Tires or Basketball? - The Akron Firestone Non-Skids


The Akron Firestone Non-Skids

Credit: NBA Hoops Online


The Akron Firestone Non-Skids (that's a mouthful) was a professional basketball team that was a part of the NBL. The Non-Skids were named after the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, a company owned by Harvey Firestone, which to no surprise, was a tire manufacturer.


Firestone Tire and Rubber Company wasn't the only company with a professional basketball team in the NBL. Goodyear, Jeep, General Electric, etc., all had teams in the NBL. Were any of them good? Well... some of them. Thankfully, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids were one of the better teams.


Companies formed basketball teams as a form of corporate sponsorship. Did it work? I have no idea, but all of these companies are still up and running a century later.


Fun Fact: The Akron Firestone-Non Skids' players were not professional basketball players. Most of them were company employees and weren't even paid.


Sidenote: The Akron Firestone Non-Skids were a part of the NBL since 1932-33, and in their first season, they won a Championship against the Indianapolis Kautskys. However, since Basketball-Reference does not have any info on the NBL before 1937, we won't be talking about anything pre-1937.


Another Fun Fact: General Electric, Firestone, and Goodyear helped form the NBL in 1937.

 

Table of Contents:

 

1937-38: The Starting Point

In the Akron Firestone Non-Skids' first season, they went 14-4 (77.8 W/L%). This put them as the first seed in the Eastern Conference. The Non-Skids were in their first season, and they were already the best!


Since Offensive and Defensive Rating weren't stats in the NBL, we'll have to reply on PPG and OPPG to indicate whether the Akron Firestone Non-Skids were a good/bad scoring and defending team.


The Non-Skids had a PPG of 37.8. Now... I know that sounds low... extremely low, but the average PPG of an NBL team in the 1937-38 regular season was 33.5 points! The Non-Skids were actually above-average (3rd out of 11 Teams). On the other hand, the Non-Skids' OPPG was just mediocre (32.1). They were the fifth-best team when it came to OPPG.


Want to hear another crazy fact? Altogether, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids made 249 field goals in the 1937-38 season. To put into perspective how low 249 field goals are, Stephen Curry made almost three times as many field goals in the 2020-2021 NBA season (658 FG).


Okay... back to the Akron Firestone Non-Skids' 1937-38 season. The Non-Skids' Big 3 consisted of Jack Ozburn, Howard Cable (also known as Soup?), and Alfred Bonniwell. They averaged:


Jack Ozburn:

9.6 Points

3.9 Field Goals

1.7 Free Throws


Howard Cable:

8.6 Points

2.8 Field Goals

3.0 Free Throws


Alfred Bonniwell:

6.1 Points

2.4 Field Goals

1.3 Free Throws


Of the three, Jack Ozburn and Howard Cable were selected to an All-NBL Team (Second Team).


Ozburn's, Cable's, and Bonniwell's combined for 64.3% of the team's points!


Paul Sheeks: The Head Coach

Before we continue, we should obviously mention the head coach of the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, Paul Sheeks.


Before coaching the Non-Skids, Paul Sheeks wasn't known for basketball, but football! Sheeks played in the NFL from 1921-22 for the Akron Pros as a blocking back. I don't know what a blocking back is because I don't watch football, but that is what he was.


After his brief stint in the NFL, from 1915-16, Sheeks was the coach for Wabash College's football team, the Little Giants. In that season, he led the team to an undefeated record, 7-0-1.


After being the coach of the football team, Sheeks would become the coach of Washbash's basketball team in the 1916-57 season. Sheeks would also lead the basketball team to a good record (19-2)!


Through his job as the recreation director at Firestone and Rubber Tire Company, Sheeks would be given the position of head coach of the Akron Firestone Non-Skids.


Okay, now that you know Paul Skeed's story, let's get into the Akron Firestone Non-Skids' post-season!


Playoffs:

In the first round (i..e, Eastern Division Semifinals), the Non-Skids were against another team from Akron founded by a company, the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots. Although they had a better regular-season record, the Non-Skids would lose to the Wingfoots, 0-2.


The best player for the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in the playoffs was Howard Cable! He averaged:


11.0 Points

3.0 Field Goals

5.0 Free Throws


1938-39: Championship!

In the Akron Firestone Non-Skids' second season in the NBL, they went 24-3 (88.9 W/L%). To put how impressive this W/L record into perspective, the best regular-season record by an NBA team, the 2016 Golden State Warriors, had a W/L% of 89.0%. Yes, you read that right. The Non-Skids were 0.01% away from being tied with the best regular-season NBA team.


What's even more surprising is that the Non-Skids were expected to have a better W/L. The Non-Skids were expected to go 26-1. Although they didn't reach expectations, the Non-Skids still had the best record.


As expected from a team that has a W/L% of 88.9%, the Non-Skids were first in PPG (44.6) and second in OPPG (35.9).


Once again, Jack Ozburn and Howard Cable were on an All-NBL Team. However, Cable was on the First Team this time, and John Moir, another Non-Skids player, was selected to the All-NBL Second Team! They averaged:


Howard Cable:

10.9 Points

4.1 Field Goals

2.7 Free Throws


Jack Ozburn:

9.7 Points

3.9 Field Goals

1.8 Free Throws


John Moir:

7.9 Points

3.4 Field Goals

1.1 Free Throws


For some reason, the NBL Playoffs only had one game. Yes... one game. There were no Conference Quarterfinals, Semi-Finals, or Finals. It was just the NBL Finals. The NBL Finals were between the Akron Firestone Non-Skids (obviously) and the Oshkosh All-Stars.


In the 1938-39 NBL season, the All-Stars went 17-11, so definitely not as good as the Non-Skids. Nevertheless, they still put up a fight in the Finals. The Non-Skids would win 3-2 against the All-Stars, making them first-time NBL Champions!


The best player in the playoffs was, once again, Jack Ozburn. He averaged:


9.4 Points

3.6 Field Goals

2.2 Free Throws


Sidenote: This has to be one of the Easiest Championship runs in Basketball History. The Akron Firestone Non-Skids literally had to face one team.


1939-40: ANOTHER Championship

In the Akron Firestone Non-Skids' third season in the NBL, they went 19-9 (67.9 W/L%). This is nowhere near their last season, but it was still good enough to be the best regular-season record in the 1938-39 NBL season.


Similar to the last two years, the Non-Skids' PPG was good. They were first in PPG (44.3). However, the Non-Skids were pretty awful in terms of OPPG. They were the third-worst in OPPG (40.6).


For the first time in the last three seasons, a player averaged more than ten points per game. Can you guess who it is? Yup... it was Jack Ozburn! He averaged:


10.7 Points

4.2 Field Goals

2.3 Free Throws


Like last year, Cable was on the All-NBL First Team, and Ozburn was on the All-NBL Second Team. I don't know why it isn't the other way around because Ozburn played better than Cable. Also, Cable played worse than last year. This season, Cable averaged:


8.4 Points

3.0 Field Goals

2.3 Free Throws


This has to be favoritism. Cable's nickname was 'Soup.' Ozburn didn't have a nickname, and therefore, was more boring, and therefore, was not chosen to be on the First-Team.


This season, the playoffs actually had two series instead of one! In the first round, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids won 2-1 against the Detroit Eagles. In the second round (aka Finals), once again, the Akron Firestone Non-Skids beat the Oshkosh All-Stars, 3-2.