History of the National Basketball Association, or NBA.

NBA History – Timeline and Global Impact

        The history of the NBA (National Basketball Association) is filled with iconic moments, legendary players, and memorable teams. Today, it is a global phenomenon with fans from all over the World. The league went through years of challenges and financial issues to make it to this point. The National Basketball Association’s history is vast and filled with remarkable stories and achievements. It will continue to evolve and captivate its estimated 2.2 billion fans around the globe.

        The Basketball Association of America (BAA) founded the league on June 6, 1946. In 1947, the Philadelphia Warriors won the first BAA championship game. In 1949, the BAA merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) to form the National Basketball Association or the NBA as we know it today. Six of the original teams from the BAA are still active in the NBA as of 2023. Only two of the six teams remain in the same city with their original name, the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks.

Early Years of the NBA

        The Boston Celtics dominated the early years of the NBA, winning 11 championships in 13 seasons from 1957 to 1969. Boston was led by legendary head coach Red Auerbach and Hall-of-Fame players Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. In the 1960s, the league was far less visible than it is today. Many teams were using arenas that belonged to NHL teams. Even sixty years ago, the NCAA served as the most prominent talent pool for the NBA. Some believe the 1960s was the best decade in NBA history. Here is a timeline of the significant events that helped shape the NBA in the 1960s.

  • 1962: Wilt Chamberlain scores 100 points in a 169-147 victory over the New York Knicks. Since then, no player has come close to breaking this record.

  • 1963: Bob Cousy leads the Celtics to their fifth straight title in his last NBA game.

  • 1965: Jerry West put on one of the greatest playoff scoring performances of all-time. West averaged 40.6 points per game (ppg) in 11 postseason games, including 46 ppg in the Western Division Finals against the Bullets.

  • 1969: Player-coach Bill Russell wins his 11th title in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics. Russell would retire after this season as the winningest champion in NBA history.

The Forgotten Era

        The 1970s were a difficult time for many American families and businesses. Across the United States, people were experiencing significant inflation and political turmoil. The fallout from Watergate and the Vietnam War tarnished America’s previously prestigious image. Moreover, cocaine and heroin addiction began to take control of the country. The National Basketball Association was no exception to the hardships in the United States.

        Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times estimated that 75% of the league’s players used cocaine in the 1970s. Violence on the court during NBA games had become commonplace. As a result, most games, including the 1978 and 1979 NBA Finals, were on tape delay.

        In 1979, the New York Knicks made history by becoming the first NBA team to have an all-black roster. Unfortunately, racism was still very prevalent in America during this time. Many Knicks fans protested, and some even resorted to violence to express disapproval. The forgotten era concluded with the emergence of young superstars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

  • 1971: Spencer Haywood wins major Supreme Court ruling allowing players to enter the NBA before completing college.

  • 1972: The Lakers win 33 consecutive games. Over five decades later, this remains the most in NBA history.

  • 1976: The NBA settled Oscar Robertson’s lawsuit. This resulted in the formation of the current rules involving NBA Free Agency.

  • 1979: The NBA makes the historic decision to add the 3-point line.

The Magic-Bird Era

        In the 1979-80 season, Lakers point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Celtics forward Larry Bird emerged onto the scene. Many believe these two players were the most influential in the league’s history. The NBA considers this era of basketball the Golden Age. It helped repair the league’s image, which was heavily tarnished during the 70s. Their rivalry fueled the surge of NBA popularity in the 1980s. 

        In 1979, the league inked a three-year $1.5 million deal with its first cable television partner, USA Network. Both sides would extend their agreement for two years and $11 million. The NBA was experiencing rapid growth, partly due to the rivalry between Larry Bird’s Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Lakers. The NBA’s next cable contract with TBS in 1984-85 was for two years and $20 million. Several generational talents were drafted in the first half of the 1980s, setting the stage for the NBA’s second Golden Age in the late 80s.

  • 1979: The NBA makes the historic decision to add the 3-point line. Also, the NBA signs its first cable deal with USA Network

  • 1983: The NBA Drug Act was implemented to attempt to end the rampant drug abuse taking place in the league.

  • 1986: The Boston Celtics finish the regular season with a 40-1 home record, which remains the best in NBA history almost four decades later.

  • 1987: TBS televised the dunk contest live for the first time.

The Jumpman Era

        The 1990s included some of the best trash talkers in NBA history such as Gary Payton and Reggie Miller. John Stockton, who would become the best passer in league history, was one of the most accomplished players never to win a title. He led the league in assists for nine straight years and finished with the most assists in NBA history (15,806). Moreover, Stockton is also the all-time steals leader (3265). However, Michael Jordan primarily defined the era with his dominance. The Chicago Bulls, led by Jordan, won six titles in eight years. Jordan’s greatness and marketability elevated the NBA to new heights.

        The 90s also saw future stars such as Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Allen Iverson emerge. One thing became apparent: the NBA would not have to worry about finding new superstars for a long time. After winning three straight titles, Michael Jordan shocked the World by retiring in 1993, stating that he had lost his desire to play basketball. Eighteen months later, Jordan returned to the National Basketball Association, winning three straight titles again from 1996-1998.

The Dream Team

        The emergence of the Dream Team in 1992 helped the NBA grow even more prominent. There is a strong case for the 1992 United States men’s basketball team being the most incredible team ever assembled in any sport. Michael Jordan, who is the goat of basketball to many NBA fans, didn’t lead the team in a single offensive statistic. The team was so elite that one of the greatest scorers ever didn’t even have to focus on scoring. Jordan instead focused more on the defensive end, guarding the opposing team’s best player and averaging a remarkable 4.1 steals per game.

