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Boxed Out of the NBA: Remembering the Eastern Professional Basketball League

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The Eastern Professional Basketball League (1946-78) was fast and physical, often played in tiny, smoke-filled gyms across the northeast and featuring the best players who just couldn't make the NBA--many because of unofficial quotas on Black players, some because of scandals, and others because they weren't quite good enough in the years when the NBA had less than 100 players. In Boxed out of the NBA: Remembering the Eastern Professional Basketball League, Syl Sobel and Jay Rosenstein tell the fascinating story of a league that was a pro basketball institution for over 30 years, showcasing top players from around the country. During the early years of professional basketball, the Eastern League was the next-best professional league in the world after the NBA. It was home to big-name players such as Sherman White, Jack Molinas, and Bill Spivey, who were implicated in college gambling scandals in the 1950s and were barred from the NBA, and top Black players such as Hal "King" Lear, Julius McCoy, and Wally Choice, who could not make the NBA into the early 1960s due to unwritten team quotas on African-American players. Featuring interviews with some 40 former Eastern League coaches, referees, fans, and players--including Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim, former Temple University coach John Chaney, former Detroit Pistons player and coach Ray Scott, former NBA coach and ESPN analyst Hubie Brown, and former NBA player and coach Bob Weiss--this book provides an intimate, first-hand account of small-town professional basketball at its best.

240 pages, Hardcover

Published April 14, 2021

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Syl Sobel

14 books1 follower

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Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews
Profile Image for Lance.
1,410 reviews93 followers
May 3, 2021
Long before there was the G-league that operates as the NBA's developmental league and even before the ABA that existed from 1967 to 1976, there was the Eastern League for players who for one reason or another, could not play in the NBA. This book provides an entertaining look at that league that served as not only a de-facto minor league when NBA teams provided players but also as the only avenue in which some players could show off their basketball talent.

The authors, Syl Solbe and Jay Rosentstein, grew up in Pennsylvania watching games from this league and their book waxes nostalgic when writing about the teams, players and coaches. At times, there are even names mentioned who would be familiar to even casual basketball fans today, such as Jim Boeheim and John Chaney, two legendary college coaches who had success as players in the league.

It must be noted that the league was based mainly in Pennsylvania and as a result, there was a lot of bus travel and games were limited to weekend because like many other players in all of sports at the time, they had to have a primary job in order to provide a living income. But that didn't detour these players and coaches, many of whom had fond memories that they shared with the authors that makes the book a fun read. The most depressing part is certainly from the Black players who talk about the quotas in the NBA at that time that teams would place on the number of Black players they could employ and some of the other aspects of "Black" basketball that were believed to be bad for the sport. Given the chance to prove these critics wrong in the Eastern League, they wowed both colleagues and spectators alike.

Like most leagues, the lack of funding led to the end of the league, which lasted much longer than anyone had anticipated and even was able to compete with both the NBA and ABA for players in its last seasons to keep on playing. Readers who have not heard of this league, such as this reviewer, will thoroughly enjoy learning about this basketball league that entertained fans for a few decades in the Northeastern United States.

I wish to thank Rowman and Littlefield for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Jay.
40 reviews2 followers
February 19, 2022
Boxed Out of the NBA is a satisfactory reference book for the Eastern League, but there is no compelling narrative - and lots of lists. I had high hopes for the book as it was a league I was relatively familiar with - but most quotes are from the same 7-8 individuals or newspaper archives.

I was able to check this book out through an Interlibrary Loan. However, the book is very overpriced on Amazon, given the lack of content.

It's a shame no one thought to write a book like this in the 1990s when most players and coaches were still alive. There would have been the potential of a book akin to Terry Pluto's Loose Balls.
1 review
December 2, 2021
Many sports history books are recitations of past seasons and box scores. While this is valuable research, it omits the key step of explaining the significance of the team or league. This book is different. The authors do a fantastic job of placing the EPBL into historical context and showing its significance as a league of opportunity and innovation. It’s a fast read and very well-researched.
46 reviews
April 15, 2021
A great read! Tells the history of the talented league of players who were good enough to be in the NBA. The author's thoroughly discuss the atmosphere of the league while also diving into it's legacy. So many good stories about amazing basketball players.
Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews

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