The National Basketball Association (NBA) is North America's premier professional men's basketball league, composed of thirty teams: twenty-nine in the United States and one in Canada. It is an active member of USA Basketball (USAB), which is recognized by the International Basketball Federation as the National Governing Body (NGB) for basketball in the United States. The NBA is one of the four major North American professional sports leagues, which also includes Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL).
The league was founded in New York City on June 6, 1946 as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The league adopted the name National Basketball Association in 1949 after merging with the rival National Basketball League. The league's several international as well as individual team offices are directed out of its head offices located in the Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue in New York City. NBA Entertainment and NBA TV studios are directed out of offices located in Secaucus, New Jersey.
 1940s and 1950s: The early years
The Basketball Association of America was founded in 1946 by the owners of the major ice hockey arenas in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. On November 1, 1946, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers, which the NBA now regards as the first game played in the league's history. Although there had been earlier attempts at professional basketball leagues, including the American Basketball League and the National Basketball League, the BAA was the first league to attempt to play primarily in large arenas in major cities. During its early years, the quality of play in the BAA was not significantly better than in competing leagues or among leading independent clubs such as the Harlem Globetrotters. For instance, the 1948 ABL finalist Baltimore Bullets moved to the BAA and won that league's 1948 title, and the 1948 NBL champion Minneapolis Lakers won the 1949 BAA title.
On August 3, 1949, the BAA agreed to merge with the NBL, creating the new National Basketball Association. The new league had seventeen franchises located in a mix of large and small cities, as well as large arenas and smaller gymnasiums and armories. In 1950, the NBA consolidated to eleven franchises, a process that continued until 1954, when the league reached its smallest size of eight franchises, all of which are still in the league (the Knicks, Celtics, Warriors, Lakers, Royals/Kings, Pistons, Hawks, and Nationals/76ers).
The process of contraction saw the league's smaller-city franchises move to larger cities. The Hawks shifted from "Tri-Cities" (the area now known as the Quad Cities) to Milwaukee (in 1951) and then to St. Louis (in 1955); the Royals from Rochester to Cincinnati (in 1957); and the Pistons from Fort Wayne to Detroit (in 1957). In 1960, the Lakers relocated to Los Angeles, and the Warriors moved to San Francisco, in 1963. The following year, the Nationals left upstate New York to bring basketball back to Philadelphia, changing their nickname from "Nationals" to "76ers." This means out of the original eight franchises, only the Knicks and Celtics have not relocated at any point.
Although Japanese-American Wataru Misaka technically broke the NBA color barrier in the 1947–48 season when he played for the New York Knicks, 1950 is recognized as the year the NBA integrated. This year witnessed the addition of African American players by several teams, including Chuck Cooper with the Boston Celtics, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton with the New York Knicks, and Earl Lloyd with the Washington Capitols.
During this period, the Minneapolis Lakers, led by center George Mikan, won five NBA Championships and established themselves as the league's first dynasty. To encourage shooting and discourage stalling, the league introduced the 24-second shot clock in 1954. If a team does not attempt to score a field goal (or the ball fails to make contact with the rim) within 24 seconds of obtaining the ball, play is stopped and the ball given to its opponent.
In 1957, rookie center Bill Russell joined the Boston Celtics, who already featured guard Bob Cousy and coach Red Auerbach, and went on to lead the club to eleven NBA titles in thirteen seasons. Center Wilt Chamberlain entered the league with the Warriors in 1959 and became the dominant individual star of the 1960s, setting new records in scoring (100) and rebounding (55). Russell's rivalry with Chamberlain became one of the great individual rivalries in the history of American team sports.
 1960s: Celtics dynasty
Through this period, the NBA continued to strengthen with the shift of the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Warriors to San Francisco, and the Syracuse Nationals to Philadelphia, as well as the addition of its first expansion franchises. The Chicago Packers (now Washington Wizards) became the 9th NBA team in 1961. From 1966 to 1968, the league expanded from nine teams to fourteen, introducing the Chicago Bulls, Seattle SuperSonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder), San Diego Rockets (who relocated to Houston four years later), Milwaukee Bucks, and Phoenix Suns.
