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The Original Celtics (no relation to the famous Boston Celtics) were a great barnstorming professional basketball team in the 1920s.

The team's roots lay in the New York Celtics team which disbanded during World War I. In 1918, James Furey reassembled his own team around a nucleus of those truly "original" Celtics, added other players mostly from the West Side of New York City, and defiantly called his new squad the Original Celtics. They initially played in various struggling professional leagues, before becoming primarily a touring squad which traveled up to 150,000 miles a year while completing a 150-200 game schedule. They won some ninety percent of their games, finishing 1922-23 with the unbelievable record of 193-11-1. In an attempt to claim undisputed national champions, they asked to play the nationally famous Franklin Wonder Five, but the coach refused as his team 'was too tired' from a grueling year.

The team's first dominant player was "Dutch" Dehnert, a 6'1" (1.85 m) standing guard who some credit with introducing the modern concept of pivot play. When ballhandling wizard Nat Holman (later to coach national championship teams at CCNY) was signed to play for then-coach John Whitty in 1922, the Original Celtics hit their stride. Another "big man", Joe Lapchick, John Beckman, called the "Babe Ruth of basketball", George "Horse" Haggerty and speedy Davey Banks were other outstanding individual players on these squads.

In 1926, the American Basketball League, developed by sports entrepreneur George Preston Marshall, effectively railroaded the team into joining their ranks, by prohibiting member teams from playing against them. The Original Celtics responded by so dominating the league in their first two seasons there that the league forced them to break up, and apportioned their players to the other teams. This strategy backfired, game attendance plummeted and, further deflated by the Great Depression, the A.B.L. folded after the 1931 season.

The Original Celtics briefly reorganized as a barnstorming team in the 1930s, but never duplicated their initial glory. They are often credited with extending the reach of basketball across America, and for instituting the importance of aggressive defensive play. As a group, the team was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.

At various times in their existence, the team played in the ABL, the Eastern Basketball League and the Metropolitan Basketball League. During the 1921/22 season, the team replaced the New York Giants, whose owner also owned the Whirlwinds during the 1st half. During the 1922/23 season, the team took over the Atlantic City franchise when it was 4-7 and won five of six games before the Eastern League folded in January, 1923.They also competed in the Metropolitan League but dropped out of the league during the 1st half after going 12-0. During the 1926/27 season, the team replaced the Brooklyn Arcadians after 5 games, and took the name Brooklyn Celtics. By the next season they had returned to the name, New York Celtics. After winning back-to-back ABL championships in 1926/27 and 1927/28, the team was broken up. An attempt to return the team for the 1929/30 season failed, and the team dropped out of the league during the 1st half on December 10, 1929.

Year-by-year

Year League Reg. Season Playoffs
1921/22 EBL 1st (2nd half) Champions
1922/23 MBL N/A N/A
1926/27 ABL 4th (1st half); 1st (2nd half) Champions
1927/28 ABL 1st, Eastern Champions
1929/30 ABL N/A N/A

Notable players

Notable players with the Original Celtics include:

  • Lou Bender (1910-2009), pioneer player with the Columbia Lions and in early pro basketball, who was later a successful trial attorney.[1]

References

  1. ^ Mallozzii, Vincent M. "Lou Bender, Columbia Star Who Helped Popularize Basketball in New York, Dies at 99", The New York Times, September 12, 2009. Accessed September 13, 2009.
  • National Basketball Hall of Fame
  • "Illustrated History of Basketball" (1973), by Larry Fox
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