Vintage NBA Basketball: The Pioneer Years (1946-56): A Mostly Oral History

Neil D. Isaacs, Author, Bill Bradley, Foreword by Masters Press $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-57028-069-6
Isaacs, a professor of English at the University of Maryland at College Park, commemorates the golden anniversary of the National Basketball Association with this nostalgic look back at the league's infancy. Relying primarily on oral accounts from players, coaches, writers and referees, Isaacs describes an era before million-dollar contracts. Referee Dorm Drucker recalls entering the league during the 1952-53 season: ""I started at $40 a game, and if you were rehired for the following season, you would receive an automatic $5 per game raise."" On the other hand, the game didn't have anything like the popularity it has today. Herald Tribune writer Harold Rosenthal remembers the Knicks' first road trip to Cleveland: ""It was pitiful-there were about 50 people in the seats."" Aptly, the book ends with recollections of the late Maurice Podoloff, president of the NBA from its founding in 1946 to 1963, who emphasize basketball's backdoor origins. Podoloff began in the ice hockey arena business and turned to basketball as ""filler"" for ""dark"" nights when hockey, the circus or ice shows were not available. Podoloff is credited with the league's survival and he, in turn, credits Danny Biasone's idea for the 24-second clock for saving game's commercial prospects. Before the rule, basketball was a long, lagging game hard-pressed to keep the attention of the TV viewer. According to Podoloff, with the rule, ""Franchise holders almost tripled. Franchise fees jumped from $10,000 to some millions. TV fees jumped from $100,000 to $18,000,000."" There are other remembrances by impressive early players such as Dolph Shayes, Bob Cousy and George Mikan, among others. Most of them offer lighthearted anecdotes, which Isaacs puts into sobering perspective by pointing out that not one of the book's 40 interviewees is included in an NBA pension plan. Author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996
Release date: 05/01/1996
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