1947 Finals: Philadelphia 4, Chicago 1
Warriors Win Inaugural Finals
Joe Fulks, the 6-5 forward of the Philadelphia Warriors, guided his team to the first championship of the Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the NBA.
A crowd of 7,918 packed the old Philadelphia Arena on April 16, 1947, as the series opened between the Warriors and the Chicago Stags. The Warriors took a 34-20 lead at intermission, then watched Fulks pour in 29 points in the second half. He hit his first eight shots of the fourth period and added five free throws to finish with 37 points in what the Associated Press called "the greatest shooting exhibition ever seen on the arena floor."
Angelo Musi, a 5-foot-9 guard out of Temple with a smooth set shot, added 19 points as the Warriors won it going away, 84-71. The Stags, meanwhile, had taken an incredible 129 shots, hitting only 26 of them (20 percent).
Fulks cooled off considerably the next night for Game 2, but it didn't matter. Five Warriors finished in double figures, including forward Howie Dallmar with 18 points and utility player Jerry Fleishman with 16. It was just enough to allow Philadelphia to nurse a lead of as much as eight points for most of the game. The Stags took a brief advantage at 69-68, but Art Hillhouse, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound center, was the man in the fourth period. The big center scored sevem of Philly's last 10 points as the Warriors made it two games to none with an 85-74 win.
The series then moved to Chicago. The weather seemed good, so the Warriors decided to take a commercial flight. As it turned out, the commercial carrier was attempting to set a record for the flight to Chicago, with hopes of covering the 800 or so miles in less than four hours. Thoughts of setting records soon ended after the plane was airborne.
"We were up in the air about five to 10 minutes when we smelled smoke," guard George Senesky said. "I asked Dallmar if he had put a cigarette out on the floor. Then all this black smoke filled the plane."
They had to return to the airport and switch to another plane. The incident was enough to lead at least one player to retire early from the league. But for the most part the Warriors resumed their trip to Chicago unscathed.
The Warriors did immediate damage the next night, April 19, as Fulks returned to form and led the Warriors with 26 points. With about four minutes left, Philly led by 10. Although the Stags closed fast, the Warriors held on to win 75-72 for a commanding 3-0 series lead.
They almost iced it the next night. Chicago held a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Fulks had spent most of the third quarter on the bench with four fouls, but he returned in the fourth as Philly made a run. The Warriors might have pulled it off if Fulks hadn't fouled out with two minutes left and the Warriors down by two points. He finished with 21 points; Senesky led all scorers with 24. But Chicago's Max Zaslofsky and Don Carlson scored 20 and 18 points, respectively, and the Stags kept their hopes alive with a 74-73 win.
The scene shifted back to Market Street, where Fulks again showed his form in Game 5. He hit for 34 points, Musi scored 13 and Senesky 11. But it was assists specialist Dallmar who salvaged a close game. With less than a minute left and the score tied at 80 apiece, he hit the big bucket.
"I scored the winning basket, which gave me a total of two points for the game," Dallmar, who went on to a career coaching at Stanford, said later. "It was from outside. I think it bounced about four times before it went in."
Fleishman added a late free throw, and the Warriors brought home a trophy for the new game's old town. Each of the players received a $2,000 bonus, quite a boost in those days, and a ring with a diamond chip in it.
Dallmar recalled being quite impressed with the money at a time when the members of the All-Star team got nothing more than a tie clasp and an autographed picture of Commissioner Maurice Podoloff. As for Coach Ed Gottlieb, the victory meant a toast. After the game he retreated to an office in the Arena for the Manhattan.
"He didn't even sip it," Senesky recalled with a laugh. "One gulp and it was gone."
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