In 1967, the league faced a new external threat with the formation of the American Basketball Association. The leagues engaged in a bidding war. The NBA landed the most important college star of the era, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor). However, the NBA's leading scorer, Rick Barry jumped to the ABA, as did four veteran referees—Norm Drucker, Earl Strom, John Vanak, and Joe Gushue.
 1970s: The NBA vs. the ABA
The American Basketball Association also succeeded in signing a number of major stars, including Julius Erving, in part because it allowed teams to sign college undergraduates. The NBA expanded rapidly during this period, one purpose being to tie up the most viable cities. From 1966 to 1974, the NBA grew from nine franchises to 18. In 1970 the Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Buffalo Braves (now the Los Angeles Clippers) all made their debuts expanding the league to 17. The New Orleans Jazz (now in Utah) came aboard in 1974 bringing the total to 18. Following the 1976 season, the leagues reached a settlement that provided for the addition of four ABA franchises to the NBA, raising the number of franchises in the league at that time to 22. The franchises added were the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and New York Nets. Some of the biggest stars of this era were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry, Dave Cowens, Julius Erving, Walt Frazier, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin, Dan Issel and Pete Maravich.
 1980s: Magic vs. Bird
The league added the ABA's innovative three-point field goal beginning in 1979 to open up the game. That same year, rookies Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson joined the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers respectively, initiating a period of significant growth in fan interest in the NBA throughout the country and the world. Bird went on to lead the Celtics to three titles, and Johnson went on to lead the Lakers to five. Also in the early '80s, the NBA added one more expansion franchise, the Dallas Mavericks, bringing the total to 23 teams.
 1990s: The Jordan Era and globalization
Michael Jordan entered the league in 1984 with the Chicago Bulls, providing an even more popular star to support growing interest in the league. This resulted in more cities demanding teams of their own. In 1988 and 1989, four cities got their wishes as the Charlotte Hornets (now New Orleans Hornets), Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Minnesota Timberwolves made their NBA debuts. A growing number of NBA star players also began coming from other countries. Initially, many of these players, such as 1994 NBA MVP Hakeem Olajuwon of Nigeria, first played NCAA basketball to enhance their skills.
In 1991, Susan O'Malley became the first female president of a major sports franchise, when she became the president of the Washington Bullets.
Jordan, along with Scottie Pippen would lead the Bulls to six championships in eight years during the 1990s. Olajuwon won back-to-back titles with the Houston Rockets in '94 and '95, during Jordan's first retirement.
The 1992 Olympic basketball Dream Team, the first to use current NBA stars, featured Michael Jordan as the anchor, along with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, and Christian Laettner.
In 1995, the NBA expanded to Canada adding with the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors. In 2001, the Vancouver Grizzlies were relocated to Memphis, which left the Raptors as the only Canadian team in the NBA.
In 1996, the NBA created a women's league, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).
In 1998, the NBA owners began a lockout which lasted 191 days and was settled on January 18, 1999. As a result of this lockout the 1998-99 NBA season was reduced from 82 to 50 games. Since these games were all played in the same year, the season is known as the 1999 NBA season. San Antonio won the championship on June 25th by beating the New York Knicks.
 2000s: Post-Jordan Western Conference domination
Since the break-up of the Chicago Bulls in the summer of 1998, the Western Conference has dominated the NBA, winning 7 of 10 championships. Tim Duncan and David Robinson won a championship in 1999 with the San Antonio Spurs, and Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant started the 2000s off with the three straight championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs won it again 2003 against the Nets, with the Lakers returning to the Finals in the following year, only to fall to the Detroit Pistons (the only championship team from 1998 to 2007 not including either Tim Duncan or Shaquille O'Neal). In the off-season, O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat, and the Lakers and Bryant did not win another playoff series until 2008. San Antonio won their third championship in 2005 with a nucleus of Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, and Duncan. In 2006, O'Neal won title number four with the Miami Heat, giving the franchise its first championship. San Antonio then swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007, giving them four titles in nine years. Before the 2007-08 season tipped off, the Boston Celtics, fresh off of one of the worst seasons in the franchise's history, made bold moves by acquiring Kevin Garnett from Minnesota and Ray Allen from Seattle to complement captain Paul Pierce. The moves immediately made the last place Celtics into a title contender for the first time in decades. As the season rolled on and the Celtics began dominating all their opponents, other teams reacted by pulling off major trades of their own, with the Lakers, the Suns, and the Mavericks all trading for major stars (Pau Gasol, Shaquille O'Neal, and Jason Kidd respectively). After a competitive regular season and playoffs, the 2008 NBA Finals saw a rematch of the league's highest profile rivalry, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. In six games, the Celtics completed the league's biggest single season turnaround by defeating the Lakers and winning the franchise's 17th championship, their first since 1986.
