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The Chicago Atomics smoked the Knicks and Celtics on their home courts. They were also a professional basketball team for only 2 months, (they later became the Stags). The origin of their name is a mystery, but here is the proof of their existence.
Photo credit: Associated Press
The team shows up mysteriously in two Canadian newspapers. The Ottawa Journal and the Ottawa Evening Citizen. FYI The Ottawa Journal is one of the great sources of sports history.
This first article is describing the creation of the Basketball Association of America, drawing parallels between a sport the Canadians can relate to...Hockey. The BAA is a bold endevour and I write about it HERE; suffice it to say, big time arena owners across the country try to capitalize on the booming gate receipts of collegiate basketball crowds.
The BAA didn’t last long, but it gave us two of the most famous NBA teams in history, the Boston Celtics and the New York Knickerbockers, both of which the “Atomics” routed on their storied home courts. More on this later.
Strangely, none of the major Chicago papers cover the upcoming battles. Luckily, the widely circulated St. Petersburg Times and The Berkshire County Eagle were hip to the team.
This is the first time the Boston Celtics played in the Garden and it’s the debut of the Knicks in Madison Square. It’s also the first time in 21 years that a professional basketball team played there.
So the team spent a minute as the Chicago Basketball Club, Inc. A name that wasn’t bound to draw a big crowd, or muster any hometown pride.
Nine days later, the once Atomics, once Chicago Basketball Club, Inc., were officially named the Stags. Although spelled differently, the team was a tip of the cap to Chicago legend Amos Alonzo Stagg.
I don’t want the significance to be lost here. The Atomics/Stags beat the New York Knicks their first game ever at Madison Square Garden and the Atomics/Stags beat the Boston Celtics their first game ever in the Boston Garden.
They may have lost their home openers but, historically the Knicks and the Celtics made out alright...
The Original Celtics, the team who had played professional basketball in the Garden 21 years prior, challenged a group of NY Giants football players to a game leading up to the debut of the NY Knicks game. Nat Holman and Lapchick hadn’t slowed and won handily.