NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA celebrated the 75th anniversary of its first game Monday with a New York-Toronto matchup, the same as was played on Nov. 1, 1946.
So much is different, though.
For one, it isn’t even that Toronto franchise. The team the Knicks beat 68-66 that night was the Huskies, who played only that one season in the NBA.
For another, that game was played at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, in front of a crowd of just 7,090. Maple Leaf Gardens is now Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre — and the lower level is a Loblaws supermarket, as Raptors coach Nick Nurse learned when he first moved into town.
“I lived right up there by Maple Leaf Gardens I think my first year in Toronto and now it’s a grocery store,” Nurse said. “I went in there, I saw the sign on the pillar there and I was taking pictures of that going, ‘Man, that’s incredible.’ Like, I didn’t even know that.”
Nor could anyone have known in its first season that the NBA — then known as the Basketball Association of America — would turn into the global success it is today. The 11-team league of 1946-47 was such small potatoes that the Huskies and Knicks only ended up as the opener because they were moved up a day ahead of the other games because the Maple Leafs had a home game the next night, and hockey was a bigger deal.
In fact, the NBA wasn’t even the biggest deal in basketball.
“None of the writers really believed that we were better than the college teams. So we actually had to go to their gyms to prove that we were better than the college teams,” Bud Palmer, who played for the Knicks from 1946-49, said in a video the NBA played on the overhead scoreboard at Madison Square Garden.
The league recently announced a 75th anniversary team of the top players in NBA history to kick off the season-long celebration. The Knicks honored four of their players who were voted onto it during the first quarter of Monday’s game, as Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Bob McAdoo took the court along with Peter DeBusschere, whose late father Dave was selected.
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