 The international influence
An increasing number of international players have moved directly from playing elsewhere in the world to starring in the NBA, such as:
- Leandro Barbosa, Brazil — 2007 Sixth Man Award winner (entered the NBA in 2003)
- Andrea Bargnani, Italy — First pick in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors (entered the NBA in 2006)
- Pau Gasol, Spain — 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2006 World Championships MVP (entered the NBA in 2001)
- Manu Ginóbili, Argentina — 2004 Olympic Tournament MVP and 2008 Sixth Man Award winner (drafted in 1999, entered the NBA in 2002)
- ?ydrunas Ilgauskas, Lithuania — Two time NBA All-Star, 1997–98 All-Rookie First Team (entered the NBA in 1996)
- Andrei Kirilenko, Russia — EuroBasket 2007 MVP (drafted in 1999, entered the NBA in 2001)
- Dirk Nowitzki, Germany — MVP of the 2002 World Championships and Eurobasket 2005, and 2007 NBA MVP (entered the NBA in 1998)
- Tony Parker, France — 2007 NBA Finals MVP (entered the NBA in 2001)
- Peja Stojakovic, Serbia — Eurobasket 2001 MVP (drafted in 1996, entered the NBA in 1998)
- Hedo Turkoglu, Turkey — 2008 Most Improved Player Award winner (entered the NBA in 2000)
- Yao Ming, China — First pick in the 2002 NBA Draft (entered the NBA in 2002)
On some occasions, young players from the English-speaking world have attended U.S. colleges before playing in the NBA (notable examples are Canadian Steve Nash, 2005 and 2006 MVP, and Australian Andrew Bogut, the top draft pick in 2005), while other international players generally come to the NBA from professional club teams. Currently, the Toronto Raptors have the most international players in the NBA. The NBA is now televised in 212 nations in 42 languages.
 Other developments
In 2001, an affiliated minor league, the National Basketball Development League, now called the NBA Development League (or D-League) was created. Before the league was started, there were strong rumors that the NBA would purchase the CBA, and call it its developmental league, as the Continental Basketball Association was its "minor league" affiliate for years.
In 2004, two years after the Hornets relocation to New Orleans, the NBA returned to North Carolina as the Charlotte Bobcats were formed.
In 2005, the Hornets relocated to Oklahoma City for two seasons. This was required due to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, the Hornets returned to New Orleans.
On June 29, 2006, a new official game ball was introduced for the 2006-07 season, marking the first change to the ball in over 35 years and only the second in 60 seasons. Manufactured by Spalding, the new ball featured a new design and new synthetic material that Spalding claimed offered a better grip, feel, and consistency than the original ball. However, many players were vocal in their disdain for the new ball, saying that it was too sticky when dry, and too slippery when wet.
On December 11, 2006, Commissioner Stern announced that beginning January 1, 2007, the NBA would return to the traditional leather basketball in use prior to the 2006-2007 season. The change was influenced by frequent player complaints and confirmed hand injuries (cuts) caused by the microfiber ball. The Players' Association had filed a suit in behalf of the players against the NBA over the new ball. As of 2006, the NBA team jerseys are manufactured by Adidas, which purchased the previous supplier, Reebok.
On July 19, 2007, the FBI investigated allegations that veteran NBA referee Tim Donaghy bet on basketball games he officiated over the past two seasons and that he made calls affecting the point spread in those games. On August 15, 2007, Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation. However, he could face more charges if it is determined that he deliberately miscalled individual games.
In June 2008, it was announced that the Seattle SuperSonics would be rendered inactive and the franchise itself would relocate to Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City Thunder began playing in the 2008-2009 season. This marks the third NBA franchise to relocate in the past decade.
