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Syracuse Nationals
SYR-N 4600.png
Arena Syracuse Armory Building
(1946-48)
State Fair Coliseum
(1949-51)
Onondaga County War Memorial (1951-63)
City Syracuse, New York
Team History Syracuse Nationals
(1939-46) independent
(1946-49) NBL
(1949-63) NBA
Logo Design
Team Colors red, white, blue
Division Championships 3 (1949–50, 1951–52, 1954–55)
Finals Appearances 3 (1949–50, 1953–54, 1954–55)
League Championships 1 1954–55

The Syracuse Nationals were an American professional basketball team that existed from 1939 to 1963 as part of the National Basketball League (NBL) and National Basketball Association (NBA). They are currently known as the Philadelphia 76ers, and are the NBA's oldest continued franchise.

The team began in 1939 in Syracuse, New York as the Syracuse Reds, an independent professional team. In 1946, they joined the National Basketball League as the Syracuse Nationals, becoming the largely Midwest-based league's easternmost team. In 1949, the Nationals were one of seven NBL teams that merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to form the NBA. In 1955, the Nationals (led by forward Dolph Schayes) won the NBA championship.

Contents

History

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Independent years (1939–1946)

The Syracuse Reds played from 1939–41, mainly against barnstorming teams like the New York Renaissance, New York Jewels, Oswego Merchants, Schenectady Pros and local teams. Some players for the Reds included local Syracuse University stars Wilmeth Sidat-Singh and Mark Haller, NBA Hall of Famer Al Cervi, and Christian Brothers Academy alumnus Bob Nugent. There was no pro team during the war years of 1942–45.

NBL years (1946–1949)

1946/47: Owned by Italian immigrant Danny Biasone, the Syracuse Nationals began play in the National Basketball League, in the same year professional basketball was finally gaining some legitimacy with the rival Basketball Association of America that was based in large cities like New York and Philadelphia. While in the NBL with teams largely consisting of small Midwestern towns, the Nationals put together a 21–23 record, finishing in 4th place. In the playoffs, the Nats would be beaten by the fellow upstate neighbor Rochester Royals in 4 games.

1947–48: In their second season the Nationals would struggle, finishing in 5th place with a 24-36 record. Despite their struggles, the Nats would make the playoffs, getting swept by the Anderson Duffey Packers in 3 straight games.

1948–49: Several teams begin to leave the NBL for the BAA as the foundation for a merger is laid. Staying in the NBL, the Nationals sign Al Cervi to be player coach as Dolph Schayes makes his professional debut, leading the Nats to a winning record for the first time with a record of 40–23. In the playoffs the Nationals would make quick work of the Hammond Calumet Buccaneers, winning the series in 2 straight games. However, in the semifinals the Nats would fall to the Anderson Duffey Packers for the second straight season in 4 games. Following the season the remaining NBL teams would join the BAA as the two leagues merged and became the NBA.

NBA years (1950–1963)

1949–50: The Nationals were an instant success in the NBA winning the Eastern Division with a league best record of 51–13. In the playoffs the Nationals would continue to play solid basketball beating the Philadelphia Warriors in 2 straight. Moving on to the Eastern Finals the Nationals would battle the New York Knickerbockers beating their big city rivals in a 3-game series. Moving on to the NBA Finals the Nationals would face fellow NBL alum Minneapolis Lakers. In Game 1 of the Finals the Nats would lose just their 2nd home game of the season 68–66. The Nats would not recover as they fell behind 3 games to 1 before falling in 6 games.

1950–51: Despite several teams leaving the NBA for the National Professional Basketball League the Nationals decided to stay put. In their second NBA season the Nationals played mediocre basketball all season finishing in 4th place with a record of 32–34. However, in the playoffs the Nats played their best basketball of the season as they stunned the 1st place Philadelphia Warriors in 2 straight taking Game 1 on the road in overtime 91–89. However, in the Eastern Finals the Nationals would be beaten by the New York Knickerbockers in a hard fought 5-game series losing the finale by just 2 points.

