National Basketball Association


Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls and JaVale McGee when he played for the Washington Wizards. McGee currently plays for the Denver Nuggets.

A Short History of Basketball Before the NBA

What began as a way to entertain college athletes during the off season quickly overtook the country. In 1896, just five years after basketballs invention in 1891, the first professional team was formed in Trenton, New Jersey. Two years later, in 1898 the first league was founded by a group of sports editors and was called the National Basketball League (NBL) but soon dissolved.

In 1925 the first truly successful league was formed and was known as the American Basketball League (ABL) but it too disbanded in 1931. Soon afterward another pro-league took the name, National Basketball League (NBL) followed by another league formation in 1946, called the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The NBA or National Basketball Association, as we know it today, is the merger of the BAA and NBL which occurred in 1949.

The NBA Through the Years

The National Basketball Association (NBA) began on August 3, 1949 because of the merger between the BAA and NBL. This merger created 17 franchises, or teams, which were then consolidated down to 11 the next year. Consolidation continued until it reached only eight in 1954. Those eight remain in the league today and include the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, and the Sacramento Kings. After the consolidation in 1950 the NBA formed two divisions, the Eastern and the Western which would later transform into the Eastern and Western Conferences in 1970. To date, the NBA contains 2 conferences, the Eastern and the Western, and 30 total teams, one of which is located in Canada.

Professional basketball remained an all white sport until 1947 when Wataru Misaka, a Japanese-American, signed with the New York Knicks and became the first non-white player in NBA history. In 1950 the first African-American to enter the NBA, Harold Hunter, signed with the Washington Capitols. He was later cut during training, however, several other African-Americans played in the league that season to include: Chuck Cooper with the Boston Celtics, Earl Lloyd also with the Washington Capitols, and Nathaniel Clifton with the New York Knicks.

The first dynasty in the history of the National Basketball Association is held by the Minneapolis Lakers, later known as the Los Angeles Lakers, who, with the help of center George Mikan, won five NBA championships between 1949 and 1954. The Los Angeles Lakers would go on to the win a total of 16 championships and is the second most successful team in the NBA. First place goes to the Boston Celtics who have won a total of 17 championships, eight of which were won consecutively between 1959 and 1966. Not only does this make them the number one winning team in the NBA, but it also remains the longest winning streak in history.

In 1961 the Chicago Packers entered the NBA as the ninth team. They are now known as the Washington Wizards. Between 1966 and 1968 five more teams were formed. These teams included the Chicago Bulls in 1966, the Milwaukee Bucks in 1968, the Phoenix Suns in 1968, the San Diego Rockets now known as the Houston Rockets in 1967, and the Seattle SuperSonics now the Oklahoma City Thunder in 1967.

A new league formed and became a huge rival for the NBA in 1967. The American Basketball Association (ABA) remained a threat through overbidding the NBA on key players. This rivalry continued through to 1976. During this time the NBA grew to include an additional four teams, the Buffalo Braves now known as the Los Angeles Clippers in 1970, the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1970, the New Orleans Jazz which is now in Utah in 1974 and the Portland Trail Blazers in 1970.

The two leagues came to an agreement in 1976 and the American Basketball Association was absorbed into the National Basketball Association. This absorption brought four new teams into the NBA, the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers, the New York or Brooklyn Nets and the San Antonio Spurs. These additional teams brought the total number of franchises to 22.

Due to both perceived and real drug-related issues among the players and lower fan turn outs both in person and through television ratings, the last half of the 1970's looked bleak for the NBA. However, in 1979 Larry Bird joined the Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. These two rookies sparked a drastic increase in the popularity of the NBA, not only state side but across the world as well.

The Dallas Mavericks joined the NBA in the early 1980's and shortly after, in 1984, Michael Jordan signed with the Chicago Bulls. The increasing popularity of the sport and the NBA in particular sparked the addition of four more teams between 1988 and 1989. The Charlotte Hornets, the Miami Heat, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Orlando Magic joined the ranks and brought the NBA to a total of 27 teams.

The NBA made its Olympic appearance in 1992 when professional athletes were first allowed to compete. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson among others, joined the United States men's Olympic basketball team, which soon earned the nickname “The Dream Team.” This all star line up crushed the competition and brought home the Gold Medal in a staggering victory.

The National Basketball Association expanded yet again in 1995. Canada now held two teams in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. The Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001, leaving Canada with just the one team. The following year, in 1996, the NBA created the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The final addition to the NBA occurred in 2004 with the establishment of the Charlotte Bobcats.

