1924-1925

The Original Celtics continued their reign over the professional basketball world.  Their legend had spread to the point that almost every game they played was advertised as being for the “world championship.” They won over ninety percent of their games during the season despite the growing number of quality teams in the country.  The Rochester Centrals were among the best of the independents.  Ex-New York State League star Marty Barry led the well-disciplined squad.  Laundry magnate George Preston Marshall bankrolled another strong team in Washington D.C. Player-coach Lou Sugarman led the Palace Five that featured Horse Haggerty, Bob Grody, and Ray Kennedy.

In league play, the Metropolitan Basketball League returned to action with the same six teams that had completed the previous season.  Brooklyn was projected as the team to beat for the title.  Led by scorers Joe Brennan and Davey Banks, the Visitation returned last year’s championship team intact, with veteran pro star Eddie White added for insurance. The rest of the pack was hard to gauge because of lots of roster changes. Disgusted with last year’s indifferent play, Trenton released its entire squad.  Other clubs quickly scampered to sign many of the New Jersey club’s well-known veterans.  Kingston secured the services of center Maurice Tome and playmaker Teddy Kearns to help rebuild the team around key holdovers Carl Husta and Charles Powers. Greenpoint added Tom Barlow and speedster George Glasco to its closely-knit squad.  When Brooklyn floundered through the first-half of the season at a .500 pace, the two strengthened teams sprang at the opportunity to move up in the standings.  Kingston, under the guidance of veteran coach, Pop Morgenweck, took the first-half title, edging Greenpoint by a single game, with Brooklyn trailing behind in third place. Chastised by its lackluster first-half showing, Brooklyn began the second season at a tremendous pace and was never seriously challenged. Paterson, behind high-scoring Benny Borgmann, also showed a renewed vigor and took second place. In the playoff for the league title, both finalists were handicapped.  Kingston forward Harry Riconda had departed for baseball spring training, while Brooklyn was without the services of star forward Davey Banks, who had broken his arm late in the regular season.  Two youngsters were thrust into important roles to replace the missing stars.  Brooklyn signed Willie MacDonald to fill in for Banks, while Kingston recruited 18-year-old Rusty Saunders, a husky Trenton schoolboy star, to replace Riconda.  After dividing the first two games of the best-of-three game series, the teams met for the deciding third game at a neutral court in Paterson.  Brooklyn overcame a six-point Kingston lead in the final three minutes of the game to take its second consecutive Metropolitan League championship by the score of 33 to 29.

The Philadelphia Basketball League, with many moonlighting Metropolitan League stars dotting the rosters, enjoyed a highly entertaining season of play, despite lingering financial problems.  The defending champion Sphas made a runaway of the first-half race with eleven straight wins to open the season. Hobbled by injuries to key players, the Sphas finished in third place behind Tri-Council and Shanahan in the second half.  In game one of the best-of-three game playoff for the title, the Sphas took a 19-8 halftime lead, but could score only four more points the rest of the evening and fell to Tri-Council 29-23.  The Sphas recovered their composure in game two with a 25-22 victory to knot the series at one game apiece. The playoffs and eventually the league itself disintegrated, however, before the deciding third game could take place when the heart of the Tri-Council team, Tom Barlow, Lou Sugarman, and George Glasco, embarked on a series of exhibition games. Despite the pleas of league officials, the players refused to cancel their lucrative exhibition tour and forced Tri-Council to forfeit the deciding contest and title to the Sphas.

The Philadelphia Basketball League debacle was a classic example of the way professional basketball had operated since the turn of the century.  It also was a primary reason why the pro game had failed to move into the mainstream of American sports.  Fans were tired of buying a ticket to a game only to discover that two or three regulars from each team were not present.  Chances were good that they were playing with another team in another league or had taken the night off for a well-paying exhibition with a pickup team.  During the summer of 1925, representatives of nine big-city teams hammered out an agreement that would finally bring an end to the chaos and provide professional basketball with one nationwide major league operation

ANTHRACITE BASKETBALL LEAGUE

CENTRAL NEW YORK STATE BASKETBALL LEAGUE

METROPOLITAN BASKETBALL LEAGUE

PHILADELPHIA BASKETBALL LEAGUE

WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA LEAGUE

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