The attitude of partnership extended across enemy lines. It had to. With so few teams the league itself was a sort of barnstorming tour. There would be doubleheaders at the Garden on Tuesdays, what bettors called "get-even" night, and afterward players from the four teams would gather for what amounted to a company picnic at Frankie's Footlights.
There was not enough pay to encourage elitism, not enough attention to fuel egos. In 1954 Kerr's Nationals were going great guns, thanks mainly to George Mikan's short-lived retirement in Minneapolis but also to the 24-second shot clock, just installed that season. Team scoring, which averaged fewer than 80 points during the 1953-54 season, shot up to 93. The Nationals, led by Dolph Schayes (and with just one black player, Earl Lloyd), got into the finals, against Fort Wayne, the following spring, in '55.
The Nationals would win in seven games and return home to a five-convertible parade downtown, a dinner at the Optimists Club and an ice bucket and plaque for each player.
For Kerr, his first year out of college, it could hardly have been a more impressive start. Not only a bonus baby (that $500, remember) but an NBA champion, the city of Syracuse at his feet. And to think, the year before he couldn't have placed that city on a map. They'd all come a long way, some further than others, of course. Kerr just happened to land in life's fast lane, almost literally, come to think of it. Such was progress: After the season he returned home to Chicago, where his father got him a job driving a truck, a big 18-wheeler.