Credit: Crain's Cleveland Business
Surprisingly, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids were not the only NBL team based in Akron and were owned by an automotive company. From 1937-1942, Goodyear (the rubber tire company) had a team in the NBL known as the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots.
Before we start, I wanted to point out that we will only be discussing the Wingfoots' NBL Career. However, if you are interested in their other ventures in different leagues, I'll attach a source where you can read up on the Wingfoots' success in other leagues.
Source: Many of the references are missing, so a lot of the information could be outdated or wrong, so take in the information with a grain of salt.
Fun Fact: The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots helped promote one of the first shoes made for athletes, the Wingfoot.
Table of Contents:
1937-38: An Immediate Championship
In the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' first season, they went 13-5 (77.2 W/L%). Yup, whereas teams nowadays play 82 regular-season games, back then, NBL teams only had to play 18. Their record put them as the second seed in the Eastern Conference and fourth overall. Although that's really good, the Wingfoots did not meet expectations. Apparently, the Wingfoots were expected to go 18-0...?
The Wingfoots weren't the best scoring team. They only had the sixth-highest PPG (35.8). However, their defense made up for their scoring as they held their opponents to 27.7 POINTS! To put how little 27.7 points is into perspective, SIX NBA players in 2020-2021 are averaging 27.7 points or above by themselves:
Stephen Curry: 32.0 Points
Bradley Beal: 31.3 Points
Damian Lillard: 28.8 Points
Joel Embiid: 28.5 Points
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 28.1 Points
Luka Doncic: 27.7 Points
Teams PPG Against the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots: 27.7. Points
Head Coach: Lefty Byers
The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' were led by Coach Lefty Byers. Before coaching, Byers participated in basketball, track, AND baseball for Kansas State University. Byers was more well-known for basketball (obviously), and in his Junior and Senior season, he was selected to be on the All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team.
After college, he would actually play professional basketball for the other Akron team, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, for two seasons (1930-32).
Four years after his professional basketball career with the Non-Skids, Byers would be given the position of head coach for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots. In his first season with the Wingfoots, he would help them win a Championship in the Midwest Basketball Conference.
He would continue coaching for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots from 1937-39, but I won't talk about their record yet to avoid spoilers. After 1939, he kind of just disappeared.
Now back to the Wingfoots...
The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' Big 3 consisted of Raymond Morstadt, Charles Bloedorn, and Talmadge Bennett. They averaged:
2.8 Field Goals
2.6 Free Throws
3.2 Field Goals
0.9 Free Throws
1.9 Field Goals
2.1 Free Throws
Although these were the Top 3 Scorers, only Charles Bloedorn would make an All-NBL Team (First-Team). Morstadt and Bennett probably didn't make it because they only played 20-30 games, whereas Bloedorn played 50+.
Besides Bloedorn, Charley Shipp, the fourth-leading scorer (5.6 Points), was also selected in the All-NBL First Team. Only in this era of basketball could you averaged 5.6 Points and be considered one of the best...
The players weren't the only ones to win awards. Lefty Byers would also win Coach of the Year this year.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots were against the other Akron team, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids. The Wingfoots easily beat the Non-Skids, 2-0. In the second round of the playoffs, the NBL Championship, the Wingfoots beat the Oshkosh All-Star, 2-1, to become the first-ever NBL Champions.
This would also be their only NBL Championship.
It's surprising how the Wingfoots were able to win the Championship because the whole team played worse than their regular-season performances.
The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' Big 3 all played worse. In fact, one of them, Raymond Morstadt, the leading scorer, wasn't even participating in the playoffs. As for the other two, Bloedorn scored 0.7 points less than the regular season, and Bennett scored 0.8 points less.
The only player that performed better in the playoffs was Russell Ochsenhirt. Ochscenhirt averaged 4.1 points in the regular season, and in the playoffs, he averaged 5.2 points.
1938-39: Downfall... Kind of
In the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' second season, they went 14-14 (50 W/L%). Obviously, nowhere near as good as last season, but still good enough to place them second in the Eastern Conference.
Last season, the Wingfoots were an, at best, mediocre scoring team. This season, they were THE WORST scoring team in the NBL (34.1). However, like last season, their defense balanced out their offense as they had the best OPPG (35.5).
The Wingfoots were expected to be pretty bad this season (10-18), so they definitely exceeded expectations. As the second seed, you would think they would make the playoffs, but this was no ordinary NBL season. For some reason, only the first seed on each team made it into the playoffs. Basically, it was just an instant Finals appearance.
Unfortunatley, as a result, the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots would not make the playoffs.
On a brighter note, the Wingfoots had two players that were a part of the All-NBL Second Team. Charles Bloedorn and Charley Shipp. They averaged:
3.2 Field Goals
1.8 Free Throws
2.5 Field Goals
1.0 Free Throws
Ray Morstadt, the leasing-scorer last year, was one of the worst players on the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots this season. He only averaged 2.3 points this season, whereas last season, he averaged 8.2 points.
1939-40: Downfall... Kind Of (Part 2)
In the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots third-season, they had the same record as last season (14-14). However, this time, they were the third seed in the Eastern Conference. This is titled 'Downfall... Kind Of (Part 2)' because the Wingfoots didn't do worse. It's just that the rest of the league got better.
Like the past few years, the Wingfoots were a bad scoring team but a good defending team. The Wingfoots were the third-worst in PPG (37.4) and second-best in OPPG (37.0).
The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' 'downfall' could be attributed to both Charley Shipp and Charles Bloedorn. After last season, Shipp left the Wingfoots and joined the Oshkosh All-Stars. As for Bloedorn, although he stayed, he only played eleven games in the regular season. In those eleven games, he played horribly, averaging 1.8 points per game.
The only good thing that happened this year for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots was acquiring Ben Stephens. Stephens was a rookie and averaged:
3.3 Field Goals
Stephens was the first Wingfoots player to average more than ten points in the regular season. For his impressive play, Stephens was named the Rookie of the Year and was selected to be a part of the All-NBL First Team.
Out of the thirteen players on the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, Stephens was the only player to average more than six points. The next leading scorer was Howard Vocke, who averaged 5.2 points.
1940-41: The Worst Season
The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots' fourth season was their worst season. They went 11-13 (45.8 W/L%). This was the first, and only time the Wingfoots would have a negative win rate in the regular season. Since there were no conferences this year, the Wingfoots were the second-worst team in the NBL.
This was the Wingfoots' best season in terms of PPG. They averaged 38.6 points and were ranked fourth in PPG. On the other hand, this was the Wingfoots' worst season in terms of PPG. Like their PPG, they were ranked fourth in OPPG with 38.8 points.
The best two players for the Wingfoots this season were Ben Stephens and Jake Pelkington. They averaged:
4.1 Field Goals