1949/50: Built around top players from the United States Gold Medal winning team at the 1948 London Games, the Indianapolis Olympians were to join the National Basketball League in 1949 after the Indianapolis Kautskys joined the Basketball Association of America. Instead, the Olympians themselves would join the BAA, as the two leagues merged and became the National Basketball Association. The Olympians would again replace the Kautskys, who became the Jets after the team decided to fold following the merger, knowing the Olympians had a stronger roster and management. Despite being an expansion team, the Indianapolis Olympians, coached by Cliff Barker, would be one of the top teams in the NBA after opening the season with a 71-64 win over the Denver Nuggets at the Butler Fieldhouse. Alex Groza, who was a member of the 1948 Olympic Team, was one of the top stars in the NBA with a league-best .478 shoot percentage and was named a first-team All-Star with 23.4 points per game, while also winning Rookie of the Year honors. Ralph Beard, who was Groza’s teammate at Kentucky and the 1948 Summer Games, also had an outstanding season with 14.9 ppg, earning second-team All-NBA honors. Olympic team members Wallace Jones and Cliff Barker were also a part of the Indianapolis team that won the Western Division with a record 39-25. The Olympians would fight off a challenge from the Sheboygan Red Skins in the opening round of the playoffs needing the full three games to advance, as the home team won each game in the series. Looking to reach the semifinals, the Olympians again had a tough test against the Anderson Packers as the home team won the first two games in the three games series. This time, however, the Olympians would come up short, losing 67-65 in Game 3 at home.
1950/51: Despite strong seasons from Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, who each were named first-team All-Stars, the Olympians struggled in their second season, as they hovered near .500 most of the season. On January 6th, the Olympians would win the longest game in NBA history, beating the Rochester Royals 75-73 in six overtimes on the road. Following the game, the Olympians would go into a slump, dropping seven of their next eight games. Eventually, Cliff Baker would be replaced as coach by Wally Jones. The Olympians would post a 7-5 record over their last dozen games and squeeze into the playoffs with a record of 31-37. However, the Olympians’ playoff stay was a short one as they were knocked off by the Minneapolis Lakers in three games.
1951/52: The Kentucky point-shaving scandal would rock the Indianapolis Olympians as their two top players Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, were both banned for life by NBA Commissioner Maurice Podolof after admitting to point-shaving while in the NCAA with Kentucky. Neither would appear in another NBA game. Without their two players, the Olympians managed to stay somewhat competitive, posting a record of 34-32 under the leadership of Herm Schaefer. Helping to pick up for the slack with the loss of Groza and Beard were Joe Graboski, Leo Barnhorst, Paul Walther, and Bob Lavoy, who each averaged more than ten points per game. However, the Olympians would make a quick playoff exit, losing two straight to the Minneapolis Lakers.
1952/53: Still reeling from the loss of Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, the Olympians stumbled right out of the gate, dropping their first five games. The Olympians would never recover from their slow start. Despite being one of the worst teams in the league all season, the Olympians would slip into the playoffs by finishing fourth in the Western Division with a record of 28-43. However, once again, they would be overmatched by the eventual champion Minneapolis Lakers losing both games, though a solid showing in Game 2 gave them something to hold their head up high about as they lost by a mere basket 81-79 at Butler Fieldhouse. It would also be the final game the Indianapolis Olympians folded following the season.
©MMXV Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the National Basketball Association. This site is not affiliated with the Indianapolis Olympians or the NBA. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on July 26, 2015. Last updated on July 26, 2015 at 11:40 pm ET.