The World Championship of Professional Basketball was held in Chicago from 1939 to 1948.The annual event was sponsored by the Chicago Herald-American, the brainchild of its sports editor, Edward W. Cochrane. Cochrane was with the paper from 1936 to 1943, before leaving to become the sports director for Hearst Newspapers. “At the time there were no less than a score of professional basketball teams, all advertising themselves as world’s champions,” Cochrane remembered in 1941. The tournament was born “out of the chaos of these conflicting claims,” he said.

Official Souvenir Program, 2nd Annual World's Championship Pro Basketball, International World's Pro Cage Meet, March 17, 18, 19, 20, 1940 | 1940

Official Souvenir Program, 2nd Annual World’s Championship Pro Basketball, International World’s Pro Cage Meet, March 17, 18, 19, 20, 1940 | 1940

Official Souvenir Program, World's Pro Cage Tournament, World's Championship Basket Ball Tournament, March 15 to 19, 1941 | 1941

Official Souvenir Program, World’s Pro Cage Tournament, World’s Championship Basket Ball Tournament, March 15 to 19, 1941 | 1941

Official Souvenir Program, 4th Annual World's Championship Basketball Tournament, March 7 to 11, 1942 | 1942

Official Souvenir Program, 4th Annual World’s Championship Basketball Tournament, March 7 to 11, 1942 | 1942

Official Souvenir Program, 5th Annual World's Championship Basketball Tournament, March 14 to 17, 1943 | 1943

Official Souvenir Program, 5th Annual World’s Championship Basketball Tournament, March 14 to 17, 1943 | 1943

Ticket stub, 1943 World Championship of Professional Basketball, Sunday March 16, [1943] | 1943 | Ticket fragment

Ticket stub, 1943 World Championship of Professional Basketball, Sunday March 16, [1943] | 1943 | Ticket fragment

Official Souvenir Program, 6th Annual World's Championship Basketball Tournament, March 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 1944 | 1944

Official Souvenir Program, 6th Annual World’s Championship Basketball Tournament, March 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 1944 | 1944

Ticket stub, 1944 World Championship of Professional Basketball, Monday, March 20, 1944 | 1944 | Ticket fragment

Ticket stub, 1944 World Championship of Professional Basketball, Monday, March 20, 1944 | 1944 | Ticket fragment

Ticket stub, 1946 World Championship of Professional Basketball Wednesday, March 27, 1946 | 1946 | Ticket fragment

Ticket stub, 1946 World Championship of Professional Basketball Wednesday, March 27, 1946 | 1946 | Ticket fragment

Official Souvenir Program, 8th Annual World's Championship Basketball Tournament, March 25, 27, 29 and April 3, 5, 6, 1946 | 1946

Official Souvenir Program, 8th Annual World’s Championship Basketball Tournament, March 25, 27, 29 and April 3, 5, 6, 1946 | 1946

Official Souvenir Program, 9th Annual World's Championship Basketball Tournament, April 5, 6, 7, and 9, 10, 1947 | 1947

Official Souvenir Program, 9th Annual World’s Championship Basketball Tournament, April 5, 6, 7, and 9, 10, 1947 | 1947

Newspaper article covering  the 1948 World Championship of Professional Basketball, with New York Rens player George Crowe's signature in ink on the image | 1948 | Newspaper clipping

Newspaper article covering the 1948 World Championship of Professional Basketball, with New York Rens player George Crowe’s signature in ink on the image | 1948 | Newspaper clipping

Ticket stub, 1948

Press badge, 1948

Ticket stub from championship game of the 1948 World's Championship of Professional Basketball, April 8-11, 1948, the final game of the 10-year tournament, held at Chicago Stadium | 1948 | Ticket

Press Badge, Tenth Annual World's Championship Basketball Tournament | April 8, 9, 11, 1948 | Card stock | 1948

There had never been any event like the World Championship of Professional Basketball in the history of the sport, and professional basketball was “proven” during this tournament, with record-breaking attendances and revenues as well as the beginning of “big-time” newspaper coverage for the pro game. The New York Rens won the title in 1939, following by the Globe Trotters in 1940. The clear-sighted inclusion of these two all-black teams, truly the best in professional basketball, gave the tournament legitimacy in its infancy.

Official Souvenir Program, 7th Annual World's Championship Basketball Tournament, 1945

Official Souvenir Program, 7th Annual World’s Championship Basketball Tournament, March 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 1945 | 1945


Of the three teams in the 1945 World Championship tournament with African American players, none of them advanced past their first game. The Long Island Grumman Hellcats – a racially mixed squad representing the Grumman Aircraft Company, featuring William “Dolly” King and William “Pop” Gates – were defeated in the first round by the Dayton Acmes. Despite a first-round bye, the Harlem Globetrotters lost their quarterfinal game against the Chicago American Gears. In their first-round game, the New York Rens lost to the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons, the eventual tournament champions.

Official Souvenir Program, 10th Annual World's Championship Basketball Tournament, 1948

Official Souvenir Program, 10th Annual World’s Championship Basketball Tournament, April 8, 9 and 11, 1948, autographed by George Mikan and Jim Pollard of the Minn. Lakers and Nat Clifton of the New York Rens | 1948


The tenth annual World’s Championship of Professional Basketball, held April 8–11, 1948 at Chicago Stadium, was the last of the series of invitation-only tournaments sponsored by the Chicago Herald-American newspaper. The title game was between the National Basketball League champion Minneapolis Lakers, with future Hall of Fame member George Mikan, and the independent barnstorming New York Rens, with future NBA player Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton. A dramatic late-game turnover by the Rens in the tightly played contest resulted in a disappointing loss. The final score was Lakers 75, Rens 71.


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