Fred Zollner

Fred Zollner played a key role in the early development of the NBA and ultimately ensured the league’s survival during the tough times. Helping to oversee the merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League to form the National Basketball Association in 1949, Zollner was a shrewd businessman who exercised sound judgment at every turn. He contributed financial support, transportation, and personnel to keep the league alive during the early years and was a strong advocate for rule changes which helped to improve the game. He advocated for the adoption of the 24-second clock, the six-foul rule, and the widening of the free throw lane. 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 (1957-1974). 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.