For all the interest in the new BAA, the best pro teams remained in the less glamorous National Basketball League. Cleveland dropped out, but five new members: Anderson (Indiana), Buffalo, Detroit, Syracuse and Toledo joined holdover teams in Chicago, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Rochester, Oshkosh, Sheboygan and Youngstown.
The main attraction of the new season was 6’10″ George Mikan, the first big man to combine size and muscle with true athletic ability. Mikan was outstanding in every facet of the game. He was a proficient scorer, an excellent rebounder and outstanding defender. With Mikan in the lineup, the Chicago Gears were considered the pre-season favorite, but a contract squabble forced Mikan to sit out six weeks of the season throwing open the Western Division race. Five teams finished within four games of each other. A trio of hard-nosed veterans, Leroy Edwards, Bob Carpenter and Gene Englund, led Oshkosh to first place in the Western Division. Indianapolis captured second place behind the scoring of string bean center Arnie Risen. The Gears, with Mikan finally back on the court, surged from way behind to land in a third place tie with the Sheboygan Redskins. Anderson, despite an admirable 24-20 record, was left out of the playoffs.
In the Eastern Division, Rochester proved that last year’s fine performance was not a fluke by handily winning first place. Fort Wayne finished second, despite heavy personnel losses. Buddy Jeannette had jumped to the ABL, while Ed Sadowski had been hired as player-coach of the Toronto entry in the new BAA. After a midseason row with two teammates, Pistons’ player-coach Bobby McDermott was shipped to Chicago. New teams in Syracuse and Toledo played well enough to capture the next two spots.
Four teams from each division entered the playoffs. Rochester established its dominance over the once indestructible Pistons 76-47 in the clinching contest of the Eastern Division playoffs. In the West, the Chicago Gears subdued Indianapolis in five tough games and then ousted Oshkosh to reach the championship series against Rochester. The Royals offense was geared to the speedy trio of Bob Davies, Red Holzman and Al Cervi, but Rochester also had the muscle to defend against Mikan, with beefy George Glamack, Arnie Johnson and Dolly King taking turns doubling up against big George. In the opener, Mikan was limited to fourteen points and the Royals prevailed, but Mikan and forward Bob Calihan came on strong as the Lakers won the next three in a row to capture the National League title.