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NBA formation picked as Fort Wayne's best sports moment

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Follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

Woodson's hall induction and Komets' sweep finish second and third

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 5:55 pm

Appropriately, the greatest event in Fort Wayne sports history led to many fascinating moments in our past, though it seems an afterthought today. Also, no one is sure exactly when it happened.

Sometime in the spring of 1948, Baseball Association of America President Maurice Podoloff secretly came to Fort Wayne to meet with Zollner Pistons Owner Fred Zollner who was one of the leaders of the National Basketball League. First, Podoloff met with Pistons executive Carl Bennett in his living room at 2920 Alexandria St. Bennett was a member of the NBL board of directors.

The discussion in Bennett's living room led to the formation of the National Basketball Association, the league that today provides competition for players and entertainment for fans from all over the world.

The formation of the NBA received 61 percent of our online vote to beat Rod Woodson's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with 23 percent and the Komets' sweep of the 1993 International Hockey League playoffs with 16 percent.

No one knows the exact date when Podoloff was in Fort Wayne, and an official meeting for the media was held a few weeks later May 10, 1948 in Chicago. The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., presented a display telling Bennett's story on Sept. 8, 2007.

"At my age you don't get too excited,'' said Bennett, who was 91 at the time. "I'm happy the NBA is recognizing this achievement.''

Fort Wayne joining the new league led to the city hosting the NBA All-Star Game in 1953, which was also the first nationally televised basketball game. The Pistons played in the NBA Finals in 1955 and 1956. As a member of the NBA board of directors, Bennett also helped break the color line in the league, and three of the first four African-American players made their debuts in Fort Wayne.

The Pistons also won the infamous 19-18 game against the Minnesota Lakers which led to the 24-second shot clock, and Zollner became the first owner to buy a plane to transport his team.

Partly because of the Pistons' influence, and the Memorial Coliseum's opening in 1952, the 1950s were probably Fort Wayne's golden age of sports.

Besides the NBA All-Star Game and two NBA Finals appearances, starting in 1950 the city was part of the Professional Golf Association tour for seven years and hosted the first LPGA major tournament in 1955. The Fort Wayne Daisies won three All-American Girls Professional Baseball League division titles, the Mad Anthonys started hosting the Hoosier Celebrities charity tournament in 1958 and the Komets began their so-far 61-year minor league hockey tenure in 1952. The city also hosted the American Bowling Congress national tournament in 1955, drawing approximately 31,000 participants.

If you'd like to find out more about our athletic accomplishments, pick up the book ``Fort Wayne Sports History'' which is available at www.amauth.com or at www.blakesebring.com. It is also on sale in the Fort Wayne Newspapers lobby, The History Center, Fort Wayne Country Club's tennis facility, Wildwood Racquet Club and McMillen Park, Shoaff Park and Foster Park golf courses, the Fort Wayne Visitors Center, Komet Kuarters, The Sport Spot and The Bookmark.

You can review the excerpts we've run from the book at http://nscontent.news-sentinel.com/?q=page/fort-wayne-sports-history.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com .