Season Review: 1951-52
Take a look back at the 1951-52 season, in which the Minneapolis Lakers emerged as NBA champions.
The jump shot, first popularized by Joe Fulks, was becoming more prevalent in the game, and its effectiveness was underlined as Philadelphia’s Paul Arizin, a young forward from Villanova, wrested the league scoring title from George Mikan with 25.4 ppg and led the league in field goal percentage (.448).
Also, the lane was widened from six to 12 feet in an attempt to cut down the big man’s dominance. But while the jump shot was advancing the game, some of the game’s rules were holding it back. The absence of a shot clock led to stalling tactics once a team gained a comfortable lead — and relief, in the form of a shot clock, was still three years away.
Mikan had healed from an ankle that had been fractured the year before, only to find a new challenge in the newly widened lane. Rather than let it bother him, he used it to his advantage.
“Actually, it opened up the lane and made it more difficult for them to defense me,” Mikan said. “Opposing teams couldn’t deter our cutters going through the lane. It moved me out and gave me more shot selection instead of just short pivots and hooks. I was able to dribble across the lane and use a lot more freedom setting my shot up.”
The effects of a point-shaving scandal that rocked college hoops in 1951 was also felt in the NBA. Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, two stars on the Indianapolis Olympians, were implicated for misdeeds while at Kentucky and banned from the NBA.
Meanwhile, for the first time in several years, all 10 NBA teams played 66 games, and all 10 teams that started the season finished it. The NBA was mining the best college talent, with Mikan, Arizin, Ed Macauley, and Bob Cousy all making the All-NBA First Team, with the fifth spot shared by Bob Davies and Dolph Schayes. For the second straight season, New York overcame a third-place finish to reach The Finals. In the West, Minneapolis reasserted itself by defeating Rochester to reach The Finals.
Another seven-game NBA Finals resulted, and the Lakers put the home-court advantage to good use, winning Game 7 easily, 82-65. It was the second straight year that the Knicks lost in The Finals in seven games.
Eastern Division semifinals
New York defeated Boston (2-1)
Syracuse defeated Philadelphia (2-1)
Western Division semifinals
Minneapolis defeated Indianapolis (2-0)
Rochester defeated Fort Wayne (2-0)
Eastern Division finals
New York defeated Syracuse (3-1)
Western Division finals
Minneapolis defeated Rochester (3-1)
Minneapolis defeated New York (4-3)
Points — Paul Arizin, Philadelphia Warriors (25.4)
Assists — Andy Phillip, Philadelphia Warriors (8.2)
Rebounds — George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers (13.5)
FG% — Paul Arizin, Philadelphia Warriors (44.8)
FT% — Bobby Wanzer, Rochester Royals (90.4)
All-Star Game MVP — Paul Arizin, Philadelphia Warriors