Fred Zollner, namesake of the NBA's Western Conference trophy, played a key role in the early development of the NBA. Helping to oversee the merger of the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the National Basketball League (NBL) to form the National Basketball Association, Zollner was instrumental in the early NBA's survival. He contributed financial support, transportation, and personnel to keep the league alive. Zollner was also a strong advocate for rule changes which helped to improve basketball. He advocated for the adoption of the 24-second clock, the six-foul rule, and the widening of the free-throw lane. Through 1974, Zollner owned the NBL's Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons (1941-48), later known as the Fort Wayne Pistons (BAA: 1948-49, NBA: 1949-57) and eventually the NBA's Detroit Pistons (1957-present). He was the first owner to hire a bench coach and, in 1952, the first to buy a DC-3 airplane to transport his team to games.