From the 1969-1970 season to the present we have seen basically two eras in the NBA. From the 1970’s through the mid 1980’s point guards were tremendously important. Some of the names that stand out are Walt Frazier, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Tiny Archibald, and Isiah Thomas. But the NBA changed somewhere in the late 1980’s. The league was progressively moving towards a big man approach. In the early ages of the NBA it was uncommon to have a seven-foot big center. Big men were considered too stupid to play basketball (human beings are always trying to look down on someone. Apparently regular sized people wanted to look down on giants back then.) The dominance of Wilt Chamberlain changed people’s perspectives drastically however. The 1980’s brought more and more big men, but the game was still dominated by smaller players. By the 1990’s, players such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal were the standard for the NBA center. Point guards still flourished statistically, but they no longer had the same impact as before. Michael Jordan was the face of the NBA, and in many ways was also the face of America. Jordan was a walking business. He won six NBA Championships in the 1990’s. Olajuwon won two for himself, maximizing on Jordan’s early retirement. The “ideal model” of team in the current NBA is mostly just hype. The “small ball” of today is still dominated by small forwards, power forwards, and a few superstar shooting guards. Point guards have developed the reputation of being the quarterback of basketball, and thus the most important player on the court. But recent history has proven otherwise, as shown here. So what happened before the 1970’s? This was the true small ball era, because basically everyone was small (by NBA standards).
1968-1969 Boston Celtics: Bill Russell was both player and coach for a while for the Boston Celtics including this season. Larry Siegfried and Sam Jones were the point guards/shooting guards. Siegfried averaged 14.2 points and 4.7 assists. Jones averaged 16.3 points and 2.6 assists. This season and the 1968 season were odd, because Jerry West won the NBA Finals MVP award both years despite not winning the NBA Finals either year. In 1969, man landed on the moon. Also: Woodstock.
1967-1968 Boston Celtics: Sam Jones was the starter this season. He averaged 21.3 points and 3 assists. Bill Russell was once again player-coach. This season, Wilt Chamberlain proved that he really could pass the ball by averaging 8.6 assists which was tops in the league. I can guarantee you he is the only center of all time to do that. Meanwhile, in 1967 Vanilla Ice was born, the one man who almost single-handedly ruined the chances of a white guy ever making a successful rap career. I want to point this out, because most white people tend to think that Vanilla Ice is the bomb. Vanilla Ice is trash. In most hip hop circles, Vanilla Ice is considered to be one of the worst rappers of all time–if not the worst. He’s right down there with Shorty Shitstain. On April 4th, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
1966-1967 Philadelphia 76ers: They averaged 125.2 points per game and allowed 115.8. Also, back then there were only ten teams around. Wilt Chamberlain led this team to an NBA championship by averaging 24.1 points, 24.2 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. He led the 76ers in all those categories. He surely would have led them in blocks as well if they collected blocks as a statistic back then. But even though he was averaging 7.8 assists, he was not the point guard. In face he was the center. Wali Jones was the point guard. He averaged 13.2 points and 3.7 assists. This was also the only year of the 1960’s that the Celtics didn’t win the championship. The first Super Bowl was played this year. The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
1965-1966 Boston Celtics: This year there was only nine teams. And of those nine, the Celtics were seventh in scoring with 112.7 points per game. K.C. Jones started. He averaged 8.6 points and 6.3 assists. The Watts riots broke out in August of 1965 leaving 34 dead. Also, Muhammad Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam War and Gallup polls showed that American support for the war had dropped to 37%. But the war raged on for another five years. America should be a peaceful nation, we provide the best sports, so why can’t everyone just sit back and watch?
1964-1965 Boston Celtics: This could be the answer to that last question. Who wants to watch sports when the same team wins every time? The 1960’s were Groundhogs Day. I would want to fight too if sports were this boring. K.C Jones was the starter. He averaged 8.3 points and 5.6 assists. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, allowing blacks to vote. This same year, Malcolm X was assassinated.
1963-1964 Boston Celtics: K.C. Jones started and averaged 8.2 points and 5.1 assists. Average income was just $6000 a year and a new house was $13,050. Meanwhile, the Boston Strangler was captured.
