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NBA History

Dating back to 1946, the National Basketball Association is the newest of the four major North American professional sports leagues. In that time, it has emerged from a fledgling organization with unknown players to a league with many of the most famous athletes in world history.

The NBA originally began as the Basketball Association of America. The owners of the major ice hockey arenas in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and Canada founded it in 1946. On November 1, 1946, the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers in what the NBA now regards as the league’s first game.

In August of 1949, the BAA agreed to merge with the National Basketball League. The new league was renamed as the National Basketball Association. The NBA had seventeen franchises at its beginning. The number of teams was trimmed down in subsequent years due to financial concerns, and by the 1953-54 season, there were only eight franchises. All eight franchises – the Knicks, Celtics, Warriors, Lakers, Royals/Kings, Pistons, Hawks, and Nationals/76ers – are still in existence today.

There were several teams in the early days that played in smaller cities. These cities included Rochester, Fort Wayne, Syracuse, and “Tri-Cities” (the area now known as the Quad Cities). All of teams playing in these smaller cities eventually relocated to bigger cities. Of the originally eight franchises, only the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks have stayed put.

The early years of the NBA were dominated by the Minneapolis Lakers. The Lakers were led by center George Mikan. He led the Lakers to five championships. Mikan was the league’s first dominant player, and the League adopted multiple rule changes strictly because of him. For example, the foul lane was widened to prevent him from being able to stand near the basket for long periods of time.

Another rule inspired by Mikan was the introduction of the shot clock. The shot clock was a 24-second clock and each time had that amount of time to get a shot off or else they would turn the ball over. The NBA was having a hard time attracting fans and a big reason was because of the low scoring. The shot clock would increase the number of shots per game and prevent stalling. Danny Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals, was the first advocate for the shot clock and came up with a formula to get to the 24 seconds that is still used to this day. He noticed that each team took about 60 shots in games that he enjoyed. That meant 120 shots per game. Each game is 48 minutes long – 2,880 seconds. He divided 2,880 by 120 and got to 24.

The shot clock did in fact lead to more scoring and fan support. The league gradually became more of an attraction and started to be recognized as a major professional sports league.

The 1960s were dominated by the Boston Celtics. At one point, they won eight consecutive championships. They were coached by the legendary Red Auerbach and led on the court by center Bill Russell. Russell would go on to win 11 championships in his career – more than any other player.

Despite the fact that the NBA is a relatively new league when compared to the MLB, NFL, and NHL, it has a strong history represented by several notable players and teams. Its players now earn more bigger salaries on average than any of the other professional sports leagues – a far cry from the days when players worked other jobs during their playing career to be able to get by.