives from the 12-year-old NBL and 3 year old BAA met at the BAA offices in New York's Empire State Building to finalize a merger. Maurice Podoloff was elected head of the new league; the new National Basketball Association was made up of 17 teams that represented both small towns and large cities across the country. The NBA claims the BAA's history as its own, considers the 1949 deal as an expansion, not a merger; as such, it does not recognize NBL statistics. The history of the NBL falls into three eras, each contributing to the growth of professional basketball and the emergence of the NBA; the first dynasty centered on their center Leroy "Cowboy" Edwards. The middle years saw the emergence of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, who were instrumental in the survival of the NBA during its infancy.
The final period of note during the NBL's existence centered on George Mikan and the emergence of the big man in basketball. The Oshkosh All-Stars appeared in the championship series for five consecutive years, they won two titles, they were led by a rugged 6' 4" center named Leroy "Cowboy" Edwards. Edwards was a consensus NCAA "All American" and Helms Foundation "College Player of the Year" as a member of the 1934–35 University of Kentucky Wildcats, he left Kentucky after two years to pursue a professional basketball career, unheard of at the time. He led the NBL in scoring for three consecutive seasons, 1937-1940, he set numerous NBL and professional basketball scoring records and is credited with the introduction of the "3 second rule" in basketball, still in existence today. Edwards played in all 12 NBL seasons with the Oshkosh All-Stars, retired just prior to its merger with the BAA to form the NBA; the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons—so nicknamed because they were owned by Fred Zollner, whose company made pistons for engines—were led by tough veteran Bobby McDermott.
The Pistons finished second in 1942 and 1943 and won the league title in 1944 and 1945. Like many teams of that era, it was not uncommon for Fort Wayne to play its games in taverns, high-school gyms or ballrooms. Under Zollner, the Pistons would play an important role in the survival and growth of the NBA. Zollner's financial support of the NBA helped the league stay afloat during its tumultuous formative years. Challenging the Zollner Pistons and Oshkosh for supremacy were the Sheboygan Red Skins. Beginning in 1941, the season before Fort Wayne joined the NBL, Sheboygan appeared in five of six championship series, they lost to Oshkosh in the 1941 finals, beat Fort Wayne for the title in 1943 but lost to the Zollner Pistons in 1944 and 1945, were swept in the 1946 finals by the league's newest member, the powerhouse Rochester Royals, who boasted Hall of Famers Al Cervi, Bob Davies and Red Holzman. The NBL's third era was dominated by Mikan, the 6'10", three-time NCAA "All-American" center from DePaul University in Chicago.
As a rookie, he led the Chicago American Gears to the 1947 NBL title, but before the next season, owner Maurice White pulled his team out of the league and formed his own 24-team circuit called the Professional Basketball League of America. That venture failed, Mikan was signed by the NBL's Minneapolis Lakers, where he teamed with the versatile Jim Pollard to win the 1948 championship. After the 1947–48 season, Mikan's Lakers quit the League to join the Basketball Association of America, along with three other NBL clubs: Rochester, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis; the NBL added an all-black team in December of its final season, when one of its replacement clubs folded, the Detroit Vagabond Kings. That franchise was awarded to a famous barnstorming team, the New York Rens, composed of African Americans, to play out the season in Dayton, Ohio, as the Dayton Rens. In 1949 after a three-year battle with the BAA for fans and players the NBL was absorbed by the BAA and became the NBA; the NBL contributed to the foundation of the NBA, but it had major accomplishments in other areas, most notably in offering opportunities for African-American players.
In the 1942–43 season, with many players in the armed forces, two NBL clubs, the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets and the Chicago Studebakers, filled their rosters by signing African-Americans—five years before Jackie Robinson would break baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dod