1962-1963 Boston Celtics: Bob Cousy was the starter. He averaged 13.2 points and 6.8 assists. Cousy is credited for being the “inventor” of the assist. Before him, assists were far less common. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
1961-1962 Boston Celtics: Bob Cousy started. He averaged 15.7 points and 7.8 assists. 1962 was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The USSR placed missiles on Cuban soil, just 90 miles from the USA. President Kennedy threatened war if the missiles were not removed. Marilyn Monroe was found dead after overdosing on sleeping pills.
1960-1961 Boston Celtics: There were only eight teams in the NBA at this time. Bob Cousy started for the Celtics and averaged 18.1 points and 7.7 assists. Average income was $5315 per year. A gallon of gas was 27 cents. Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space. He was sent into outer space by the USSR on April 12, 1961. The USA responded by sending Alan Shepard into space on May 5th. Cuban exiles and the CIA tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Fidel Castro. 118 were killed and 1202 were captured by Cuban forces. The catastrophe came to be known as The Bay of Pigs.
1959-1960 Boston Celtics: Bob Cousy averaged 19.4 points and 9.5 assists this year. Bill Russell averaged 24 rebounds per game. This year, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC) was formed. Also, the American Heart Association finally linked smoking to heart disease. The Soviets shot down an US U2 Spy Plane. The USA denied that the aircraft was a covert surveillance aircraft. Also, Bono was born this year.
1958-1959 Boston Celtics: Bob Cousy averaged 20 points, 8.6 assists, and 5.5 rebounds. In 1959 (in)Fidel Castro came into power in Cuba. The Barbie doll was launched. Alaska became a state, not that anyone lives there. They just have fish, and lots of oil. But no drilling!
1957-1958 St. Louis Hawks: Finally a break from the Celtics (who don’t even pronounce their own name right. Come on guys!). Slater Martin started for the Hawks. He averaged 12 points and 3.6 assists. His backup had a cool name: Win Wilfong. 1958 brought recession to the United States. Unemployment rose to 7%. NASA was created and Elvis Presley was inducted into the Army.
1956-1957 Boston Celtics: So it wasn’t a very long break, but this was actually the Celtic’s first championship. Of course, they would go on to win 11 of 13 from 1957 to 1969. Bob Cousy started and averaged 20.6 points, 7.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. A bed was $37.95. In 1957, Toyota started selling cars in the USA. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2 with Laika, a dog and the first animal to go into space, inside it.
1955-1956 Philadelphia Warriors: The NBA actually had a normal scoring rate this year (for today’s standards). The Warriors averaged 103.1 points. Good for 2nd in the league. They also allowed 98.8 points per game. Good for 5th in the league. Jack George started for the Warriors. He averaged 13.9 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds. At 6’8″ and 210 pounds, Neil Johnston started at center for the Warriors and averaged 22.1 points and 12.5 rebounds. In 1956, Alabama bus segregation laws were declared illegal by the Supreme Court. Elvis Presley released his first hit.
1954-1955 Syracuse Nationals: The Nationals only averaged 91.1 points and allowed 89.7 points per game. George King was the primary point guard. He averaged 8.9 points and 4.9 assists. Hall of Famer Dolph Shayes started for the Nationals at center. He was 6’7″ and 195 pounds. A prototypical small forward by today’s standards. Maybe a little skinny. Yet he averaged 18.5 points and 12.3 rebounds. In 1955, the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc signed the Warsaw Pact. In God We Trust was added to all US currency (as a response to communism). Western Germany joined NATO. Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama.
1953-1954 Minneapolis Lakers: this was the last time they won the Lakers won a championship before moving to Los Angeles. It was also the last time a team from Minnesota won an NBA championship. Low scoring was the norm in the 1940’s and early to mid 50’s. This team averaged 81.7 points and allowed 78.6. That was good enough for just 3rd and 4th respectively in a nine team league. Slater Martin started. He averaged 9.9 points and 3.7 assists. In 1954, Roger Bannister was the first person to run a sub four-minute mile. It had previously been widely believed to be humanly impossible. Joseph McCarthy was formally censored by the Senate, ending his witch hunt of communists. In 1957, McCarthy died, but McCarthyism left its imprint on American society. Sports Illustrated first came out. The USA started testing the hydrogen bomb. President Eisenhower signed the Social Security Bill. The words “under God” were put into the United States Pledge of Allegiance, another result of the fear of communism.
