Before Golden State, The Philadelphia Warriors
The Golden State Warriors’ third consecutive trip to the finals coincided with a less heralded, but equally important milestone- the 70th year anniversary since the original Warriors won the NBA’s first championship.
Founded by entertainment promoter Peter Tyrrell in 1946, the Philadelphia Warriors (photo above) were born to a bygone era when sports teams formed and folded nondescriptly. Their name was adopted from a defunct team that had played in the 1920’s.
The Warriors were one of eleven squads organized under the newly-created Basketball Association of America (BAA). Today’s only original survivors of the BAA are the New York Knickerbockers and Boston Celtics.
Teams like the Pittsburgh Ironmen, Providence Steamrollers and Toronto Huskies disappeared into red ink oblivion. Others like the Minneapolis Lakers, Fort Wayne Pistons and the Philadelphia Warriors found new homes over time.
Led by rookie Joe Fulks, the Warriors won the BAA’s inaugural championship on April 22, 1947.
Overtaking the St Louis Bombers in the first round of the playoffs, the Philadelphia Warriors went on to defeat the New York Knicks in the semi-finals and then the Chicago Stags in the finals with a score of 4-1.
6’5”, 25-year old Fulks walked away with the league’s first scoring title, shooting 23.2 points per game average. Two seasons later, the Kentucky native landed 63 points in a single game playing against the Indianapolis Jets, a record that held for the next ten years.
Battles with rival leagues for fans and players forced the BAA to merge with the National Basketball League (NBL) only three years into its tenure, creating the National Basketball Association.
The NBA counts the BAA years as its founding history, not the NBL, making the Philadelphia Warriors the first official champions and Joe Fulks the league’s original high-scoring sensation.
Veteran basketball manager Eddie Gottlieb coached the Philadelphia Warriors from the outset. A greater than life figure, Gottlieb’s future influence and contribution to professional basketball led to his namesake NBA Rookie of the Year award, the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy.
Gottlieb bought the Warriors from Tyrrell in 1952 for $25,000. In addition to Joe Fulks, the team’s golden era roster included Villanova alum Paul Arizin, who along with Neil Johnston and Tom Gola, carried the Warriors to their second championship victory in 1956.
Fulks, Arizin, Johnston and Gola all became Hall of Famers.
Topping off the Warriors’ player list was the indomitable 7’1” Harlem Globetrotter, Wilt Chamberlain. “Wilt the Stilt” signed on in 1959 for a $30,000 contract, the NBA’s highest at the time and $5,000 more than what Gottlieb had paid for the franchise.
Though he never won a championship with the Warriors, the masterful Chamberlain averaged 41.5 points per game during his five and half seasons with the franchise.
In 1962 and under a new owner, the Philadelphia Warriors relocated to the west coast as the San Francisco Warriors. Gone but not forgotten, the old Philadelphia days gave way to another era with a new franchise, the 76ers.
Rebranded the Golden State Warriors in 1972, the team claimed their third NBA title in 1975 before settling into a long drought.
FOOTBALL April 26, 2008- Jake Long of the University of Michigan is first pick by the Miami Dolphins at the NFL draft. He signs a 5-year, $58 million contract, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in the league’s history. Long would stay with the Dolphins through 2012 and later join the Rams, Falcons and Vikings before retiring in 2017.
NASCAR April 26, 1998- Bobby Labonte wins the DieHard 500 as the only driver for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. It was the 2nd season victory for the Texas native who also took 1st place at the Primestar 500. At season start, Labonte had finished 2nd to Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500, but landed 6th in final points standings at year-end.
GOLF April 24, 1988- Rosie Jones wins the LPGA USX Golf Classic in a playoff against Kathy Postlewait. It was the second of what would be 13 total victories at the LPGA. The California native attended Ohio State University and turned professional in 1982. Though never clinching a Major, she placed 2nd four times in her career.
TENNIS April 29, 1978- Tennis twin prodigies Mike and Bob Bryan are born in Camarillo, California. The duo won 16 Grand Slam Doubles championships between 2003-2014 and were named ATP team of the decade. They also took gold in Doubles Tennis at the 2012 Olympics. Both played at Stanford University, winning back-to-back NCAA titles.