In 1995 a labor dispute caused a lockout, or a company initiated work stoppage, which lasted over two months. Another lockout happened in 1996 but only lasted a few hours. Both these lockouts ended before the start of the season. However, in 1998, the third lockout of NBA history bled into the season. This, in turn, caused the season to be shortened to only 50 games. The NBA initiated another lockout in 2011 which lasted five months and also resulted in a shortened season of only 66 games.

Players were not the only ones subjected to NBA lockouts. In 2009, referees were forced into a work stoppage when their contracts expired. In under two months they reached a deal but not before the season began. For the first few preseason games, the NBA used referees from their WNBA and the NBA Development League.

The Numbers of the Game

Of the current 30 teams within the NBA only 17 have won the NBA Finals and only 23 have made it that far at all, leaving seven teams to have never appeared in the championships.

The Los Angeles Lakers boast a staggering 31 NBA Finals appearances, with an almost even split of 16 wins and 15 losses between 1949 and 2010. The Boston Celtics have entered the finals 21 times between 1957 and 2010. Though ten less than the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics have won a substantially larger percentage of their games at 17 wins and only four losses.

The Chicago Bulls may have only won six championships, but they haven't lost one either with a 100% NBA finals wins all of which occurred in the 1990's over eight years. If the Chicago Bulls made it that far, they won.

The San Antonio Spurs also held a 100 percent ratio of wins to appearances in the finals until 2013 when they lost for the first time to the Miami Heat. They have reached the finals five times and won four of those.

The Philadelphia 76ers have made it to the finals nine times between 1950 and 2001, winning three times. Of the Detroit Pistons seven finals matches they have walked away winners, three times as well. The Golden State Warriors have also won three championships, but haven't qualified since 1975. The Miami Heat, on the other hand, has made it that far four times between 2006 and 2011, winning three of them.

Between 1951 and 1999 the New York Knicks have made it to the top eight times, but have only walked away the winner twice. The Houston Rockets have also only won two finals and made it that far four times.

The Washington Wizards, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Oklahoma City Thunder have all made it to the NBA Finals four times and only won once. Also, only winning one final is the Portland Trail Blazers, who qualified three times between 1977 and 1992.

The Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks have both won once and lost once. The Sacramento Kings have one win for their one appearance throughout their history.

The teams that have reached the finals twice but have never won are the Brooklyn Nets, the Orlando Magic, the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz.

The Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the finals in 2007 but lost to the San Antonio Spurs. In 2000 the Indiana Pacers made it for the first time but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The seven teams to have never made it to the NBA Finals are the Charlotte Bobcats, the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Toronto Raptors.

The Road to the Championships

Training begins in late September in the form of camps. These camps prepare players for the season to come and allow the coaches to evaluate and build their rosters. They build on the teams and players' strengths and work to improve their weaknesses. As a type of warm up, preseason games are held until the official season opening on the last week of October. These exhibition games can be held in cities not affiliated with the NBA either stateside or abroad and take place after the training camps.

The regular season beings at the end of October and ends the middle of April with a break in February for the NBA All-Star Game. During the season, each team will play a total of 82 games, half at home and half away. 16 of those games are against their own division where they play their opponents four times throughout the year. They also play the teams from the other two divisions within their conference, six of them four times for a total of 24 games and four of them three times for an additional 12 games. They will also play each team from the other conference two times for the remaining 30 games.

This set up makes the NBA stand out from the other major professional sports leagues in both the United States and in Canada because every team plays every team at least once within the season. The only other major sports league to do so is the National Hockey League (NHL). The NBA also stands out from the rest due to its habit of scheduling games on Christmas and has done so since 1947. Christmas is also the day when the first games of the season are aired on television and these games tend to have the highest ratings of the year.

The season then takes a short break in February for the All-Star Game. Each conference pulls together one All-Star team, made up of fan voted players and coaches' top picks. The All-Star Game is when the All-Star MVP is decided. Once the All-Star game is done, the season picks back up with the trade break looming close. The trade break lands on the 16th Thursday of that season and is the last day for teams to trade players.

At the end of the regular season awards and honors to players with high achievements are voted on and the teams are ranked according to their overall performance. Shortly after the regular season ends, the playoff's begin, usually at the end of April.

The top eight teams from each conference compete against each other in a tournament. Teams play each other in a best of seven format, the one to reach four wins first moves on while the other drops out. These seven games are held in a 2-2-1-1-1 home court vs. away pattern. Once the playoffs are down to just two teams, one from each conference, the NBA Finals are held in June. The Finals also follow the best of seven tournament format, but with a 2-3-2 home court vs. away pattern. The team to reach four wins first is the winner of the NBA Finals of that season and take home the coveted Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

Sports | Basketball

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