1952-1953 Minneapolis Lakers: Slater Martin started and averaged 10.6 points and 3.6 assists. 6’10” George Mikan, one of the first true big men, dominated with 20.6 points and 14.4 rebounds. In 1953, the Korean War ended. The first Polio Vaccine was developed.
1951-1952 Minneapolis Lakers: Slater Martin was the starter and averaged 9.3 points and 3.8 assists. George Mikan averaged 23.8 points. In 1952, a new car was worth $1700. Elisabeth II became queen.
1950-1951 Rochester Royals: Bob Davies started. He averaged 15.2 points and 4.6 assists. In 1951, the first oral contraceptive was invented. The 22nd Amendment was ratified. Unemployment was 3.3%.
1949-1950 Minneapolis Lakers: Slater Martin was the primary pure point guard. He averaged 4 points and 2.2 assists. In 1950, the average price of a house was $1940. A gallon of gas was 18 cents. The first TV remote control was marketed. President Truman approved the construction of the hydrogen bomb. This was also the year that the Basketball Association of America (BAA) changed its name to the National Basketball Association (NBA). This was also the first year that rebounds were collected as a stat.
1948-1949 Minneapolis Lakers: The Lakers won the championship in the last year of the original BAA. Positions were simply separated guard, forward and center. Positions were rarely subdivided into point guard and shooting guard etc. Thus, Herm Schaefer was the top guard on the team. He averaged 10.4 points and 3.2 assists. Also, the league was so new that not a single player had more than one year of experience. In 1949, gas was 17 cents. Also, in 1949 the Chinese became communists. NATO was established and the Soviet Union developed the atomic bomb.
1947-1948 Baltimore Bullets: This team scored 74.4 points per game and allowed 70.5. Buddy Jeannette was the primary guard. He averaged 10.7 points and 1.5 assists. At this point in time, minutes weren’t even collected statistically. Starts weren’t either, so it is hard to tell who the starters were. In 1948, the Big Bang Theory was formulated. Gandhi was assassinated.
1946-1947 Philadelphia Warriors: The first champion averaged only 68.6 points and allowed just 65.2 points per game. Since this was the first year of the league, every player was a rookie. George Senesky was the primary guard. He averaged 6.3 points and 0.6 assists. The only player to average double-digit scoring on this team was Joe Fulks. He averaged 23.2 points. In 1946, bikinis were invented. Dr. Spock’s The Common Book of Baby and Childcare was published. In 1947, the Marshall Plan was introduced. Thus America became the nagging neighbor that won’t stay out of anyone’s business.
It would seem that the Boston Celtics were the first team to show the true potential of a point guard to affect the game of basketball. Bob Cousy led the way for all other point guards to affect the game similarly. Yet it would seem that after the height of the point guard era, the 1970’s, point guards started to lose their value. This can, in part, be attributed to Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. As pioneer “big point guards” or “point forwards, these two players changed the game. It was seen that any player from any position, no matter how tall, could have a similar effect as a point guard. Wilt Chamberlain displayed this when he, at 7’1″ and 275 pounds, averaged 8.6 assists. Point guards in the 1990’s were simply a token or symbol of what they were supposed to be. The value of a pass first point guard has dwindled to the point where it is almost impossible for a point guard of regular size to lead his team to the championship. In today’s game, the theory of positions itself is dying. The Miami Heat are a perfect example of this. LeBron James, once considered a small forward and a point forward, is now looked on as being free from the restraints of a single position. He can play the point guard position as well as anyone at 6’9” 250ish pounds. He can also play shooting guard, power forward and even center on occasion. And he can defend each position to a varying degree of success. Though most teams still subscribe to traditional positions, more and more often that is becoming a thing of the past. The point guard position is already largely obsolete. Every other position is now following suit.
The NBA has gone through many eras. The low scoring beginning with simple positions. The Fast paced, super charged NBA before big men were introduced. The point guard era of the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The big man dominated 1990’s and early 2000’s. And now the NBA could be heading into an era without positions. This post has a lot of random historical facts. For sources on that just go to www.thepeoplehistory.com and http://history1900s.about.com/od/timelines/tp/1940timeline.htm. Have fun learning history and a bunch of useless trivia. The NBA has a huge history. One of the best places to go to learn about it is http://www.nba.com/history/. Indoctrinate yourself with all the NBA legends. I have fun explaining about Pistol Pete Maravich, but it’s more fun to just talk to people who actually know what I’m talking about.