American Basketball League

Basketball American Basketball League

The American Basketball League was the very first professional basketball league. It was in operation from 1925-1955. The name American Basketball League was also used for a league that only lasted from 1961-1963 and for a Women’s League from 1996-98. In 2013, the name was once again used for a semi-pro league.

First Major Professional Basketball League

The American Basketball League, or ABL, was America’s first attempt to unify teams into a national basketball league. Joseph Carr put together the ABL, calling on 9 teams that had previously been independent professional teams.

The Original 9

The league started out with 9 teams:

  • Boston Whirlwinds
  • Brooklyn Arcadians
  • Buffalo Bisons
  • Chicago Bruins
  • Cleveland Rosenblums
  • Detroit Pulaski Post Five
  • Fort Wayne Caseys
  • Rochester Centrals
  • Washington Palace Five

Just a few games into the 1925-26 season, the New York Original Celtics replaced the Brooklyn Arcadians. The Celtics were dominant that season, causing a need for a mixup.

League Format

In the beginning, the ABL used a half system. The first half of the season would produce one top team, and then each team’s record would be reset. After the second half of the season, there would be a second half champion. Then, the winner of the first half of the season would play the winner of the second half of the season in a season championship.

Over the years, the league’s format and teams changed often. One of the biggest problems the ABL faced was inconsistency, both on a league scale and a team scale.

Problems and Changes

In its early days, the ABL struggled with players swapping teams quickly. Often times star players would sign month long contracts. After just one month, they’d go to another team who could pay them more.

The ABL had some trouble recruiting college players to join their league. One change they made to address this problem was introducing the collegiate rule. This rule disallowed double dribbling, and attracted college players.

The ABL also added a backboard around the same time, which created less stoppages in play.

Another problem was inequality in the league. In the first season, Cleveland had approximately 10,000 fans in attendance at each of their games. Comparatively, Brooklyn could only draw about 2,000 fans per game.

The Great Depression

The Great Depression negatively affected the ABL. Several teams went out of business because of the Great Depression, including Cleveland and Chicago. By the end of the 1928 season, only 5 teams were left.

On Again Off Again

From 1925-1955, the ABL suspended operations and picked back up again multiple times. In 1955, the league officially disbanded.