And the last shall be the first. Although not much was made of it, the last NBA champion, the Warriors, also won the league’s first title. So the Warriors span the NBA championship bridge from the first in Philadelphia to the last in Golden State.
The year was 1947. Less than two years after the end of World War II, Harry Truman was President, The Best Years of Our Lives won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier,and ENIAC, the world’s first electronic digital computer, was turned back on after being shut down for a nine-month refurbishment.
And the Philadelphia Warriors won the championship in the inaugural 1946-47 Basketball Association of America (BAA) season. Following the 1948–49 season (the BAA’s third season of play), the BAA and the National Basketball League merged to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Warriors championship is considered the first NBA title.
Eddie Gottlieb coached the Philadelphia five that year and forward Joe Fulks won the NBA’s first scoring crown, averaging 23.2 points per game. Fulks, who joined the Marines in 1943 and served in the the South Pacific, scored 37 points in Game One of the Finals, including 21 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Warriors to an 84-71 win over the Stags. Jumpin’ Joe is #18 in the team picture above.
Philly won the next two games, and wrapped up the series in five when forward Howie Dallmar snapped a tie by nailing a jump shot with less than a minute remaining to give the Warriors the lead for good in an 83-80 victory. Fulks led all scorers with 34 points in the clincher.
Led by Paul Arizin, Neil Johnston and Tom Gola, the Philadelphia Warriors also captured the 1956 NBA championship, beating the Fort Wayne Pistons in five games. Following the 1961-62 season, Wilt Chamberlain and the Warriors moved to San Francisco.
Later renamed Golden State, the Warriors swept the Washington Bullets in the 1974-75 NBA Finals. Hall of Famer Rick Barry averaged 30.6 points per game for Golden State that season.
In addition to their four championships, the Warriors lost three NBA Finals, to the Baltimore Bullets in 1948 while representing Philadelphia, and in 1964 to the Boston Celtics and 1967 to the Philadelphia 76ers, both while playing in San Francisco. Al Attles, a lifelong Warriors guard, played in both Finals and later coached Golden State to the 1975 NBA championship.
If you liked this blog, you might like: The 1947 Holy Cross Crusaders were another great basketball team. Read the SportsLifer – Holy Cross was Once King of Hoops.
Incredibly, no Boston Celtic has ever won the NBA scoring title
The Celtics, along with the New York Knicks, are the only original NBA teams dating back to the Basketball Association of America (BAA) which began in 1946. The Philadelphia Warriors, who moved to California to become the Golden State Warriors in 1962, were also part of that inaugural BAA season.
Just before the start of the 1948-49 season, four teams from the National Basketball League (NBL) joined the BAA — the Fort Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons, Indianapolis Jets, Minneapolis (now Los Angeles) Lakers and Rochester Royals (now Sacramento Kings).
Before the 1949 season, the six remaining NBL teams — Anderson (Ind.), Denver, Sheboygan (Wis.), Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers), Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now Atlanta Hawks), and Waterloo (Iowa) — joined the BAA, along with the new Indianapolis Olympians, and became the National Basketball Association.
As for the two other original teams, the Knicks have had one scoring champion, Bernard King in 1985. The Warriors have had a number of scoring champs, including Joe Fulks, right, in 1947, Wilt Chamberlain (6), Neil Johnson (3) and Paul Arizin (2). However the Warriors have not had a scoring champ since Rick Barry averaged 35.6 points per game in 1967.
BTW, Lakers who led the league in scoring were George Mikan, three times with Minneapolis beginning in 1949, Jerry West in 1970 and Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.
Related NBA reading: Celtics-Lakers Would Be Historic NBA Final