This was an important transition year for the league and its top team. Maurice Podoloff, the only President/Commissioner the league ever had, retired before the season began and was replaced by J. Walter Kennedy, who had earlier served as Publicity Director. Meanwhile, in Boston, the Celtics began a season for the first time since 1950 without Bob Cousy. In franchise shifts, the Chicago Zephyrs moved to Baltimore and became the new Baltimore Bullets, while the Syracuse Nats moved to Philadelphia, vacated by the Warriors a season earlier, and became the Philadelphia 76ers.

Russell goes up for the block.
photo by Steve Lipofsky

A pair of impressive rookie big men came into the league, Jerry Lucas (Cincinnati) and Nate Thurmond (San Francisco). Alex Hannum became coach at San Francisco, where he instilled a defensive philosophy to the Wilt Chamberlain-led team. The Warriors led the NBA by allowing just 102.6 ppg, and won the West by two games over St. Louis. The Warriors fought off a spirited challenge from Bob Pettit's Hawks to win the West in seven games, but were no match for Boston's depth as the Celtics polished them off in five games for a sixth straight title.

CELTICS COAST TO SIXTH STRAIGHT TITLE
Boston's sixth straight title was one of its easiest, and the question started to be asked whether Boston would ever lose again. The title streak drew comparisons to the New York Yankees five straight from 1949-53, adding prestige to the still-young league. Red Auerbach basked in the titles.

"The thrill never goes from winning," he said. "But maybe the reasons change. First, it was just trying to win a title. Now it is a question of going down as the greatest team of all time. That stimulates you."