1951–52: Al Cervi, playing less and coaching more, emphasized a patient offense and a scrappy defense, which led the league by yielding a stingy 79.5 points per game, as the Nationals won the Eastern Division with a solid 40–26 record. In the playoffs the Nats would knock the Philadelphia Warriors off again in a 3-game series. However, in the Eastern Finals the Nats would fall to the New York Knickerbockers again dropping the series in 4 games.

1952–53: The Nationals would finish in 2nd place in a hard fought 3-way battle for first place in the Eastern Division with a record of 47–24. In the playoffs the Nationals would face the Boston Celtics dropping Game 1 at home 87–81. Needing a win in Boston to keep their hopes alive, the Nationals would take the Celtics deep in to overtime before losing in quadruple OT 111–105, in what remains the longest playoff game in NBA history.[1]

1953–54: The Nationals acquire Alex Groza and Ralph Beard as the Indianapolis Olympians folded leaving the NBA with just 9 teams. Once again the Nationals would battle for the Division title falling 2 games short with a 42–30 record. In the playoffs the Nats would win all 4 games of a round robin tournament involving the 3 playoff teams from the East. In the Eastern Finals the Nats would stay hot beating the Boston Celtics in 2 straight games. However, in the NBA Finals the Nationals would lose to the Minneapolis Lakers in a hard fought 7-game series where the 2 teams alternated wins throughout.

1954–55: With the NBA struggling financially and down to just 8 teams Nationals owner Danny Biasone suggested the league limit the amount of time taken for a shot thus speeding up a game that often ended with long periods of teams just holding the ball and playing keep away. Biasone calculated a 24 second shot clock would allow at least 30 shots per quarter speeding up the game and increasing scoring. The Shot Clock was an instant success as scoring was up 14 points per game league wide. In the first season of the shot clock the Nats would take first place in the East with a 43–29 record. After a first round bye the Nats would beat the Boston Celtics in 4 games to reach the NBA Finals for the 2nd straight season. In the finals the Nats would get off to a fast start taking the first 2 games at home against the Fort Wayne Pistons. However, as the series moved to Fort Wayne the Pistons would spark back to life taking all 3 games to take a 3–2 series lead. Back in Syracuse for Game 6 on the Nats kept Championship hopes alive by beating the Pistons 109-104 to force a 7th game at home. Game 7 would be as tight as the series as George King sank a free throw to give the Nats a 92–91 lead in the final seconds. King would then steal inbound pass to clinch the NBA Championship for the Nationals.

1955–56: Coming off their NBA Championship the Nationals struggled all season needing a tiebreaker over the New York Knickerbockers to avoid finishing in last place and make the playoffs with a 35–37 record. However, in the playoffs the Nats would stun the Boston Celtics winning the first round series in 3 games by taking the final 2 games. In the Eastern Finals the Nationals played solid basketball again as they pushed the Philadelphia Warriors to a decisive 5th game. However, the Nationals' reign as champions would end with a 109–104 loss in Philadelphia.

1956–57: The Nationals would get off to a slow start as coach Al Cervi is fired and replaced by Paul Seymour. Under Seymour the Nats would finish the season strongly finishing in 2nd place with a record of 38–34. In the playoffs the Nats would have trouble knocking off the defending champion Philadelphia Warriors advancing to the Eastern Finals with 2 straight wins. However, the Nats would be swept in 3 straight games by the Boston Celtics.

1957–58: Fort Wayne and Rochester had moved on to Detroit and Cincinnati, leaving the Syracuse Nationals as the last small town team in the big city NBA. That would not matter on the court as the Nats held their own finishing in 2nd place with a 41–31 record. However, in the playoffs the Nationals would fall in the first round as they lost a 3-game series to the Philadelphia Warriors.

