Happy Book Birthday to Wartime Basketball!

Book Birthdays celebrate one year of a book’s life in tweets, reviews, ratings, and more! This month we’re saying Happy First Book Birthday to Wartime Basketball: The Emergence of a National Sport during World War II (Nebraska, 2016) by Douglas Stark. Sark is the museum director at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. He is the author of The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball’s Greatest Jewish Team.

About the Book:

Wartime Basketball tells the story of basketball’s survival and development during World War II and how those years profoundly affected the game’s growth after the war. Prior to World War II, basketball—professional and collegiate—was largely a regional game, with different styles played throughout the country. Among its many impacts on home-front life, the war forced pro and amateur leagues to contract and combine rosters to stay competitive. At the same time, the U.S. military created base teams made up of top players who found themselves in uniform. The war created the opportunity for players from different parts of the country to play with and against each other. As a result, a more consistent form of basketball began to take shape.

The rising popularity of the professional game led to the formation of the World Professional Basketball Tournament (WPBT) in 1939. The original March Madness, the WPBT was played in Chicago for ten years and allowed professional, amateur, barnstorming, and independent teams to compete in a round-robin tournament. The WPBT included all-black and integrated teams in the first instance where all-black teams could compete for a “world series of basketball” against white teams. Wartime Basketball describes how the WPBT paved the way for the National Basketball League to integrate in December 1942, five years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

Weaving stories from the court into wartime and home-front culture like a finely threaded bounce pass, Wartime Basketball sheds light on important developments in the sport’s history that have been largely overlooked.


“An important work.” —Library Journal

“…serves as a tremendous addition to the history of professional basketball, specifically during World War II. Stark has done his homework, and then some.” —ARETE

“Stark… chronicles the wartime evolution of basketball that set the stage for its rising peacetime popularity and eventual emergence of the National Basketball Association.” —Christian Science Monitor

“Stark… offers an entertaining, alternative history of basketball.” —Sport in American History

Wartime Basketball tells the story of basketball’s survival and development during World War II—and how those years profoundly affected the game’s growth after the war.” —Jewish Book Council

On the UNP Blog:

On Goodreads:

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On Twitter and Facebook:


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A word from the author

In the last year, I have traveled the Northeast speaking about Wartime Basketball and how the game changed for the better during World War II. It is clearly a story that most sports fans do not know. Baseball yes. Basketball no. My journey has led me to Naval bases, senior homes, historical societies, the Basketball Hall of Fame, and even a military museum. At each stop, I am always amazed at the questions I am asked by many of the old timers who have distinct memories of basketball either during or after the war. Attending games or remembering a player comes to their mind, and I am most struck by their memories and how important that part of their lives was to them. Connecting with these gentlemen and helping them relive part of their past has been the most rewarding aspect of touring with the book.

Interested in Doug Stark’s work? Keep an eye out for his next book, When Basketball Was Jewish, out in September 2017.

One thought on “Happy Book Birthday to Wartime Basketball!

  1. I’d like to ask Douglas Stark if he knows where I could find a photo of Midio Zanotti, who was an all-state basketball player at Highland Park (IL) HS in 1939 and stationed at Fort Sheridan (IL), right next door, in WWII. Thanks, Coach Dan Peterson, Milan, Italy

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