Credit: NBA Hoops Online
No. Not Anderson Paak, the R&B/Hip-Hop artist... The Anderson Packers, one of NINE NBA teams that only played one season throughout NBA history. Unlike the Sheboygan Redskins, one of the other NINE NBA teams that only played one season, the Anderson Packers' legacy isn't as memorable.
While the Redskins played ELEVEN seasons with the National Basketball League (NBL), the Anderson Packers only played THREE seasons in the NBL. However, similar to the Redskins, the Packers would play one season in National Professional Basketball League (NPBL) after their one-season stint in the NBA.
To refrain from taking too much of your time, I'll include the link to the Sheboygan Redskins' article where I go in-depth into what the NBL was like. However, if you want to stay on this page, here's a summary of what the NBL was!
Many of the images are extremely low-quality as they're from the 1940s-50s!
Brief Summary: NBL
Before the NBA, there was the NBL. The NBL was THE professional basketball league. Established in 1937, the NBL would exist for twelve years. Within those twelve years, there were thirty-eight different teams.
Unfortunatley, the NBL would disband as the other professional basketball league at that time, the Basketball Association of America (BAA), was much more popular. As a result, on August 3rd, 1949, the NBL would merge with the BAA to create the NBA.
With that out of the way, let's look into the Anderson Packers' five-year team history!
Beginnings: Origins and NBL (1946-1949)
The Anderson Packers were based in Anderson, Indiana. A small city that, even in 2021, only has a population of 55,000. The team was founded by Ike W. and John B. Duffey, the owners of Duffey's Incorporated, a meat-packing company.
The team would join the NBL from 1969 to 1949. Within those three seasons, they were also known as the Anderson Duffey Packers (after the company name) and the Chief Anderson Meat Packers (because Duffey's incorporated was a meat-packing company).
First Season: 1946-47
Their first season (1946-47) in the NBL was not successful. Although they would finish with a positive record (24-20), the team would not make it to the playoffs. The best player on the team was Howie Schultz, a 6'6" Center-Forward. He averaged:
3.8 Field Goals
3.6 Free Throws, 5.2 Free Throw Attempts
Although eleven points is definitely not considered a lot in today's NBA standards, the average amount of points scored per game by the team was 59.7. That means that Schultz alone was scoring 18.4% of the team's points.
Second Season: 1947-48
The following season (1947-48) for the Anderson Packers was much more successful. For some reason, in the 1946 NBL season, they were a Western Conference team but were an Eastern Conference team this season. Nevertheless, they went 42-18 (70% W/L), garnering them the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
They were also the leading team in points scored (65.0) and the fifth-best team in points allowed (59.4). As a result of this improvement, the Coach of the Year went to the Packers' head coach, Murray Mendenhall.
The best Packers player during the regular season was Frankie Brian. Brian averaged:
4.2 Field Goals
2.6 Free Throws, 3.6 Free Throw Attempts
Brian would be selected to the All-NBL Second Team.
However, the playoffs were a whole other story. John Hargis, a 6'2" Guard-Forward, averaged:
5.0 Field Goals
4.2 Free Throws, 6.3 Free Throw Attempts
In the playoffs, the Anderson Packers would sweep the Syracuse Nationals, 3-0, in the Eastern Division Opening Round. Unfortunatley, in the Eastern Division Semifinals, they would lose to the Rochester Royals, 2-1.
Third Season: 1948-49
In the third and final season of the NBL, the Anderson Packers were the first seed with a record of 49-15 (76.6% W/L). Once again, they led the league in points scored (72.1) but were the sixth-best team in points allowed (63.0).
This season, there was no best player on the Packers. Everybody played their part. Out of the eleven players on the team, eight scored more than five points per game, and one had 4.8.
However, in the playoffs, there were two players that you could consider as the best player(s) on the team. Ralph Johnson, a 5'11" Guard, and Bill Closs, a 6'5" Forward-Center. In the regular season, Johnson and Closs averaged:
3.4 Field Goals
1 Free Throw, 2 Free Throw Attempts
3.2 Field Goals
2 Free Throws, 2.6 Free Throw Attempts
However, in the playoffs, they averaged
4.9 Field Goals
2.6 Free Throws, 3.3 Free Throw Attempts
3.6 Field Goals
5 Free Throws, 6.7 Attempts
In the playoffs, five out of eleven of the players had more than ten points per game.
