Sports Reference Blog

National Basketball League Stats

Posted by Justin Kubatko on April 29, 2013

I have added a section to the site with National Basketball League (NBL) stats. The NBL was a professional basketball league that was founded in 1937 and merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to form the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949. Several of the NBL's top players later played in the BAA/NBA, including George Mikan, Al Cervi, and Arnie Risen.

Keep in mind that the statistical record for the NBL was quite limited:

  • Games played (G), field goals (FG), free throws (FT), and points (PTS) are available for all players, all seasons.
  • Free throw attempts (FTA) are available for some players prior to the 1946-47 season and all players for the 1946-47, 1947-48, and 1949-49 seasons.

At some point I may try to add data from even more professional leagues, but given it's direct link to the NBA I thought the NBL was a good place to start. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments about this new addition to the site.

9 Responses to “National Basketball League Stats”

  1. Andreas Christophorou Says:

    NBL is as important a predecessor of the NBA as the BAA. Even more important in my opinion.

    NBL was the best professional league in the US for a full decade and talent-wise, beyond any doubt, a major league.

    It will be really great for basketball fans to have access to at least some basic details about it.

    NBA can dictade what can be included in its own history and what not. Like the ABA years or the BAA years.

    But what it isn't included, most of the times doesn't get the publicity that it deserves and the NBL as a major league in its entirety fits that part of professional basketball history.


  2. Matt Says:

    I’ve been an advocate of making both ABA and NBL statistics official for years. The best teams were from the NBL (proven by their dominance post-merger) but the best venues (shared with hockey teams) were from the BAA. It’s not as controversial as officially recognizing the ABL (1961).

  3. terpsfan101 Says:

    Perhaps this may be of interest to the Sports Reference crew:

    Pro Basketball Database v0.3

    I had integrated the NBL stats, as well as a few other major pro leagues into your database 3 or 4 years ago. I also integrated the ABL (1996-1998) stats into the WNBA stats as well. As you can see I haven't updated the database since 2009. Less than 100 people downloaded it in over 3 1/2 years, so I kind of lost the urge to keep it updated.

  4. Gabe Says:

    a bit belated, but kudos for doing this. Just curious, why no link between a NBL team and their NBA successor, such as the Pistons?

  5. Jaet Says:

    I think, like Gabe, that the section should be integrated with NBA section. A single page for Pistons, Lakers, Royals and other teams that moved from a league to another.
    Same thing for players, I think Mikan needs only one page, with stats from every leagues he played in.

  6. Andreas Christophorou Says:

    @Gabe @Jaet

    If we are talking about the history of every single professional league involved the most fair thing to do would be to create a BAA section too and start counting NBA statistics from 1949 when the merger of the NBL and BAA took place to form the NBA.

    The current arrangement of the league and team stats follows the official history of the NBA. NBA recognizes the 3 BAA years as a part of its official history and does the same with the history of the ABA.

    Unlike the BAA and the ABA, the NBL wasn't perceived as part of the history of the NBA so its players and teams stats and accomplishments can't be merged with the NBA stats like the BAA or the ABA stats.

    Using the same logic, you won't see any ex-NBL team demonstrating any of its accomplishments on the rafters of its NBA arena.

    But you will see the ex-ABA franchises having banners for their ABA titles (Pacers, Nets) and both the Lakers and the Warriors have banners demonstrating their BAA titles because they are allowed to.

    The NBA decided that only the BAA and the ABA are a part of their official history and thats the reason it seems reasonable to demonstrate the players NBL statistics on a different section.

    As for the NBL, i don't think that the NBA would even consider taking into account the NBL years as part of its history. That would mean that:

    (1) They would undermine their own decisions

    The NBA decided right from the start that its plan was based on "big arenas in big cities" aka the BAA plan

    So they wouldn't allow their history being linked with a league based in small Midwestern cities with different operational values despite that having many of the stars of the NBL was the reason that the league survived.

    (2) They would undervalue their official predecessors

    As Dr Murry Nelson noted in an interview in 2009 after his NBL-history book was published:


    The NBA tells us they evolved from the Basketball Association of America (BAA, 1946 - 1949) and celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1996. The history section of only contains information dating back to 1946. Many people do not realize the National Basketball League (NBL) began in 1935, ran concurrently with the BAA and merged with them in 1949 to create the NBA. Would you speak to why you think the NBA does not acknowledge the NBL as part of its history?


    I cannot be sure on this, but my guess is that the snub is more related to the founders of the BAA and their later supporters than anything else. Maurice Podoloff, Walter Brown, Eddie Gottlieb all have iconic status in the history of the NBA as founders of the league and their "descendants" may see their status diminished if their pioneer status is shared with the NBL founders or the NBL gets to be seen as the real beginning of the NBA. Since, as Napoleon said, history is written by the victors, the BAA owners, who ended up controlling the new NBA, have revised history to suit their historic purposes.

    Their successors in the NBA have perpetuated the mythology because it continues to serve their purposes as they view them, probably from an economic, marketing and historic perspective.

  7. Nikola Simic Says:

    Actually, the NBA does officially recognize NBL numbers, as is noted on page 155 of the 2012-13 NBA Guide:

    "Figures from National Basketball League are included below; NBL did not record field-goal attempts, however, so all field-goal percentages listed here are based only on field goals and attempts in NBA competition."

  8. Andreas Christophorou Says:


    This is a good sign and a good start.

    But it is still a reference focused on individual players without recognizing any NBL games or NBL team stats.

    This should be the next (even bigger) step.

    For example, right now, the NBA guide includes a number of games played by Mikan in the playoffs many of them were coached by John Kundla.

    But many of them are not accounted on Kundlas coaching record because those were NBL games.

    Right now some things just doesn't add up.

  9. Andreas Christophorou Says:

    BTW NBL stats and references can be found on the Official NBA Register.

    The All-Time Great players and coaches have a full summary of their career. (NBA/BAA/NBL/ABL/...)

    The only sign of any kind of merging process between NBL and BAA/NBA stats/games was the one that Nikola referred to on the NBA Offical Guide.