The Baltimore Bullets – Early Days
The Baltimore Bullets started in the American Basketball League (ABL) in 1944 winning the championship in 1946. In 1947 they were in the Basketball Association of America (BAA). They became part of the NBA in 1950 with the BAA merging with the National Basketball League (NBL). In 1954 the Baltimore Bullets franchise folded making them the last NBA team to do so.
Buddy Jeannette was a player-coach of the 1946 Champion Baltimore Bullets
In 1963 the Baltimore Bullets were reborn when the Chicago Zephyrs (formerly the Chicago Packers) moved to Baltimore. Moving with the franchise to Baltimore were Walt Bellamy and Terry Dischinger. The Bullets would stay in Baltimore until 1973 when they moved to Washington first as the Capital Bullets, then later the Washington Bullets, and finally the Washington Wizards.
NBA All-Time Greats Played For The Baltimore Bullets
Walt Bellamy, Earl Monroe, Jack Marin, Kevin Loughery, Wali Jones, Gus Johnson, Archie Clark, Terry Dischinger, Fred Carter, Bailey Howell, Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, and many more NBA greats played in Baltimore.
The 1970-71 Bullets despite only going 42 – 40 during the regular season defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals 4 – 3. They then defeated the defending champion New York Knicks (yes the Knicks used to be good once) 4 – 3. Unfortunately though this was the end of the line as they lost in the NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks of Lew Alcindor (before becoming Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and Oscar Robinson.
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was dazzling for the Baltimore Bullets. Later he was traded to the Knicks where he had to tone down his game a bit as he was playing alongside Walt Frazier. However his years in Baltimore were special and brilliant. Monroe averaged > 21 points per game every season in Baltimore and ended up averaging >18 over his 13 season NBA career. Monroe did later win an NBA Championship with the Knicks in 1973. Both the Bullets (Wizards) and Knicks retired Monroe’s number.
Wes Unseld; had the nicknames “Baby Bull” and “The Wide U”. Although only 6’7” tall he was a granite mountain of a center who set some of the most devastating picks in the history of the NBA. Unseld later won an NBA Championship with the Washington Bullets. Unseld averaged 14 rebounds and almost 11 points per game over a 13 year NBA career.
Kevin Loughery later gained fame as an ABA/NBA Coach. He had an 11 year NBA career and averaged 15 points per game for his career. Loughery coached the New York Nets to 2 ABA Championships.
Jack Marin also had an 11 year NBA career and averaged almost 15 points per game. Marin was later traded to the Houston Rockets for Elvin “The Big E” Hayes.
Gus Johnson was made from iron. Just looking at his photo above you can see how muscular he was when compared to the other NBA players of his era. Although Gus had a 10 year NBA career and averaged > 12 rebounds and 16 points per game he was hampered by knee injuries which cut short his career. Johnson did win an ABA Championship with the Indiana Pacers in his last season.
As a teenager I spent many an evening in the old Baltimore Civic Center rooting for the Bullets and when not there in person I was listening to Jim Karvellas call their games on radio. I will never forget those days. It was a simpler era when players were truly part of a community and approachable by fans.