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On This Date in Sports March 2, 1951

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Looking to give a boost to bring attention and publicity to professional basketball, the NBA hold its first All-Star Game at the Boston Garden. The idea for an All-Star Games comes from Publicity Director Haskell Cohen along with Commissioner Maurice Podoloff and Celtics Owner Walter A. Brown. The game is a success as the crowd of 10,094 sees the Eastern All-Stars beat the West 111-94.

The sport of basketball was in peril as college basketball was rocked by a point shaving scandal that involved some the top teams in the NCAA. The National Basketball Association was still trying to find its audience, in its fifth season. Most nights even the biggest arenas averaged just 3,500 fans per game.

Looking to bring some positive attention to the NBA, Publicity Director Haskell Cohen, who suggested the league hold an All-Star Game similar to the one held by baseball with the best players from the teams of the Eastern Division facing the best players for teams in the Western Division. While Commission Maurice Pdoloff was skeptical that it would work, Boston Celtics Owner Walker A. Brown saw its potential and offered to host the game, picking up all expenses and covering any potential losses.

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The rosters were made up of ten players on each team, chosen by local sports writers, with a rule that a writer could not select a player from the team from his home city.

The Eastern Division Team was coached by Joe Lapchick of the New York Knickerbockers. Selected to start for the East was Bob Cousy and Ed Macauley of the Boston Celtics. Joe Fulks and Andy Phillip of the Philadelphia Warriors, along with Dolph Schayes of the Syracuse Nationals. The Eastern Conference reserves were Paul Arazin of the Warriors, Red Rocha of the Baltimore Bullets and Vince Boryla, Harry Gallatin and Dick McGuire of the Knicks.

The Western Division team was led by Minneapolis Lakers Coach John Kundla. Kundla had two Lakers in the starting lineup George Mikan and Jim Pollard. They were joined by Bob Davies of the Rochester Royals along with Ralph Beard and Alex Gorza of the Indianapolis Olympians. The Western Conference reserves featured Larry Foust and Fred Schaus of the Fort Wayne Pistons. Vern Mikkelsen of the Lakers along with Frank Brian and Dwight Eddleman from the Tri-Cities Blackhawks.

The East got off to a fast start, building a 31-22 they would never relinquish as they increased their lead through the first three quarters ultimately winning by 17 points. In suffering a 111-94 loss, the Western Division can blame a 32.7% shooting percentage, while the East gave a strong defense effort, limiting George Mikan the consensus top player in the NBA to just 12 points. Ed Maculey of the Celtics was the game’s top scorer with 20 points and six rebounds. In 1953, Maculey would be chosen as the first game’s MVP retroactively.

Other stars having a big game for the East included Joe Fulks who had 19 points and seven boards, and Dolph Schayes who had a double double with 15 points and 14 rebounds and scored the first All-Star basket. For the West, the top scorer was Alex Gorza who had 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Mikan also had a double double with 12 rebounds to go along with his 13-point effort.