Is the NBA ‘fudging history’?

Submitted photo Claude Johnson

Its claim to be 75 years old draws challenges

The National Basketball Association (NBA) earlier this year announced that this upcoming season is its 75th anniversary. It was created in 1949 after the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League merged.  

But according to league officials, the longstanding men’s pro hoops league claim that the NBA started in 1946. Phil Watson in Sportscasting.com calls this “NBA math—2021 minus 1949 equals 75.”

Claude Johnson, founder-director of The Black Fives Foundation, says the NBA is “fudging history.” 

Why is the NBA pushing this historical fiction, and why haven’t the PWM (primarily White media) called the league out for this? A league spokesperson, when contacted last week, told the MSR, “The Basketball Association of America (BAA) began with the 1946-47 season under the leadership of Maurice Podoloff. Teams from the National Basketball League (NBL) were absorbed into the BAA in 1949, and the name was changed to the National Basketball Association.”

We also found a newspaper account from 1949 that called the new NBA “the biggest post-war merger involving professional sports enterprises.”

So, when did the NBA actually begin—1949 or 1946? If it’s the former, then it’s only 72 years old, not 75 unless you are using 1946 as a starting point.

Watson added, “This is a classic case of history being written by the winners. The BAA had the big-market teams (New York, Boston and Philadelphia) and had already gotten some of the NBL’s most powerful teams to jump, particularly the Fort Wayne Pistons and Rochester Royals. The Minneapolis Lakers was a prize because of George Mikan. 

“Two owners, Ned Irish of the New York Knicks and Walter Brown of the Boston Celtics, had a tremendous support of influence in league affairs. These two, more than anyone else, contributed to the NBA origin myth,” said Watson.

Johnson told us last week that the NBA is “fudging history” and not taking into account the 10 Black players who were signed by the NBL “all the way back in 1941,” he pointed out, “years before Major League Baseball finally allowed a Black player, Jackie Robinson in 1947.”

“Let’s get it straight,” he continued. “It would make more sense for the NBA to claim that the NBL absorbed the BAA. [But] they don’t even talk about the NBL.”

Can we get a ruling here?  

“I have nothing against naming 75 best players,” said Johnson on the NBA’s plans to name a 75th-anniversary team sometime this season. “But just don’t call it the 75th anniversary because if you do, you are also diminishing the National Basketball League and those 10 Black players in 1942.”

“They’re counting on no one saying anything,” he concluded. “My question is why it is so important to say that [now]” rather than celebrating it three years from now when it’s actually been in existence 75 years?

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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