The expansion Indianapolis Olympians of the National Basketball Association featured a dozen rookies on their 1950 roster. Six of these played for Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky where the Wildcats won NCAA championships in 1948 & ’49. These teams were spearheaded by lightning quick guard Ralph Beard and versatile center Alex Groza. The pair continued their winning ways upon turning pro as Indianapolis finished 1st in the Western division in 1950.
Groza proved immediately the most productive offensive player in the league. His only competition came from 6’10” George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers. The previous season he led the league in scoring and began the Lakers dynasty while winning their first of five titles in Minnesota.
How did Alex Groza stack up to the gold standard of centers? Here are their numbers from 1950 & 1951 (the only time they were both in The Association):
Mikan – 136 games, 1.2 points/FGA (1.2 in 19 playoff games), assisted on 14% of teammates field goals
Groza – 130 games, 1.4 points/FGA (1.6 in 9 playoff games), assisted on 10% of teammates field goals
The NBA averaged .98 points/FGA. This puts Mikan 19% above average and Groza 40% above the rest of the league. Compared to future great big-men this was highly impressive. During their first two seasons Shaq was +22% and Wilt was +13%.
Alex Groza was generations ahead of his peers and no doubt the most efficient scorer in the early years of the league. It’s unfortunate the NBA gods wouldn’t let his career play out as he, not Mikan, should be the player all great big-men are judged against.