Strange But True: The Dullest Game

The best professional basketball team of the early 1950s was the Minneapolis Lakers. They made scoring look easy, particularly when their star center, 6-foot-10 George Mikan, was in the game. There was only one way to keep them from running up a lot of points and that was to stall. (The 24-second clock had not been invented.) Opponents tried to freeze the ball by passing it around, dribbling–anything to keep control of the ball.

Such strategy didn’t work very often because the Lakers usually jumped into the lead, forcing the other team to take more shots. Big Mikan was always there to snatch the rebound. But once it did work. As a result of that game professional basketball changed drastically.

On November 22, 1950, the Lakers played against the Fort Wayne Pistons in Minneapolis. The Pistons went into their “slow motion” tactics immediately.

The fans didn’t like what was happening, and they began to boo, whistle and stomp. The Pistons turned a deaf ear. The referee couldn’t do anything, because the Pistons’ tactics were legal at the time. At the end of the first period Fort Wayne was ahead, 8-7.

Nothing much happened in the second period either. The Lakers rang up six points, the Pistons added only three, and at half time Minneapolis was ahead, 13-11.

There wasn’t a great deal of difference in the third period. Minneapolis scored four, Fort Wayne tallied five, and at the end of the quarter the scoreboard read 17-16, Minneapolis.

The final period was incredible! It seemed that all the players on the court had fallen asleep. Then, with nine seconds to go and the Lakers leading, 18-17, Larry Foust of Fort Wayne drove in and scored the go-ahead points. Little Slater Martin of the Lakers tried to win the game with a desperation shot, but failed. Fort Wayne won the game, 19-18.

Without doubt it was the dullest game in the history of the National Basketball Association. Of course, several records were set, but they were the wrong kind of records:

*Fewest shots at the basket, both teams.

*Fewest points scored in a quarter.

*Fewest points scored in a half.

*Fewest points scored in a game.

George Mikan was the only Laker to score from the floor; he tossed in four baskets. He also made good on seven free throws, meaning that he scored 15 of his team’s 18 points.

Fans, sportswriters and league officials were very angry. Maurice Podoloff, president of the NBA, declared, “It’ll never happen again!”

Soon afterward, the pros adopted the 24-second rule, which forces a team to shoot within 24 seconds or give up the ball. At least something good came out of basketball’s dullest game.

From Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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  1. Thanks for this. I miss basketball so much I have taken to watching playoff games from the 80’s & 90’s on NBA TV. My daughters thought I had finally lost it when I was screaming at the refs from a game 30 years ago. Dominique was fucking fouled!!!! I hated the Celtics so much!

  2. “The best professional basketball team of the early 1950s was the Minneapolis Lakers.”
    YES THEY WERE!!!!!

    George Mikan was a basketball GOD.

    And George Mikan was also the reason for the lane getting widened, the defensive goaltending rule, and the 3-point arc;

    He was the big man who–according to Shaq, made it possible for Shaq to even *be*, and something I will NEVER in my life forget, and which cemented for all time, my adoration of Shaquille O’Neal, was Shaq’s love for, and respect of Mikan–and the fact that, when he found out Mikan’s family was struggling for funds, Shaq paid for all of Mikan’s funeral expenses himself:

    I may like to Loathe the Lakers, with the passion of the flames from ten-thousand fiery suns (sorry, Loveshaq!😉💖), but that’s just ‘cuz some schmucks took my state’s basketball team, so that–until Mikan & “Harv & Marv” helped to bring my Wolvies here, back in the end of the ’80’s–I was a kid who had no hoops team to adore, as I grew up😉.

    When it really comes down to it, I love many of the players from the Lakers–Shaq, Magic, The Glove, Derek Fisher, Vlade, and Kareem, and many others…

    Plus, there were these, back in the early ’00’s😉😆🤣;

    Madsen does the WORST white-dude dance EVER, but dear GOD was he just a riot, with a great sense of humor, and the BEST and some of the *only* willingness to D-up hard on Shaq undr the basket/in the lane, after he left the Lakers (plus his great, and really fun-to-read Blog!;
    I don’t think I ever saw Maddog vertical, any time Shaq came to town–he was ALWAYS leaning–hard–and trying to get Shaq off-balance. One of the ONLY players in the league unafraid of really trying to *defend* against him (linked images from Getty & Alamy):

    I just don’t always like the *idea* of the Lakers😉–plus, LA HAS NO LAKES** like Minneapolis does, EVERYWHERE!!!

    (**Whyyyyyy did they not change the name?!??😒😒😒 at least when Norm-the-jerk took off with the Northstars, *they* had the decency to drop the “North” part out of the name–even if they *did basically keep everything else the same🤨😉🤣)

    Vlade wasn’t playing with the Lakers for this one, but it’s as adorable, so it needs to be shared:

    • No hard feelings, living near Seattle I can relate. Which makes it even funnier seeing Gary Payton in a Laker uniform. That was the strangest of all Laker years, having Payton & the Mailman at the end of their careers thinking they were going to get an easy ring. When the Sonics left Seattle people were crushed and most of this state still won’t watch the NBA because of their hate for Stern & Bennett. Then fucking Stern put Bennett in charge of relocations so we could never get a team again. Now with a new commissioner we have new hope but we will see. I forgot about Shaq doing that for Mikan’s family but he has always been a good guy. My buddy worked at a camp he did for underprivileged kids in LA & said he was the most genuine nice dude. I have been a fan of his since the LSU days, share many NOLA & Texas family members of the same name & that is where the moniker originated.

      • “I have been a fan of his since the LSU days,”

        SAME!! (I was a high-schooler back then) although I WILL fully admit that back then I was really, really worried that by leaving college & joining the NBA without his degree, he could get hurt & then struggle later on–which is COMPLETELY laughable in hindsight!😉😆🤣🤣🤣

        Little did I know that he planned to finish out that degree, and then would keep on with his Masters & EdD😉

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