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Relocated NBA Teams: The Philadelphia Warriors

The Philadelphia Warriors were a pro basketball team that was based in Philadelphia from 1946 to 1962. The Warriors franchise is still in existence today in the form of the Golden State Warriors. The team was formed in 1946 by Steven Kim and Peter Tyrell in 1946 as a charter member of the startup BAA league which later became the NBA. The origin of the “Warriors” nickname is not entirely clear but it is widely believed that it was borrowed from a former ABL team that was owned by General Manager Eddie Gottlieb. In other quarters, it is believed to be a reference to the Delaware Indians who inhabited the region before the arrival of British Colonialists. The team played their home games at the Philadelphia Arena and the Philadelphia Convention Center during different times in their Philadelphia years.

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The Warriors were fairly successful in competition. They made the NBA finals three times, winning twice. They were crowned division champions three times and made the playoffs 12 times, advancing to the NBA semifinals in 5 of those seasons. They came out guns blazing to win the very first BAA championship in 1946/47. Guard Joe Fulks was in sizzling form topping the league in scoring with 23.2 ppg. They would then wait till 1955/56 to win another championship, this time inspired by Paul Arizin, Neil Johnston and rookie Tom Gola. The Warriors had the unusual luck of meeting the Syracuse Nationals at different stages of the playoffs. In total they met nine times in the playoffs with the Nats winning five of those meetings albeit the Warriors won the more important ones including the Eastern Division Finals in their NBA championship season of 55/56.

The Warriors had three dynasties. The first, led by Joe Fulks lasted from 1946 to 1951 and is best remembered for the 1946 BAA Championship. As Fulks’ performance waned at the start of the 50s, Paul Arizin and Neil Johnson stepped up. After a rough patch in which the team missed the playoffs for three consecutive years, they delivered another league championship in 1956. Wilt Chamberlain then began the final dynasty with his otherworldly performances that culminated in the 1962 Eastern Finals appearance.

Perhaps the most outstanding talent to ever turn out in Warriors colors was Wilt “the Slit” Chamberlain. Signed as a high school rookie in 1960, Chamberlain set the NBA alight in his first year, leading the league in both scoring (37.6) and rebounding (27.0). His most impressive season was 1961/62, in which he set a league scoring average of 50.4 ppg. In January 1962, he had a stretch of three games in which he scored at least 63 points per game. His most notable achievement that year and perhaps his entire career was a haul of 100 points he scored in a single game against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. This remains an NBA record for most points a player has ever scored in one game. Despite his astronomical exploits that year, Chamberlain would come second to Celtics’ Bill Russell for NBA MVP. The tight competition was perhaps epitomized by game 7 of the Eastern Division Finals between the Warriors and the Celtics. Wilt and Bill battled neck and neck to get the teams tied 107-107 with two seconds left. Chamberlain’s and the Warriors’ hearts would however be broken by Sam Jones’ last ditch shot that sent the Celtics to the NBA Finals.

Why the Philadelphia Warriors were Relocated

In 1962, Eddie Gotlieb who had purchased the team from the original owners sold it to a West Coast based investment group led by Franklin Mieuli, a native of California. With the team struggling to replicate previous levels of success and with waning attendance, an NBA-backed move to the West Coast seemed like a viable option to save the team. The Minneapolis Lakers had earlier moved to LA and turned their fortunes around and NFL and MLB teams were doing the same. Following the conclusion of the 1961/62 season, the team was relocated to San Francisco and renamed “San Francisco Warriors.” Philadelphia would however not thirst long for NBA basketball. Barely a year after the Warriors left, the City pulled even with their perennial rivals Syracuse. The Nats were moved to Philly and renamed the Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia Warriors Notable Players

Wilt Chamberlain C 1959-1962
Neil Johnston F 1951-1959
Joe Fulks G 1946-1954
Paul Arizin F 1950-1962
Walt Davis F 1953-1958
Guy Rodgers G 1958-1962
Tom Gola F 1955-1962
George Senesky G 1946-1954
Joe Graboski F 1953-1961
Jack George G 1953-1959
George Dempsey PG 1954-1959
Guy Rodgers PG 1958-1962
Ernie Beck G 1953/54, 1955-1960
Andy Johnson G 1958-1961
Woody Sauldsberry C 1957-1959

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