The Bucks are coming back to the Fox Valley, which will mark the third time the region has hosted a professional basketball team. Oshkosh has a rich basketball history and the Bucks look forwarding to adding to its legacy.
Prior to the start of the NBA, the National Basketball League (NBL) was considered to be the top professional basketball league in the United States, and Oshkosh hosted a team: the Oshkosh All-Stars.
The All-Stars competed in the NBL for 12 years from 1937-1949, winning two NBL Championships in 1941 and 1942, and the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1942. Oshkosh appeared in the NBL playoffs in all but one season, and made six appearances in the NBL championship, including five straight appearances from 1938-1942, making the All-Stars a pillar of the NBL despite playing in one of the smallest cities in the league.
Prior to the 1946-47 season, Gilbert R. LaBudde of the Oshkosh Northwestern had this to say about the local team that was making a national impression entering its 10th season in the NBL: “If you are a basketball fan you know also of Oshkosh through its Oshkosh All Stars, which professional cage quintet has put its community of 40,000 on the sports map of the nation with a long string of accomplishments in the play-for-pay basketball ranks.”
Oshkosh had plenty of star power on its team during its successful 12-year run, including Leroy Edwards, who was a consensus All-American at Kentucky in college before spending his entire professional career with the All-Stars. Edwards led the NBL in scoring and was named league MVP in each of his three seasons. He sits in second place on the NBL’s all-time scoring list with 3,221 points.
Third on the NBL’s all-time scoring list is Gene Englund, who spent five seasons in Oshkosh with the All-Stars. Englund was a Wisconsin native and came to Oshkosh after leading the Wisconsin Badgers to their first and only NCAA Championship as an All-American during his senior season. Before playing one season in the newly-formed NBA, Englund finished his time in Oshkosh as a player-coach for the All-Stars.
When the NBL merged with the Basketball Association of America in 1949 to form today’s NBA, the All-Stars folded as the area and facilities were simply too small to compete in the NBA. However, professional basketball returned to Oshkosh in 1982 with the Wisconsin Flyers, a minor league basketball team that competed in the Continental Basketball Association.
The Flyers competed in the CBA for five seasons, making the playoffs twice, while proving to be a successful minor league team in that it sent players and coaches to the NBA seemingly every season. Eventually the franchise moved to Rochester, Minn., where it played for one season before moving to Omaha.
The Bucks D-League team will bring professional basketball back to Oshkosh for the first time since 1987, but this time it will be as a hotbed for young, developing talent that has its eyes set on the NBA.