The history is a bit complicated, but Monday marked the 75th anniversary of what the NBA considers its inaugural game when the New York Knicks met the Toronto Huskies at Maple Leaf Gardens.
There were no trading cards of players in the “Basketball Association of America” as it was called in 1946.
A couple of years later, only four players who appeared in that game were part of the first standalone basketball card set: 1948-49 Bowman. Two were members of the 1946 Knicks and two original Huskies are in the set. Toronto wouldn’t last long as a franchise, but the Knicks history was really just beginning.
Here’s a look at the quartet of pioneers, all of whom had just that lone card during their pro careers.
A former star at Seton Hall, Byrnes spent five years in pro basketball and the 1948-49 season was his last with the Knicks. He was traded to the Indianapolis Jets in January of 1949 but is pictured in his white Knicks uniform on his rookie card. He’s number 64 in the Bowman set.
Brynes scored four points in that inaugural game in Toronto.
Sid “Sonny” Hertzberg
A 5’10 guard, Hertzberg signed with the Knicks out of CCNY. He scored two points in that inaugural game and was released by the Knicks the following year. Signing with Washington and later traded to Boston, he followed young coach Red Auerbach, who considered him “the second coach on the floor.” Hertzberg later became a broadcaster for the Knicks.
His card, #16 in the set, seems to be more plentiful than the other three.
The leading scorer in the first BAA/NBA game with 18 points, Sadowski was a burly 6’5 center whose pro basketball career actually began before World War II. A year before the Bowman set was released (he’s card #48), Sadowski became the first Boston Celtics player to be named to the All-BAA/NBA Team.
After piling up the points, Sadowski fouled out of that Nov. 1, 1946 game.
The biggest promotion the BAA held for the inaugural game was that every fan who was taller than Nostrand’s 6’8 frame got in for free. Nostrand scored 16 points in the game but hit only 2 of 7 free throws, which didn’t help Toronto’s cause in a 68-66 loss. He was a member of the Providence Steamrollers when the set came out and his card (#42) carries one of its best looking photos.