CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
The Camden Bullets played four seasons in the old Eastern Professional Basketball League in the 1960s, and came back for a one season encore in 1970-71. Home games were played at Camden Convention Hall, which was of course the original Camden Armory. Besides the Bullets, Convention Hall hosted professional wrestling, Roller Derby, and shows of all kinds until it was destroyed in a 1970s fire. The Bullets games were broadcast on radio by WKDN-FM 106.9, with Bill Camperson doing the play-by-play.
The Bullets came into the EPBL in the 1961-1962 season. Coached by Buddy Donnelly, their first season was nothing to write home about, the Bullets went 10-15, finishing 6th in a nine team league. The next three years were the stuff of hoop dreams. Paul Arizin, a Hall of Fame player, 3 time All-NBA first team and 10 time All Star, had decided to stay in the Philadelphia area rather than move to San Francisco when the Warriors left for the West Coast. He left the NBA after the 1961-1962 season as its third leading all-time scorer with 16,266 points. For the next three seasons, he led the Bullets on the boards at Convention Hall.
In the 1962-63 season, the Bullets went 20-8, tying the Allentown Jets for first place in the then 7 team loop. Arizin was both Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year, although it was mighty strange to call him a rookie. The Bullets sadly fell to the Wilkes-Barre Barons in a best two-out-of three semifinal playoff series. The following season, however, Arizin and the Bullets were not to be denied. The Bullets again tied Allentown for first place in the league, with a 21 and 7 record. The Scranton Miners stretched the Bullets to three games in the semi-finals, with Camden winning the third game 131-125. The Bullets won their championship after that, taking two games from the Trenton Colonials.
1964-65 was another fine year for the Bullets, who had the league's top mark at 18 wins to 10 defeats. The playoffs were heartbreaking however, as the Camden hoopsters fell in the semifinal's third game 130-126 in overtime to the Allentown Jets. Paul Arizin retired after this season.
Paul Arizin had some fine players to work with on the court, including guard Hal "King" Lear, a former All-American at Temple U. and an EPBL star for 10 seasons, ex-Harlem Globetrotter Walt Dukes, who had spent eight seasons in the NBA with the Minneapolis Lakers, New York Knicks, and Detroit Pistons, and Bobby McNeill, an All-American at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia who played with the Knicks, St. Louis Hawks, and Philadelphia Warriors in the NBA.
1965-1966 proved to be the last season for the "original" Bullets. Without Arizin they fell to 14-14, and the team folded after the season concluded. The Eastern Professional Basketball League continued operations until 1969-70. The league evolved into the Eastern Basketball Association for the 1970-71 season, and there was a Camden Bullets team that went 12-16. Any hopes for the Bullets to remain commercially viable were destroyed by the race riot the following summer. Professional basketball would not return to Camden for 27 years.
The Camden Bullets were owned and operated by a group of local businessmen from South Jersey and Philadelphia, including Dr. Charles E. Brimm, long-time Camden general practitioner, Philadelphia radio and television personality Hy Lit, and Harvey Pollack, who has been part of the Philadelphia area sports scene as a statistician and publicist for over five decades and is still active as of this January 2003 writing.
Convention Hall - 1911
In these years the building was known as The Camden Armory, as the 3rd new Jersey National Guard Regiment was headquartered in this building.
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