1946/47: Owned by Italian Immigrant Danny Biasone, the Syracuse Nationals begin play in the National Basketball League. In the same year, professional basketball was finally gaining some legitimacy with the rival Basketball Association of America that was based in large cities like New York and Philadelphia. While in the NBL with teams primarily consisting of small Midwestern towns, the Nationals put together a 21-23 record finishing in fourth place. In the playoffs, the Nats would be beaten by the fellow upstate neighbor Rochester Royals in four games.
1947/48: In their second season, the Nationals would struggle to finish in fifth place with a 24-36 record. Despite their struggles, the Nats would make the playoffs getting swept by the Anderson Duffey Packers in three straight games.
1948/49: Several teams begin to leave the NBL for the BAA as the foundation for a merger is laid. Staying in the NBL, the Nationals sign AL Cervi to be a player-coach as Dolph Schayes makes his professional debut leading the Nats to a winning record for the first time with a record of 40-23. In the playoffs, the Nationals would make quick work of the Hammond Calumet Buccaneers winning the series in two straight games. However, in the semifinals, the Nats would fall to the Anderson Duffey Packers for the second straight season in four games. Following the season, the remaining NBL teams would join the BAA as the two leagues merged and became the NBA; the merger is helped by NBL President Leo Ferris, who would become GM of the Nationals.
1949/50: The Nationals were an instant success in the NBA winning the Eastern Division with a league-best record of 51-13. In the playoffs, the Nationals would continue to play solid basketball beating the Philadelphia Warriors in two straight games. Moving on to the Eastern Finals, the Nationals would battle the New York Knickerbockers beating their big-city rivals in a three-game series. Moving on to the NBA Finals, the Nationals would face fellow NBL alum Minneapolis Lakers. In Game 1 of the Finals, the Nats would lose just their second home game of the season 68-66. The Nats would not recover as they fell behind three games to one before falling in six games.
1950/51: Despite several teams leaving the NBA to reorganize the NBL, the Nationals deiced to stay put. In their second NBA season, the Nationals would play mediocre basketball all season, finishing in fourth place with a record of 32-34. However, in the playoffs, the Nats would play their best basketball of the season as they stunned the first-place Philadelphia Warriors in two straight games, taking Game 1 on the road in overtime 91-89. However, in the Eastern Finals, the Nationals would be beaten by the New York Knickerbockers in a hard-fought five-game series losing the finale by just two points.
1951/52: Al Cervi, playing less and coaching more, emphasized a patient offense and a scrappy defense, which led the league by yielding a stingy 79.5 points per game, as the Nationals won the Eastern Division with a solid 40-26 record. In the playoffs, the Nats would knock the Philadelphia Warriors off again in a three-game series. However, in the Eastern Finals, the Nats would fall to the New York Knickerbockers again dropping the series in four games.
1952/53: The Nationals would finish in second place in a hard-fought three-way battle for first place in the Eastern Division with a record of 47-24. In the playoffs, the Nationals would face the Boston Celtics dropping Game 1 at home 87-81. Needing a win in Boston to keep their hopes alive, the Nationals would take the Celtics deep into overtime before losing in quadruple Overtime 111-105, in what remains the longest game in NBA history.
1953/54: The Nationals acquired Alex Groza and Ralph Beard as the Indianapolis Olympians folded, leaving the NBA with just nine teams. Once again, the Nationals would battle for the Division title falling two games short with a 42-30 record. In the playoffs, the Nats would win all four games of a round-robin tournament involving the three playoff teams from the East. In the Eastern Finals, the Nats would stay hot, beating the Boston Celtics in two straight games. However, in the NBA Finals, the Nationals would lose to the Minneapolis Lakers in a hard-fought seven-game series where the two teams alternated wins throughout.
1954/55: With the NBA struggling financially and down to just eight teams Nationals Owner Danny Biasone and General Manager Leo Ferris suggested the league limit the amount of time taken for a shot thus speeding up a game that often ended with long periods of teams just holding the ball and playing keep away. Biasone calculated a 24-second shot clock would allow at least 30 shots per quarter speeding up the game and increasing scoring. The Shot Clock was an instant success as scoring was up 14 points per game league-wide. In the first season of the shot clock, the Nats would take first place in the East with a 43-29 record. After a first-round bye, the Nats would beat the Boston Celtics in four games to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight season. In the finals, the Nats would get off to a fast start taking the first two games at home against the Fort Wayne Pistons. However, as the series moved to Fort Wayne, the Pistons would spark back to life, taking all three games to take a 3-2 series lead. Back in Syracuse for Game 6 on the Nats kept Championship hopes alive by beating the Pistons 109-104 to force a seventh game at home. Game 7 would be as tight as the series as George King sank a free throw to give the Nats a 92-91 lead in the final seconds. King would then steal inbound pass to clinch the NBA Championship for the Nationals.