Since the Anderson Packers were the first seed in the Eastern Conference, they were automatically given a spot in the Eastern Division Semifinals. They didn't have to play the Opening Round.
In the Eastern Division Semifinals, the Packers would go up against the Syracuse Nationals. The Nationals' best player was Dolph Schaves, a 6'7" Forward-Center that averaged 14.3 points per game. However, even with those stats, they beat the Nationals, 3-1.
For the first time, the Anderson Packers would be advancing to the Finals. There was a lot of pressure building on this moment as this would be the last NBL Finals... ever. As said earlier, this NBL would merge with the BAA after this season.
The Anderson Packers wouldn't waste this opportunity. They were up against the Oshkosh All-Stars. Unlike the Packers, the All-Stars were the best team in points allowed (59.0), but the seventh-best team in points scored (60.9).
The All-Stars' best player was Gene Englund. A 6'5" Forward-Center that averaged 13.5 points a game in the playoffs.
Even though the Oshkosh All-Stars were named the 'All-Stars' and were the best team in points allowed (i.e., defense), the Anderson Packers would SWEEP the All-Stars, 3-0.
The Anderson Packers were NBL Champions!
One and Done: NBA (1950) + NPBL (1951)
In their one season in the NBA, the Anderson Packers showed the rest of the teams that they were not to be messed with. Although their Win/Loss record was not as good as last year, the team still went 42-22, the fourth-best record in the league. Like always, they were the best team in points scored (87.3), but not the best team in points allowed (83.5).
This season's best Packers player was the best player during the 1946-47 NBL season, Frankie Brian. He averaged:
17.8 Points, 3.0 Assists
32 FG%, 82.4 FT%
Like the 1946-47 NBL season, Brian was selected to be on the All-NBA Second Team.
Fun Fact: Brian's cousin is Hall of Famer and 11x All-Star Bob Petit!
Western Division Semifinals:
In the Western Division Semifinals (yes... they're back on the Western Conference again), the Anderson Packers faced the Tri-Cities Blackhawks.
The best player on the team in this series was John Hargis. He averaged 16.3 points per game and shot 80.8% from the free-throw line.
The best performance by a Packers player in this series was by Frank Brian. In Game 2, Brian had 26 points and shot 87.5% from the free-throw line.
The Anderson Packers would beat the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, 2-1.
Western Division Finals:
In the Western Division Finals, the Anderson Packers were up against the Indianapolis Olympians. The Olympians were an extremely interesting team. They had a player named 'Wah Wah Jones' and their best player, Alex Groza, who averaged 22.7 points a game in the series, was suspended two seasons later for fixing college games. If he was never suspended, I'm pretty sure Groza would have been a Hall of Famer.
Nevertheless, like the series against the Blackhawks, the Packers would beat the Olympians in three games (2-1). Although the Olympians definitely had the two best players, Alex Groza and Wah Wash Jones, the Packers had the better all-around team.
In Game 2 and 3, the Anderson Packers had five players that scored more than ten points, while the Olympians only had two.
In the semifinals, the Anderson Packers would go up against the Minneapolis Lakers. Unlike their previous two series, they would be swept, 2-0, against the Lakers. In the Packers' defense, the Lakers had 4x All-Star, Hall of Famer, and Laker legend, George Mikan.
In this series, Mikan averaged 29 POINTS a game. If you combined the second, third, fourth, and fifth-highest scoring members of the Packers, that was equal to how many points Mikan scored per game.
Both games were blowouts as well. In the first game, the Anderson Packers lost by 25 points (50-75). In the second game, they lost by 19 points (71-90). In Game 1, only Bill Closs and Frank Gates were able to score more than ten points.
The Last Trip:
After their one NBA season, the Anderson Packers packed (pun intended) their bags and played in the NPBL with teams like the Sheboygan Redskins, Waterloo Hawks, Grand Rapids Hornets, etc. In the NPBL, the Packers would only play one season (1951).
In that season, the team went 22-22. This was their worst record throughout the teams' history, yet, they were still the second seed. However, there was never a playoff tournament, so the Packers were considered runner-ups of the Eastern Conference.
After one season, the NPBL would cease to exist, and unfortunately, the Anderson Packers' basketball dreams came to an end.