[The DB Project] NPBL and PBLA

Emlore 'Elmo' Morgenthaler

Emlore 'Elmo' Morgenthaler

As I alluded to in my previous post, while my initial goal of a DB Project – a collection of stats from all ABL, NBL, BAA, NBA and ABA seasons – is accomplished, the whole project is far from complete. As I was going through this sea of statistical scholarship, I couldn’t help but dream about adding even more water to my reservoir.

So, for the last two weeks, I focused on adding two little-known leagues to the DB: the truncated 1948 Professional Basketball League of America and the 1951 National Professional Basketball League. Both leagues consist of many highly prized players that appeared in the NBA – such as George Mikan, Bobby McDermott and George Glamack – so, while they weren’t really successful, you couldn’t argue that they weren’t competitive.

Here’s a little background on the PBLA from the ever-awesome basketball wikipedia, Hoopedia:

The Professional Basketball League of America (1947-1948) was a basketball league in the United States that began in 1947 in response to the tremendous upsurge in interest in basketball in the era immediately following World War II. The organization was underfunded compared to its competitors (the Basketball Association of America, the National Basketball League, and even the American Basketball League). There marketplace was simply not large enough for four major professional basketball leagues. The PBLA folded without completing its inaugural season.

When the league disbanded, the Chicago Gears, with center George Mikan and player-coach Bobby McDermott, had a season record of 8-0, tops in the Northern Division. The Atlanta Crackers, led by forward Coulby Gunther, finished with 7-1 record to lead the Southern Division. Of course both teams claimed the defunct league’s championship.


It’s a little funny that Hoopedia mentions that this league is from 1947-1948 when it disbanded in November of 1947! Unfortunately, Hoopedia doesn’t seem to have an article about the NPBL, but the just as awesome (though nowhere near as focused) Wikipedia does:

The National Professional Basketball League was a pro basketball league in the USA (1950-1951). The league played just one season, with no championship finals ever being staged. Grand Rapids, Kansas City, Louisville and Saint Paul all disbanded during the season; Denver moved to Evansville. The Sheboygan Redskins and Waterloo Hawks both claimed the championship because they were each in first in their divisions at the end of the season but they never met in a playoff series.


Ok, so I admit neither source really has much to say about either league and neither organization went on to do anything of importance – even influentially. So why was I interested in adding them to my database? Well, I eventually want to build out enough data to start making predictions and fill in missing gaps and to do that, I want to be sure to see how players evolved over time. And, to be as complete as possibile, I want to collect the most data I can. In its infancy, basketball was a transient profession and many of the best players would compete in multiple leagues to earn their keep. Incorporating more and more of these resources can only help strengthen my own mission.