Armed with a great smile and a razor-sharp memory, the Ukranian-born and South Philly-raised Gottlieb was a multi-faceted hoops pioneer - rules innovator, successful coach, masterful promoter, and logistics wizard - whose tactical talents and business acumen gave rise to what would ultimately evolve into today's NBA.
In 1918, Gottlieb organized and coached a social club-sponsored amateur team for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association (SPHA) that he grew into a regionally dominant and ultimately professional powerhouse; from the late 1920s to early 1940s, the SPHAs dominated the original Eastern and American Basketball Leagues, winning multiple championships and regularly beating prominent touring clubs like the Original Celtics and the New York Renaissance Five (Rens).
In 1946, Gottlieb helped establish a new professional league - the Basketball Association of America. As owner, general manager, coach, and "promoter-in-chief" of the league's Philadelphia Warriors, he won the BAA’s first championship in 1946-47.
Three seasons later, Gottlieb played a pivotal role in the merger of the BAA with the National Basketball League to form the National Basketball Association, where his Warriors would win a second league crown in 1956, and to which he would later add the groundbreaking talents of one Wilt Chamberlain in 1959.
After selling the team in 1962, Gottleib became the NBA's "Mr. Basketball" - the definitive and authoritative resource spanning league rules, history, scheduling, and operations - until his death in 1979. He is immortalized not only as a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, but also as the name on the trophy given annually to the NBA's Rookie of the Year.