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Bobby McDermott

Bobby McDermott
File:Bobby McDermott.jpeg
Personal information
Born (1914-01-07)January 7, 1914
Queens, New York, U.S.
Died October 3, 1963(1963-10-03) (aged 49)
Yonkers, New York, U.S.
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Career information
Pro career 1934–1950
Position Guard
Career history
As player:
1934–1936 Brooklyn Visitations
1939–1941 Baltimore Clippers
1941–1946 Fort Wayne Pistons
1946–1947 Chicago American Gears
1947 Sheboygan Red Skins
1949 Hammond Calumet Buccaneers
1949–1950 Wilkes-Barre Barons
1950 Grand Rapids Hornets
As coach:
1943–1946 Fort Wayne Pistons
1946–1947 Chicago American Gears
1947–1948 Sheboygan Red Skins
1947–1949 Tri-Cities Blackhawks
1950 Grand Rapids Hornets
Career highlights and awards

As player:

  • ABL champion (1935)
  • NBL champion (1944–1945, 1947)
  • 4x NBL MVP (1943–1946)
  • 6× First Team All-NBL (1942–1947)
  • Second Team All-NBL (1948)
  • NBL season scoring leader (1943)
  • WPBT MVP (1944)
  • NBL All-Time Team
  • Voted greatest player in NBL history

As head coach:

  • 3× NBL champion (1944–1945, 1947)
  • 2× NBL Coach of the Year (1944–1945)
Basketball Hall of Fame as player

Robert "Bobby" McDermott (January 7, 1914 – October 3, 1963) was an American professional basketball player in the 1930s and 1940s. He was known as an outstanding shooter and has been called "the greatest long-distance shooter in the history of the game" by contemporaries. His grandson is businessman Bill McDermott.


During the 1940s the most common offenses were motion offenses that were supposed to open up players close to the goal. This was because most players were awful shooters. The most common defenses were zones that clogged passing lanes and packed the paint. For zone defenses to be successful, all the defenders have to be close together and close to the basket.

McDermott spread the defenders like nobody ever did before. He was an accurate shooter for his day but not legendarily accurate. His free throw percentage was below 80% most of his career and he used a two-handed set shot from the chest that was easy to block. However, he could score from anywhere within the half court. Al Cervi, a great defensive player who often had to guard him, said of McDermott, "Oh, he could shoot! If he shot ten times from thirty feet, I'd guarantee he'd make eight in game conditions." He could shoot from almost anywhere on the court. At a time when most teams played a deliberate slow-up style and scoring less than 30 wasn't just common, it was expected, McDermott frequently scored more than 20 points, and scored as many as 36.

Professional basketball career

McDermott dropped out of high school after just one year, and was picked up by the Brooklyn Visitations after making a name for himself on the playgrounds. He continued the trend in the American Basketball League. He led the league in scoring, and helped Brooklyn win the 1934-35 ABL championship against the dominant Philadelphia Sphas in their prime. He spent a year in the New York Professional League where he set a play-off record for most points with 32. He played with the recently reorganized Original Celtics for the next three years.

He went back to the ABL and was again the league's scoring leader, returned to the Celtics for another season, then settled down for a while with the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons of the National Basketball League in 1941. From 1941-46 he was at his peak. He improved his shot and for the first time his free throw percentage rose above 80%. He continued to get more accurate and dangerous while keeping his legendary range. The Pistons won over 80% of their games and made five consecutive NBL finals appearances. They won NBL titles in 1944 and 1945, as well as the World Professional Basketball Tournament in Chicago.

McDermott became a player-coach during 1946. He took up the same position when he moved to the Chicago Gears. On the Gears he was teamed with the biggest inside threat in the league, George Mikan. They won the 1946-47 NBL championship together. Though he would continue to play professionally for several more years, McDermott's last year with the Gears was his final year of stardom on a winning team.

The American Gears joined the Professional Basketball League of America in 1947. But when that league folded in November 1947, after only three weeks of existence, the Gears players were distributed among NBL teams. McDermott landed with the Sheboygan Red Skins, with whom he was a player-coach for about a month. He scored 138 points in 16 games and coached the Red Skins to a 4-5 record. Doxie Moore regained the coaching reins after McDermott left to join the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, where he coached and played for the next season and a half.


McDermott was the World Professional Basketball Tournament MVP in 1944 and was named the NBL MVP in four consecutive seasons during the 1940s. In 1946 the NBL named McDermott the greatest player in league history. Collier's magazine chose him to an "All-World" team in 1950. McDermott was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.

Further reading

  • Peterson, Robert W. (2002). "Seeds of the NBA". Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball's Early Years. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 124–141. ISBN 0-8032-8772-0. 

External links