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The Philadelphia Warriors were a professional basketball team that played in the BAA, later the NBA. For most of their time in Philadelphia, the Warriors were based at the Philadelphia Arena but occasionally used the Philadelphia Convention Center during the 1952/53 and 1961/62 seasons. The warriors were the predecessors to the San Francisco Warriors who then became the Golden State Warriors who are still active today.
How did the Warriors Startup?
The Philadelphia Warriors were formed in 1946 as a charter franchise of the BAA (Basketball Association of America) by Peter Tyrell and Steven Kim, also owners of the hockey outfit Philadelphia Rockets. Eddie Gottlieb, who had a long career as a basketball promoter was hired as the team’s first coach and general manager. The team was named after an earlier sports franchise in the city.
The Philadelphia Warriors in Competition
The Warriors took off to a flying start, inspired by guard Joe Fulks’ to win the BAA championship on the very first attempt. Enroute to the final they had scooped second in the Eastern Division with a 35-25 record before brushing aside the St. Louis Bombers and the New York Knickerbockers in the playoffs to set up a meeting with Chicago Stags. They beat the Stags by 4 games to 1 in the final to lift the league’s first championship. They stumbled at the last hurdle the following season, 1947/48 losing in the League finals in six games to Baltimore Bullets. They failed to proceed beyond the first round of the playoffs during the next four seasons, losing three straight times to Syracuse Nationals. Their struggles got worse as they went a further three seasons without playoff basketball.
During the 1955/56 season however, a resurgent Warriors team made it all the way to the NBA Finals having finished at the pinnacle of the Eastern Division before dismissing the Syracuse Nationals three games to two. There was no denying them a second title as they beat the Fort Wayne Pistons four games to one. After a first playoff round exit to Syracuse Nationals and a 4-1 eastern conference final series loss to Boston Celtics in 1956/57 and 1957/58 seasons respectively, they dropped to last in 1958/59 with a 35-37 record.
With rookie Wilt Chamberlain leading the charge, the Warriors reached the 1959/60 conference finals but were beaten 4-1 by the Boston Celtics. They stumbled to bitter rivals Syracuse Nationals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1960/1961 and the following season, they returned to the Eastern Finals only to succumb at the death to a Bill Russell inspired Celtics. That heartbreaking game proved to be the last game the team would ever play as Philadelphia Warriors.
Philadelphia Warriors’ most Notable Moments
For Philadelphia Warriors fans, the teams’ rivalry with the Syracuse Nationals was a perennial source of grief and joy in equal measure. The two teams met in the playoffs three seasons in a row between 1948/1949 and 1951/1952 with the Nationals winning each of these. The Warriors finally had the better of their nemesis in the playoffs of 55/56 before repeating the feat in 57/58 and 59/60 exerting sweet revenge. Philadelphia also scored one more over Syracuse when the Nationals relocated to Philadelphia in 1963 to replace the departed Warriors.
On March 2, 1962, basketball fans witnessed what is arguably the most brilliant game a player has ever had as Wilt Chamberlain scored an astonishing 100 points in a game against the New York Knicks at the Hershey Stadium. This feat was unfortunately witnessed by a meager crowd of 4124 fans owing to cold weather which had discouraged fans from attending the game and the fact that live TV coverage of NBA games was still unheard of. The teams also broke the record for most combined points (316) in a game with Philadelphia triumphing 169-147.
The Philadelphia Warriors’ most Notable Players
Wilt chamberlain who played for Philadelphia from 1959 to 1962 is remembered as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He joined as a rookie in 1959 and took both the NBA MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, averaging 37.6ppg and 27ppg for the season. In 1961/62 he set the league record for most dominant season, recording an average 50.4ppg as well as most points in a single game, 100 which he scored against the New York Knicks.
Joe Fulks played small forward for the Warriors from 1946 to 1954 establishing himself as one of the best players in the league. Joe is regarded as the league’s first high scoring player, having beaten his own game scoring record four times between 1946 and 1949, finally nesting at 63 points, a record which stood for the next ten years. He helped Philadelphia to win the BAA championship in 1947 by recording a 23.2 average ppg.
Neil Johnston played his entire career (1951-1959) with the Philadelphia Warriors. He topped the league in scoring for three straight seasons between 1952 and 1955and also led the league in field goal percentage in three seasons including the championship season of 1955/56.
Other notable players include Paul Arizin and Tom Gola.
What happened to the Philadelphia Warriors?
Following the conclusion of the 1960/1961 season, the team was sold to Franklin Mieuli who expressed interest in moving the team owing to diminishing fan turnout. The team was relocated to San Francisco, retaining the franchise’s nickname and honors. Philadelphia would however not miss NBA action for long as the Warriors’ perennial playoff rivals Syracuse Nationals came calling in 1963 and became the Philadelphia 76ers.