Bill Russell goes up for the block. He earned the MVP honor.

The NBA took giant strides in cementing its big-league image when the Fort Wayne Pistons moved to Detroit and the Rochester Royals moved to Cincinnati. Just three years earlier, half the NBA's teams were based in metropolitan areas with less than a million people; now only Syracuse was in that category. The new fans in Detroit were treated to the league's leading scorer as the Pistons' George Yardley became the first player to score 2,000 points in a season, leading the NBA in scoring at 27.8 ppg.

Boston in the East and St. Louis in the West were clearly the class of the league, with each team winning its division by eight games over a 72-game schedule. Boston took Philadelphia in five games to win what was now a best-of-7 Division Finals, while St. Louis also bested Detroit in five games. When St. Louis and Boston split the first two games in Boston, it seemed another classic series was in the offing. But Bill Russell's sprained ankle in Game 3 turned the series in the Hawks' favor. Boston showed gritty determination by tying the series with a win in Game 4 without Russell, but St. Louis won Game 5 in Boston by two points and Hawks forward Bob Pettit exploded for 50 points in Game 6 to give St. Louis its only league title.


Bob Pettit won only one NBA Championship during his illustrious career, but that says more about the Celtics' dominance during that period than about the desire of the 6-9, 215-pound forward from LSU. Pettit burned with an inner fire that never let him be satisfied with his performance.

"When I fall below what I know I can do, my belly growls and growls," Pettit once said.

Pettit, who led the Hawks to the NBA Finals four times, retired after 11 seasons as the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 20,880 points.