Credit: NBA Hoops Online
Yes... you read that right. The Sheboygan Redskins are one of the NINE teams that have only played one season in the NBA. However, previous to being an NBA team, the Sheboygan Redskins played in the National Basketball League (NBL) for eleven seasons. In addition, after one season in the NBA, the team would still play one more season in the National Professional Basketball League (NPBL).
Before discussing the Sheboygan Redskins one season in the NBA, let's go over their origins and the teams' performance when they were a part of the NBL.
National Basketball League and Redskin's Origin
First off, what even was the National Basketball League?
The NBL was a professional basketball league that was established in 1937. Throughout its twelve-year history, the NBL had thirty-eight different teams. The NBL was quite lenient on the playing schedule for each NBL team. As long as the team played at least ten games, with four of them on the road, they were fine. By the 1949 NBL season, the NBL would merge with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to create the NBA.
Hopefully, now that you know a bit about the NBL, we can now delve into the origins of the Sheboygan Redkins and their success in the NBL throughout their eleven-year lifespan.
As the name suggests, the Redskins were based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Before joining the NBL, the team had already found success as a professional basketball team, but under a different name, the Ballhorns. They were considered one of the best teams in the Midwest.
Interestingly, the teams' name would change constantly depending on who sponsored the team. In 1933, the team was known as the Ballhorns because a furniture store and funeral parlor sponsored them. Two years later, the teams' name would change to the Enzo Jels as the team was sponsored by gelatin producer, Enzo Pac.
Here is where we face a problem. According to Wikipedia, the Enzo Jels played in the 1937-38 NBL season. Still, since they weren't recognized as a professional NBL team, they are not included in Basketball Reference, so I can't find their Win/Loss record or player stats.
They were only admitted as an official NBL team in the following 1938-39 NBL season. Once they were admitted as an official NBL team, the Jels would be taken over by a group of local business leaders that would change the team name to the Sheboygan Redskins!
Since the team was a part of the NBL for ELEVEN years, I won't be going over each season. I'll go over what I think are the most important seasons and go over the teams' best players along the way!
The Eleven Year Journey: 1938-49
In the Sheboygan Redskins' first season in the NBL, under head coach Edwin Shuttle, they would go 11-17. A disappointing start to their eleven-year journey. Of the eight NBL teams, the team had the second-worst record.
The following year, Frank Zummach would replace Shuttle as head coach. For the next three seasons that Zummach was head coach, the team would have two seasons in which they were able to have a positive record and make it to the playoffs.
15 Wins, 13 Losses (53.6%)
Western Division Semifinals (Lost, 2-1)
13 Wins, 11 Losses (54.2%)
NBL Semifinals (Lost, 2-1)
However, it wasn't until Carl Roth stepped in as head coach when the team would start seeing consistent success. Funnily enough, Roth was actually a player for the team in their first season. He had:
2.1 Points Per Game
1 Field Goal Per Game
29 Points Total
14 Points Total
Although that doesn't sound like a lot, back then, NBL teams typically only scored around thirty points a game.
Even though Roth didn't find success as a player, in his first season as a coach, he was able to bring the Redskins' their first, and sadly, their only championship. However, it wasn't just because of Roth. A huge reason for their championship was due to Buddy Jeanette.
The team was extremely lucky when they got Jeanette. It was only four games before the playoffs started. In addition, Jeanette would travel from Rochester (NY) to Sheboygan to play for them. Even with modern airplanes, it would take two hours to go from Rochester to Sheboygan. Imagine how long it took Jeanette!
In the four regular-season games that Jeanette played, he averaged 15.5 POINTS A GAME! You have to remember that a team, on average, would only score 40-50. That means that Jeanette was scoring ~40% of the team's points.
Jeanette would tone it down a bit in the playoffs as he would average 9.8 points per game. Thankfully, other players like Reuben Lautenschlager and Edward Danker both averaged above eleven points per game. These three players combined made up almost 100% of the teams' points.
Jeanette, Lautenschlager, and Danker would make the All-NBL team five times throughout their careers.
Now... back to the playoffs. In the NBL Semifinals, the Sheboygan Redskins would beat the Oshkosh All-Stars 2-0 to advance to the NBL Finals. In the Finals, the team would beat the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2-1 to win their first and only championship!
