Monday, June 27th, 2011 at 1:42 pm  |  8 responses

Still Happenin’

At 90 years old, Whitey Von Nieda still hasn’t lost his love for the game.

by Michael Bradley

Stanley “Whitey” Von Nieda remembers the guy in Fort Wayne with the crutch.

“He sat in the front row, and he would trip you when you went by,” Von Nieda says. Such was life in the late 1940s, when professional basketball was in its infancy, and Von Nieda was a high-scoring 6-1 guard. whitey von nieda

Born in Ephrata, PA, Von Nieda spent three years at Penn State before entering the military in 1943. While playing for an army team out of Fort Benning, GA, he led the nation—college, pro or otherwise—in scoring with 25 ppg. After WWII, he played in the old Eastern League for Lancaster and continued his hot scoring. “I shot one hand from the outside, but my game was driving,” says Von Nieda, who turned 90 on June 19. “I threw a running hook, which was particularly effective, because I could use it over anybody. I shot it over (6-11 Hall of Fame center) George Mikan.”

In 1947, Von Nieda joined the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in the NBL, where he averaged 12.1 ppg. The following season, Von Nieda scored 10 a game for the Blackhawks, who were absorbed into the NBA before the ’49-50 campaign. That season, during which he was traded to the Baltimore Bullets, Von Nieda managed 5.3 ppg. “It was a hectic time,” he says of the early NBA. “You had teams coming from two directions. The [NBL] played more defense, and the NBA had more scoring.”

During his final season, Von Nieda played for a young Red Auerbach. Perhaps inspired by the Redhead, Von Nieda left the NBA in 1950 to become player/coach for Lancaster of the Eastern League. He later coached at Elizabethtown College before becoming a salesman. Basketball still hasn’t left his blood, though. “I was just shooting the other day,” Von Nieda says.

“When I started, the ball felt like a shot put, but I warmed up.” He enjoys watching the NBA, particularly players “who make it happen.”

Just like he used to.

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  • Otome Charles Opuoro

    Once a baller, always a baller. I’ll be loving this game into the grave if I see the grave.

  • MikeC.


  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I think they all had the same nicname in those days.

  • MikeC.

    @Dacre – That’s quite possible. One guy calls another guy “Whitey”, that guy calls the first guy something else, then they’re fighting. Sounds about right.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/officerbarbrady what

    At 90 years old, Uncle Ruckus still hasn’t lost his love for Whitey.

  • http://www.acb.com A l a n

    stories like this are what make this website the best around about basketball stuff. Thanks!!

  • kvn

    Whitey (my Dad) was called that from childhood because he had blond – almost white – hair.

  • Bart n Dan

    Never was much of a basketball player myself, but here is a big respectful shout-out to Whitey!!! Funny, he served me and my now deceased father in-law(god bless him) some fine brew and even better conversation at Stoudts brew pub in Adamstown PA on a fine April afternoon. We were the only ones at the bar and got his undivided attention. Heard all about his basketball passion and the thing that stands out to me is I remember him saying ” I got out of the sport a little too early..” Speaking about the pay these guys receive these days… God Bless… and thanks for the memory of an afternoon with a true old school pioneer of the NBA..