During the summer of 1901, two Lowell-based teams broke away from the three-year old Massachusetts League to organize a new league, which they brazenly called the Massachusetts League (later renaming it the New England Basketball League), forcing the established league to change its name to the Massachusetts Central League. The breakup between the Lowell squads and the Worcester-based teams did not end the acrimony between the two groups.
The league, which had performed in relative obscurity, benefited greatly from the influx of talent from the disbanded Western Massachusetts League in 1904.
The New England League disbanded during the summer of 1905. The six-team organization could no longer support the high-salaried imported stars that gave the circuit its identity. Despite most of the better-known pro stars playing in Massachusetts, in many ways Philadelphia remained the center of the professional game. The eight-team Philadelphia League expanded to a 40-game schedule featuring a league contest every night for twenty-one weeks. The NEL's demise left the better-known players with few options but to sign with the Philadelphia Basketball League, the sole remaining professional league.