PODOLOFF, MAURICE (1890–1985), U.S. basketball executive; engineered the merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League into the National Basketball Association in 1949; NBA commissioner from 1949 to 1963; member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Born in Elizabethgrad, Russia, Podoloff came to the United States at the age of six. He graduated Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1909, and then graduated Yale University in 1913 and Yale Law School in 1915. Podoloff built the New Haven Arena in 1926 together with his father and two brothers Nathan and Jacob, and created the New Haven Eagles for the newly formed Canadian-American Hockey League (CAHL). Podoloff was a charter member of the board of governors, while Nathan was team president of the Eagles. Podoloff was named secretary-treasurer of the league in 1935, and the next year the CAHL merged with the International Hockey League to form the International-American Hockey League, which became the American Hockey League in 1940. Podoloff was named president of the IAHL, a post he held until 1952. Podoloff was appointed president of the newly formed Basketball Association of America on June 6, 1946, becoming the first person to simultaneously lead two professional leagues. As he had done 13 years before, Podoloff again negotiated the merger of two leagues: the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the National Basketball League (NBL), forming the National Basketball Association in the summer of 1948. During his 17-year tenure, Podoloff brought stability to professional basketball and helped financially unstable franchises to stay on their feet; introduced the collegiate draft in 1947; instituted the 24-second clock in 1954, perhaps the most important rules change in pro basketball history; and significantly increased national recognition of the game by securing its first television contract in 1954. Podoloff helped create an NBA that eventually grew from a small, regional association to a worldwide presence, and the standard by which all other professional sports leagues are measured. Podoloff was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor on April 25, 1974. The Podoloff Cup is given annually to the NBA's MVP.
[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]
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