Wartime Bas­ket­ball

  • From the Publisher
May 3, 2016

Wartime Bas­ket­ball tells the sto­ry of bas­ket­bal­l’s sur­vival and devel­op­ment dur­ing World War II&mdashand how those years pro­found­ly affect­ed the game’s growth after the war.

Among its many impacts on the home-front, the war forced pro­fes­sion­al and ama­teur leagues to con­tract and com­bine ros­ters to stay com­pet­i­tive. At the same time, the Unit­ed States Mil­i­tary cre­at­ed base teams made up of top play­ers who found them­selves in uniform.

The for­ma­tion of the World Pro­fes­sion­al Bas­ket­ball Tour­na­ment (WPBT) in 1939 includ­ed all-black and inte­grat­ed teams, the first time black Amer­i­can play­ers could com­pete in the World Series of bas­ket­ball” against white teams. This paved the way for the Nation­al Bas­ket­ball League to inte­grate in Decem­ber 1942, five years before Jack­ie Robin­son broke the col­or bar­ri­er in baseball. 

Jews played an impor­tant role in bas­ket­bal­l’s evo­lu­tion dur­ing World War II. Future coach­es Red Auer­bach and Red Holz­man played on mil­i­tary teams; Les Har­ri­son helped inte­grate the game in 1946; Arnie Risen, Bernie Fleigel, Dutch Garfinkel, Ossie Schect­man, Shikey Got­thof­fer, and Peter Rosen­berg all played sig­nif­i­cant roles in basketball.

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