The first-ever NBA Game
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by Henry L. Liao
As part of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) 75th Anniversary celebrations, the league has marked several regular games with historic significance in the past as “classic” games during the 2021-22 season.
Among them is the Toronto vs. New York game at Madison Square Garden on November 1 (November 2 Manila time).
Seventy-five years ago on November 1, 1946, the first game in the history of the NBA was held. The league was called the Basketball Association of America at the time. The BAA fought the rival National Basketball League (NBL) for the best post-graduate players from America.
The NBL owned the best arenas in the major cities during the 1940s but the NBA had the best players even if the franchises resided in small Midwestern cities
In 1948-49, four NBL franchises – the George Mikan-powered Minneapolis Lakers, Fort Wayne Pistons, Rochester Royals, and Indianapolis Jets – defected to the BAA.
Following the season, the five surviving NBL franchises also left to form the newly-named 17-team NBA in 1949-50. While the players’ NBL stats and records from the past were expunged, the NBA recognized all the stats and records from the three BAA seasons.
The first game featured the New York Knickerbockers and Toronto Huskies. It was held at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Canada.
A respectable crowd of 7,090 attended the game and Toronto ran a promotion that allowed any fan taller than 6-8 center George Nostrand to be admitted free to the contest.
The Knicks edged the Huskies, 68-66, for the victory.
According to an Associated Press report, “The Knicks started as if they meant to walk off with the game, forging into a 6-0 lead after less than two minutes of play. The Huskies, led by playing coach Ed Sadowski (a 6-5, 240-pound center), rallied to take a 7-6 lead, but the Knickerbockers put together 10 straight points to be ahead 37-29 at halftime. The Huskies started well in the second half and pulled up to within 40-37, but Sadowski, after making 18 points to take scoring honors, was forced out of the game at the five-minute mark.
“New York took advantage of Sadowski’s departure and a pair of field goals by Dick Murphy and a free throw by Tommy Byrnes in the final three minutes helped the Knicks defeat Toronto.”
Leo Gottlieb topped New York with 14 points, followed by Oscar (Ossie) Schectman, who netted 11.
Aside from Sadowski, Nostrand also tallied in double digits for the Huskies with 16.
It was the 6-foot Schectman, a point guard out of Long Island University in Brooklyn, who scored the first basket of the game – a layup after cutting down the center of the lane – for the first points out of the 13.7 million in NBA history.
The Queens, New York native, who died on July 30, 2013, at age 94, once recalled his pioneering field goal in a 2003 interview with ESPN columnist Charley Rosen.
Said Schectman, the Knicks captain: “I scored on a two-handed underhand layup, which was the standard chippy shot back then. I also remember being on the receiving end of a give-and-go, but I can’t remember who I received the pass from.
“I was the Knicks’ third-leading scorer (8.1 ppg in 54 games), I also finished third in the league in assists average (2.0), and my salary was 60 dollars a game. I’m just proud to have been one of the NBA’s pioneers. ”
Schectman made $9,000 with the Knicks during the 1946-47 season, including a $1,000 bonus for making the playoffs.
Schectman appeared in just one, a season in the league, quitting pro basketball to become a salesman in New York’s garment district.