1955/56: Coming off their NBA Championship, the Nationals struggled all season needing a tiebreaker over the New York Knickerbockers to avoid finishing in last place and make the playoffs with a 35-37 record. However, in the playoffs, the Nats would stun the Boston Celtics winning the first-round series in three games by taking the final two games. In the Eastern Finals, the Nationals would play solid basketball again as they pushed the Philadelphia Warriors to a decisive fifth game. However, the Nationals reign, as Champions would end with a 109-104 loss in Philadelphia.
1956/57: The Nationals would get off to a slow start as Coach Al Cervi is fired and replaced by Paul Seymour. Under Seymour, the Nats would finish the season strongly, finishing in second place with a record of 38-34. In the playoffs, the Nats would have trouble knocking off the defending Champion Philadelphia Warriors advancing to the Eastern Finals with two straight wins. However, the Nats would be swept in three straight games by the Boston Celtics.
1957/58: Fort Wayne and Rochester had moved on to Detroit and Cincinnati, leaving the Syracuse Nationals as the last small-town team in the big city NBA. That would not matter on the court as the Nats held their own finishing in second place with a 41-31 record. However, in the playoffs, the Nationals would fall in the first round as they lost a three-game series to the Philadelphia Warriors.
1958/59: Despite a mediocre 35-37 record, the Nationals would make the playoffs again by finishing in third place. In the playoffs, the Nationals would once again rise to the occasion sweeping the New York Knickerbockers in two straight games to reach the Eastern Finals, where they gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle alternating wins before falling by five points in Game 7.
1959/60: Playing in a league now dominated by superstars like Bill Russell of the Boston Celtic, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors, and Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks, the Nationals hold their won posting a solid 45-30 record, while finishing in third place. However, in the playoffs, the Nats would lose a three-game series to Chamberlain and the Warriors.
1960/61: With Lakers moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, the Syracuse Nationals became the last NBL team to be still playing in their original city. The Nationals would go on to make the playoffs again by finishing in third place with a 38-41 record. Once again, the Nationals would prove to be dangerous in the playoffs as they stunned the Philadelphia Warriors in three straight games. However, in the Eastern Finals, the Nats would be knocked off by the Boston Celtics in five games.
1961/62: Dolph Schayes misses 24 games and fails to lead the team in scoring for the first time in 14 years as Hal Greer leads the way with 22.8 ppg. The Nats would go on to finish in third place again with a 41-39 record. IN the playoffs, the Nats would drop their first two games to the Philadelphia Warriors on the road. Facing elimination, the Nats would win the next two games to force a seventh game in Philadelphia. However, in Game 5, the Warriors would prove too strong as they end the Nats season with a 121-104 victory. Following the season, the Warriors would leave Philadelphia for San Francisco. This would leave the city of Philadelphia without a team; investors in the city of Brotherly Love would begin searching for a new team immediately.
1962/63: With an aging team, the Nationals were expected to fade, however with the scrappy play of Johnny Kerr, the Nationals remained a strong contender finishing in 2nd place with a record of 48-32. In the playoffs the Nationals would face the Cincinnati Royals, getting off to a 2-1 series lead. However, needing a win to advance to the Eastern Finals again, the Nationals would lose two straight games, dropping the decisive fifth game at home in overtime 131-127. That overtime loss on March 26th would prove to be the last game for the Syracuse Nationals, as investors Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman purchased the team from Danny Biasone moving the team to Philadelphia to fill the void left by the Warriors.
1963-Present: The Syracuse Nationals were the last NBL team to move, and the last small-town team in the NBA. Professional basketball would not return to Syracuse, though upstate New York would have a team in the Buffalo Braves from 1970-1978. Syracuse would go on to be a hot spot for College Basketball as the Syracuse Orange have been a consistent contender playing in front of the largest NCAA crowds at the Carrier Dome for over 20 years.
©MMXII 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 Syracuse Nationals of 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 March 26, 2003. Last updated on November 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm ET.