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From 'bottom of totem pole,' NBA begins its climb in 1950s

A career in the NBA seemed such an uncertainty as the 1950s arrived that Bob Cousy considered driving school a better option than playing for a team he didn't even know how to find on a map.

"Basketball was at the bottom of the totem pole," said Cousy, one of the sport's few bankable stars at the time.

The NBA, known today as a leader when it comes to culture and racial issues, was anything but at a time when segregation divided the country. It was a powerless, fledgling league trying to find its footing. Franchises were folding and few paid much attention to the NBA.