However, it wasn't that impressive a championship win.
The NBL only had FIVE teams, and the Top 3 were guaranteed to advance to the Playoffs. Actually, there weren't even five teams. The fifth team, the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets, would drop out of the NBL four games into the season. They had a 75% chance of making it into the playoffs.
Rant aside, although the Sheboygan Redskins would not win a championship for the rest of their time in the NBL, they were still a pretty good team.
They would make it to the NBL Championships for the next three seasons, but unfortunately, they could not win any of them.
Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons vs. Sheboygan Redskins (3-0)
Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons vs. Sheboygan Redskins (3-2)
Rochester Royals vs. Sheboygan Redskins (3-0)
Among the three seasons, the best player was probably the previously mentioned Edward Danker. Throughout the three seasons, Danker averaged ten points. In the 1945-46 season, he averaged a career-high 11.9 points.
Besides Danker, the only other notable player to point out is not even on the Redskins, but on the Rochester Royals. Red Holzman, a guard for the Royals, was a pretty good player. He averaged 10.9 points throughout his career. However, it's his coaching career that makes him more notable.
Holzman was the head coach of the New York Knicks from 1967 to 1982. Throughout that timespan, Holzman was able to win two championships with the Knicks. One in 1970 and the other in 1973. These are the only two championships that the Knicks have ever won. If you want to know more about the Knicks and Holzman, check out this article!
After the 1946 NBL season, the teams' success came to a halt. Although they would make the playoffs twice, they lost in the first round in both appearances.
26 Wins, 18 Losses (59.1%)
NBL Western Opening Round (Loss, 3-2)
23 Wins, 37 Losses (38.3%)
No Playoff Appearance
35 Wins, 29 Losses (54.7%)
NBL Western Opening Round (Loss, 2-0)
During this three-season timespan, the teams' best players were Freddie Lewis and Mike Todorovich:
Freddie Lewis (1946-47):
5.2 Field Goals
2.8 Free Throws, 3.9 Free Throw Attempts
Mike Todorovich: (1947-1949):
4.6 Field Goals
3.7 Free Throws, 5.7 Free Throw Attempts
One Season in the NBA and Their Attempt to Survive
After the 1948-49 NBL season, many NBL teams, including the Sheboygan Redskins, were unable to compete with the teams in the BAA as many of the BAA teams were located in big-city fan bases and had corporate backing.
As a result, on August 3rd, 1949, the Redskins and six other NBL teams would merge with the BAA to create the NBA.
The Sheboygan Redskins were expected to go 18-44, but in their one season in the NBA, the team was able to outplay that expected record by four games (22-40). They were sixth in points scored (82.4), but sixteenth in points allowed (87.8).
Although they had a losing record, the team was still able to make it to the playoffs. Amongst the twelve playoff teams, the Redskins had the worst regular-season performance. Unfortunatley, in the first round of the playoffs, they lost (1-2) against the Indianapolis Olympians.
During the playoffs, the Top 3 players for the team were Noble Jorgensen, Bob Brannum, and Max Morris.
In Game 3 of the first round, Jorgensen was able to score twenty points. However, Alex Groza and Ralph Beard of the Olympians combined for 54 points. Groza had thirty points while Beard had twenty-four.
The most impressive regular-season game was against the Denver Nuggets. The Redskins won the game scoring 141 POINTS! Bo Brannum alone scored 41 POINTS that game and six other players scored more than ten points that game!
Although they would make it to the playoffs, the Redskins would withdraw from the NBA on April 24th, 1950. The Redskins and several other NBA teams would join the newly formed NPBL.
The NPBL would only last for one season. In that one season, the Redskins would end up as the best team in the Eastern Division (29-16) and had the best Win/Loss percentage (64.4%). However, the NPBL never hosted a playoff tournament, so the Sheboygan Redskins and the Waterloo Hawks, the best Western Division team, were crowned championships of their respective division.
Unfortunatley, after their one season in the NPBL, the team would disband in 1951. The Sheboygan Redskins tried to form a new league called the Western Basketball Association, but the NBA had already become THE basketball league.