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The Early Years

January 31, 2019 AT 12:00 AM

A brief history of the NBA

With the NBA’s rising popularity as a global phenomenon, it is hard to imagine that it was once a fledgling organization with few teams and a general lack of marketing and publicity. The League started out as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1946, with two other competing professional leagues in the mix. However, the BAA benefitted from its association with the owners of professional hockey teams and arenas, providing them with suitable venues for their games.

The first game was played between the New York Knicks and the Toronto Huskies, the predecessors of today’s Raptors, and the first season was won by the Philadelphia Warriors, led by early sensation ‘Jumping Joe’ Fulks. The season similarly followed a regular-season and playoffs format, with 11 teams divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) title was adopted in 1949 when the BAA merged with a rival league, although there were only eight teams for several years due to financial concerns. The early successes of the Minneapolis Lakers and George Mikan was followed by the dominant Boston Celtics dynasty led by Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, which clinched 11 titles in just 13 seasons. Along with the establishment of the shot clock and other rule changes, these impressive teams and stars brought renewed interest and resulted in an expansion to 18 teams in 1974.

The NBA’s stiffest competition yet came from the short-lived but innovative and exciting American Basketball Association (ABA), which introduced concepts like the three-point line and the Slam Dunk Contest. After approximately a decade, the ABA and its premier teams were co-opted into the NBA as well, ushering in a new era of legends. Popularity soared in the 1980s with the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry as the Celtics and Lakers battled it out for supremacy, while the 1990s brought ‘Air Jordan’ and a double three-peat for the Chicago Bulls.

Since then, the League has certainly not been short of superstars, particularly with the rise of international hoops and foreign players. With LeBron James working on his legacy as potentially the game’s greatest and the Golden State Warriors putting in their claim in the ‘greatest team’ department, it is safe to say that the ascent of the NBA has no end in sight.

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