        They won their games by an average of 43.8 points, including a 32-point victory in the Gold Medal match against Croatia. The Naismith Hall of Fame has inducted eleven players and three coaches from this team. This Summer Olympic performance in Barcelona in 1992 again established the United States as the premiere basketball country. The Dream Team put the highest quality of team basketball on full display to the rest of the World.

International Impact

        Many international players began to realize that the NBA was the pinnacle of basketball. Before the 1991-92 season, only 23 international players were on NBA rosters. Twenty years later, there were 74 international players in the league. Thirty years later, the NBA has 109 active international players. Today, the NBA is one of the most diverse sports leagues in the World. This diversity has allowed the league to appeal to different domestic and international markets.

  • 1992: They formed the original Dream Team, which ended up winning gold at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

  • 1994: Hakeem Olajuwon becomes the first international player to win the NBA MVP award, further enriching the league’s global appeal.

  • 1995: John Stockton passes Magic Johnson to become the NBA’s all-time leader in assists with 9,922.

  • 1998: Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Bulls and Jazz became the highest rated and most watched game in NBA history. It still holds these records thirty-five years later.

The NBA in the 21st Century

        The 21st Century has seen the league expand its reach through global marketing campaigns, international competitions, and diverse talent. A few decades ago, the NBA witnessed the rise of two dynasties filled with superstars and Hall-of-Famers. The Lakers dynasty rose to prominence in the early 2000s. Led by former MVPs Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, they won three consecutive titles from 2000 to 2002. The San Antonio Spurs also emerged as a dynasty in the early 2000s. They drafted three Hall-of-Fame players in five years (1997-Tim Duncan, 1999-Manu Ginobili, 2001-Tony Parker). Gregg Popovich led the Spurs to five titles, including four between 1999 and 2007.

        The 2003 NBA Draft was one of the best draft classes ever. Future Hall of Famers LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade were taken in the top five. 2008 was marked by one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NBA history led by Celtics President Danny Ainge. A pair of bold trades sent Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics, forming the original “Big Three” with Paul Pierce. The previous season was disastrous for Boston, as they finished 24-58. In their first season together, the “Big Three” led the Celtics to a league-best regular season record (66-16) and an NBA Title. 

Pioneering the Draft Lottery System

        In 2012, the Charlotte Bobcats finished with the worst record in NBA history. Due to the NBA’s draft lottery, they would not receive the first overall pick but the second selection in the 2012 NBA Draft. Since 1985, the NBA Draft Lottery has been used, consistently giving the league more competitive balance and fan engagement. Furthermore, tanking is far less beneficial for teams since the odds are not guaranteed. This results in NBA teams remaining competitive for the entire season. The National Basketball Association pioneered the draft lottery system, which is being implemented for the first time by Major League Baseball (MLB) this year.

Curry Revolutionizes the Game

        Steph Curry completely changed how a modern NBA point guard plays the game. Curry’s unique ability as a shooter revolutionized the importance of three-point shooting in the modern NBA. As a result, teams began to prioritize their offensive strategy around three-point shooting. Moreover, Steph Curry extended the boundaries of shot selection, making long-range threes an efficient and viable scoring option. Furthermore, the Golden State Warriors star inspired an entire generation of young players.         

        Curry proved that if you have a good enough skillset, you don’t have to be a naturally gifted athlete to succeed in the NBA. Ultimately, Curry would cement his legacy by leading the Warriors to the best NBA record in a season. Moreover, Golden State would win three titles in four years (2015-2018). The Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in league history to overcome a 3-1 Finals deficit, defeating the Warriors in seven games in the 2015-16 season. In addition, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving would deliver the first championship in Cleveland Cavaliers franchise history. 

  • 2006: Kobe Bryant finishes with 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. This marked the most points scored in modern history and the most ever scored by a guard.

  • 2006: The minimum draft age in the NBA was raised from 18 to 19. This new rule prevented players from being drafted straight out of high school.

  • 2009: Phil Jackson passes Red Auerbach for the most NBA titles won as a coach with ten.

  • 2012: The Charlotte Bobcats finish with the worst record in NBA history (7-59).

  • 2016: The Golden State Warriors finish with the best NBA record in a season (73-9). The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated them in seven games in the NBA Finals.

The NBA’s Impact

        The National Basketball Association has developed a massive global following in recent years. It brings elite athletes, entertainment, and joy to fans worldwide. The league based in the United States is the pinnacle of global basketball talent. Since the league’s inception in 1946, less than 5,000 players have played a game in the National Basketball Association. Though, the impact of the NBA goes far beyond basketball.

        In addition to providing excitement for fans, the National Basketball Association significantly impacts culture, society, and the economy. The NBA has vast cultural influence, which impacts many different industries globally. Furthermore, the league connects with fans worldwide via social media and other platforms. The younger generation looks up to the league’s players as role models and sources of motivation. Also, NBA players commonly participate in community outreach programs, further enhancing their positive influence on the younger generation.

        The National Basketball Association uses its platform to raise awareness on important topics. The issues the NBA addresses include racial justice, mental health awareness, and gender equality. Ultimately, this creates a positive and inspiring impact on society. Moreover, the NBA and its millions of fans generate substantial economic growth and create thousands of job opportunities for locals. Further, local economies are stimulated during the NBA season due to tourism.

        The National Basketball Association has a very long history. Since the early 90s, and arguably far sooner, the National Basketball Association has remained the best basketball league in the world. This article could not mention every great player in the NBA’s long history. Instead, we focused on the ones who made the most significant impact on the National Basketball Association.

F.A.Q.

Who has the most NBA Championships?

The Boston Celtics have won the most NBA championships with a total of 17.

What size is an NBA basketball?

The NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumference. This is also referred to as a “Size 7” basketball.

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    […]       Throughout the NBA’s long history, cherry-picking has remained legal. Cherry picking is also permitted at the high school, college, […]

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