In early October, just a month before the ABL season was to get underway, the Original Celtics, led by head coach Johnny Whitty bolted to the newly organized National Basketball League. The new league operated solely in and around the metropolitan New York City, but despite its geographical limitations was stocked with some of the best players in the country. After pulling off a coup by signing the Celtics, the NBL brashly raided ABL rosters for additional players.
Three weeks into the new season, the favorites were all performing up to expectations, but the league had serious problems at the other end of the standings. Brooklyn, Detroit and Baltimore were all winless and showing few signs of improvement. The ABL president acted quickly and ruthlessly to solve the dilemma. First, he moved to destroy the foundation of the upstart National League, by secretly negotiating with the Celtics to jump to the ABL. As anticipated, the Celtics’ departure triggered an immediate collapse of the rival league. Next, he expelled the Detroit and Brooklyn clubs from the ABL, and then awarded the latter franchise to the incoming Celtics. Finally, he bolstered the Baltimore franchise with players from the suddenly defunct NBL. In a single stroke, the ABL had signed basketball’s most famous team, thwarted the upstart NBL, and provided his league with an additional pool of dozens of top players.