1958–59: Despite a mediocre 35–37 record the Nationals would make the playoffs again by finishing in 3rd place. In the playoffs the Nationals would once again rise to the occasion sweeping the New York Knickerbockers in 2 straight to reach the Eastern Finals, where they gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle alternating wins before falling by 5 points in Game 7.

1959–60: Playing in a league now dominated by superstars like Bill Russell of the Boston Celtic, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors and Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks, the Nationals hold their won posting a solid 45–30 record, while finishing in 3rd place. However, in the playoffs the Nats would lose a 3-game series to Chamberlain and the Warriors.

1960–61: With Lakers relocating from Minneapolis to Los Angeles the Syracuse Nationals became the last NBL team to still be playing in their original city. The Nationals would go on to make the playoffs again by finishing in 3rd place with a 38–41 record. Once again the Nationals would prove to be dangerous in the playoffs as they stunned the Philadelphia Warriors in 3 straight games. However, in the Eastern Finals the Nats would be knocked off by the Boston Celtics in 5 games.

1961–62: Dolph Schayes misses 24 games and fails to lead the team in scoring for the first time in 14 years as Hal Greer leads the way with 22.8 ppg. The Nats would go on to finish in 3rd place again with a 41–39 record. In the playoffs the Nats would drop their first 2 games to the Philadelphia Warriors on the road. Facing elimination the Nats would win the next 2 games to force a 7th game in Philadelphia. However, in Game 5 the Warriors would prove too strong as they end the Nats season with a 121–104 victory. Following the season the Warriors would leave Philadelphia for San Francisco. This would leave the city of Philadelphia without a team; investors in the City of Brotherly Love would begin searching for a new team immediately.

1962–63: With an aging team the Nationals were expected to fade, however with the scrappy play of Johnny Kerr the Nationals remained a strong contender finishing in 2nd place with a record of 48–32. In the playoffs the Nationals would face the Cincinnati Royals, getting off to a 2–1 series lead. However, needing a win to advance to the Eastern Finals again the Nationals would lose 2 straight dropping the decisive 5th game at home in overtime 131–127. That overtime loss on March 26 would prove to be the last game for the Syracuse Nationals, as investors Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman purchased the team from Danny Biasone moving the team to Philadelphia to become the 76ers, filling the void left by the Warriors.

Season by season record

Year W L Pct. Finish Playoffs
1946–47 21 23 .467 4th Place
1947–48 24 36 .400 5th Place
1948–49 40 23 .635  ???
1949–50 51 13 .797 East Division Champs Lost In NBA Finals 2–4 (Minneapolis Lakers)
1950–51 32 34 .485 4th, East Lost in East Finals 2–3 (New York Knicks)
1951–52 40 26 .606 East Division Champs Lost in East Finals 1–3 (New York Knicks)
1952–53 47 24 .662 2nd, East Lost in East Semi-Finals 0–2 (Boston Celtics)
1953–54 42 30 .583 2nd, East Lost In NBA Finals 3–4 (Minneapolis Lakers)
1954–55 43 29 .597 East Division Champs Won NBA Championship 4–3 (Fort Wayne Pistons)
1955–56 35 37 .486 3rd, East Lost in East Finals 2–3 (Philadelphia Warriors)
1956–57 38 34 .528 2nd, East Lost in East Finals 0–3 (Boston Celtics)
1957–58 41 31 .569 2nd, East Lost in East Semi-Finals 1–2 (Philadelphia Warriors)
1958–59 35 37 .486 3rd, East Lost in East Finals 3–4 (Boston Celtics)
1959–60 45 30 .600 3rd, East Lost in East Semi-Finals 1–2 (Philadelphia Warriors)
1960–61 38 41 .481 3rd, East Lost in East Finals 1–4 (Boston Celtics)
1961–62 41 39 .513 3rd, East Lost in East Semi-Finals 2–3 (Philadelphia Warriors)
1962–63 48 32 .600 2nd, East Lost in East Semi-Finals 2–3 (Cincinnati Royals)
3 NBL Seasons 85 82 .509
14 NBA Seasons 576 437 .569

References


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