Three Water by Doug88888 (Flickr)
Three Water by Doug88888 (Flickr)

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams.

As with any era, this three-year snippet was both, the end of an era and the beginning of something new. Tom Gola, Larry Costello, and Cliff Hagan -greats of the late 1950s and early 1960s – give way to Sam Jones, Hal Greer, and Bailey Howell. The latter three would make their way onto the All-NBA 2nd and 3rd Teams with regularity throughout the 1960s.

And signifying how having a 3rd Team can change perception, Walt Bellamy makes the first of four selections to the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams in 1962. Simply put, Bellamy stakes his claim as the NBA’s best center – not named Wilt or Russell – for a half-a-decade.

Lastly, Rudy LaRusso’s selection for the 1961-62 season’s 3rd Team is the most tenuous. Cliff Hagan had a top notch season for the St. Louis Hawks – 22.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.8 APG – but the team finished a miserable 29-51 for the season. Meanwhile, LaRusso managed 17.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 2.2 APG adding in some of the best defense from a forward that season, too, for a Lakers team that finished first in the Western Division.

And not just first, but they were 11 games ahead of the 2nd-place  Cincinnati Royals. And they pulled that off with Elgin Baylor missing half the season in the military. LaRusso played a major part in that and so seals the difference between Hagan and himself for this particular season.

1959-60 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Cliff Hagan St. Louis Hawks 75 24.8 10.7 4.0 0.464 0.803 11.8 22.0
F George Yardley Syracuse Nationals 73 20.2 7.9 1.7 0.453 0.816 9.0 18.2
C Clyde Lovellette St. Louis Hawks 68 20.8 10.6 1.9 0.468 0.821 9.0 23.3
G Tom Gola Philadelphia Warriors 75 15.0 10.4 5.5 0.433 0.794 9.9 15.4
G Larry Costello Syracuse Nationals 71 14.0 5.5 6.3 0.453 0.862 8.0 15.6

1960-61

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Bailey Howell Detroit Pistons 77 23.6 14.4 2.5 0.469 0.753 11.7 21.2
F Cliff Hagan St. Louis Hawks 77 22.1 9.3 4.9 0.444 0.820 10.8 20.1
C Clyde Lovellette St. Louis Hawks 67 22.0 10.1 2.6 0.453 0.830 8.5 20.5
G Tom Gola Philadelphia Warriors 74 14.2 9.4 3.9 0.447 0.747 6.8 13.3
G Richie Guerin New York Knicks 79 21.8 7.9 6.4 0.396 0.792 5.4 17.8

1961-62 Season

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG FG% FT% WS PER
F Bailey Howell Detroit Pistons 79 19.9 12.6 2.4 0.464 0.768 10.7 19.0
F Rudy LaRusso Los Angeles Lakers 80 17.2 10.4 2.2 0.466 0.763 8.8 16.6
C Walt Bellamy Chicago Packers 79 31.6 19.0 2.7 0.519 0.644 16.3 26.3
G Hal Greer Syracuse Nationals 71 22.8 7.4 4.4 0.447 0.819 8.5 17.5
G Sam Jones Boston Celtics 78 18.4 5.9 3.0 0.464 0.818 9.6 17.9