The Eastern Basketball League’s longtime hostilities with the Pennsylvania State Basketball League for player talent ended in a total victory for the senior circuit. The PSL gave up the fight and surrendered its two strongest franchises, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, to the victor. The PSL would continue to operate on and off until the mid-1930’s, but strictly as a minor league operation. The rewards of victory were limited, however, because the Eastern League itself was facing another serious challenge to its stability. During the 1920-21 season, Original Celtics owner Jim Furey had allowed his players to moonlight with EBL squads. For the new campaign, Furey had signed all his Celtics to exclusive contracts, barring their performing for any other team.The effects on the EBL were immediate. Defending champion Germantown, faced with the loss of Nat Holman and growing financial costs, withdrew from the league. Reading remained in the league despite the loss of Horse Haggerty and Ernie Reich to the Celtics, but the team was finished as a contender.
Compounding the league’s woes, when the season began it became quickly apparent that the circuit suffered from a horrible imbalance with the Trenton and Camden clubs totally outclassing the rest of the teams. With Teddy Kearns and Bernie Dunn at forward, Stretch Meehan (picked up from the defunct Germantown squad) at center, and Tom Barlow and Maurice Tome at the guard slots, Trenton was virtually unbeatable. The Bengals suffered only three defeats in twenty-seven games on their way to the first-half title. Camden, with its powerful offense in place, easily captured second place.
Waiting in the wings for the second-half, however, was a team capable of challenging the two powerhouses – the Original Celtics. Late in December, Furey purchased the moribund New York franchise and replaced it with his squad. The Celtics were bloodied in their Eastern League debut by Trenton 21-18, and Camden followed up two nights later with an equally stinging 21-14 win. The two New Jersey clubs clawed at the mighty Celtics throughout the second half of the season, but the New Yorkers lost only two more games against fifteen victories and finished in first place by a single game. The Celtics finished the season by taking two out of three games from Trenton in the playoffs to reign as EBL champions.
The New York State Basketball League experienced a stormy season. The problems started early. Escalating player salary demands and poor early season attendance put most of the owners in an apprehensive mood. Albany, which had captured the last two NYSL championships, declined to enter the first half of the split season. Schenectady, featuring young New York City area players such as Mike Smolick, Dave Wassmer, and 6’5″ string bean Joe Lapchick, controlled most of the first-half race, but faltered financially and was forced to drop out of the league just a week before the completion of the race. Gloversville, running in second place, took the title by default. But the upstaters’ enjoyment of their success was short-lived. The second-half of the season saw the Gloversville roster melt away because of financial problems, and the team dropped from the league after going winless in nine contests. Albany re-entered the league to battle Cohoes, the strongest of the surviving teams, for the second-half title. Cohoes, behind the steady play of Michael Johnson and Marty Barry, took the second-half crown. With the first-half titlist Gloversville extinct, Cohoes was declared league champion.
With Albany sitting out the first half of the NYSL season, Barney Sedran and Marty Friedman played full time in the Interstate Basketball League. Their Easthampton team easily won the first half title with a 12-2 record. Holyoke, led by local stars Jerry Conway and Harold Hiser, took the second half of the season and then upset the favored Easthampton in the playoffs to win the championship.
In January of 1922, the Metropolitan Basketball League was formed in New York City. Composed of six of the strongest independent clubs in and around the city, the new league was an immediate success. Two Brooklyn-based teams, Mac Dowell and the Dodgers, ended the twenty game schedule in a dead heat. MacDowell’s players demanded more money ($40 per game instead of their usual $25) to appear in the proposed best-of-three-game playoff for the title, but owner Frank McCormick forfeited to the Dodgers rather than give into their demands. Twenty-two year old Benny Borgmann and twenty-one year old Joe Brennan finished first and second in the individual scoring race. The names of these two tough, talented youngsters would be interwoven with the history of professional basketball throughout the next decade.