On October 11, 2008, the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets played the first outdoor game in the modern era of the NBA at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The NBA originated in 1946 with 11 teams, and through a sequence of team expansions, reductions, and relocations currently consists of 30 teams. The United States is home to 29 teams and one is located in Canada. The Boston Celtics have won the most championships, including the most recent, with 17 NBA Finals wins. The next most successful franchise is the Los Angeles Lakers, who have 14 overall championships (9 in Los Angeles, 5 in Minneapolis). Following the Lakers are the Chicago Bulls with six championships, all of them over an 8-year span during the 1990s.
The current league organization divides thirty teams into two conferences of three divisions with five teams each. The current divisional alignment was introduced in the 2004-05 season.
||TD Banknorth Garden
||Glenn "Doc" Rivers
|New Jersey Nets
||East Rutherford, NJ
|New York Knicks
||New York City, NY
||Madison Square Garden
||Air Canada Centre
||Vinny Del Negro
||Quicken Loans Arena
||Auburn Hills, MI
||The Palace of Auburn Hills
||Time Warner Cable Arena
||American Airlines Arena
||Stan Van Gundy
|Oklahoma City Thunder
||Oklahoma City, OK
|Portland Trail Blazers
||Salt Lake City, UT
||Golden State Warriors
|Los Angeles Clippers
||Los Angeles, CA
||Mike Dunleavy, Sr.
|Los Angeles Lakers
||Los Angeles, CA
||US Airways Center
||American Airlines Center
|New Orleans Hornets
||New Orleans, LA
||New Orleans Arena
|San Antonio Spurs
||San Antonio, TX
 Defunct teams
 Regular season
Following the summer break, teams hold training camps in October. Training camps allow the coaching staff to evaluate players (especially rookies), scout the team's strengths and weaknesses, prepare the players for the rigorous regular season, and determine the 12-man active roster (and a 3-man inactive list) with which they will begin the regular season. Teams have the ability to assign players with less than two years of experience to the NBA development league. After training camp, a series of preseason exhibition games are held. The NBA regular season begins in the first week of November. During the regular season, each team plays 82 games, 41 each home and away. A team faces opponents in its own division four times a year (16 games), teams from the other two divisions in its conference either three or four times (36 games), and teams in the other conference twice apiece (30 games). This asymmetrical structure means the strength of schedule will vary significantly between teams.
As of 2008, the NBA is one of only three major leagues in North America (besides the Canadian Football League) in which teams play every other team during the regular season (the others being the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer). Each team hosts and visits every other team at least once every season. However, this results in each team playing nearly double the number of games against teams from the opposite conference (30) as teams in their own division (16).
In February, the regular season pauses to celebrate the annual NBA All-Star Game. Fans vote throughout the United States, Canada, and on the internet, and the top vote-getters at each position in each conference are given a starting spot on their conference's All-Star team. Coaches vote to choose the remaining 14 All-Stars. Then, Eastern conference players face the Western conference players in the All-Star game. The player with the best performance during the game is rewarded with a Game MVP award. Other attractions of the All-Star break include the Rookie Challenge, which pits the best rookies and the best second-year players against each other; the Skills Challenge, a competition between players to see who could complete an obstacle course comprising shooting, passing and dribbling in the fastest time; the Three Point Contest, a competition between players to see who is the best three-point shooter; and the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, to see which player dunks the ball in the most entertaining way. These other attractions have varying names which include the names of the various sponsors who have paid for naming rights.
Shortly after the All-Star break, the trading deadline falls on the second to last Thursday in February at 3pm Eastern Time. After this date, teams are not allowed to exchange players with each other for the remainder of the season, although they may still sign and release players. Major trades are often completed right before the trading deadline, making that day a hectic time for general managers.
Around the end of April, the regular season ends. It is during this time that voting begins for individual awards, as well as the selection of the honorary, league-wide, post-season teams. The Sixth Man of the Year Award is given to the best player coming off the bench (must have more games coming off the bench than actual games started). The Rookie of the Year Award is awarded to the most outstanding first-year player. The Most Improved Player Award is awarded to the player who is deemed to have shown the most improvement from the previous season. The Defensive Player of the Year Award is awarded to the league's best defender. The Coach of the Year Award is awarded to the coach that has made the most positive difference to a team. The Most Valuable Player Award is given to player deemed the most valuable for (his team) that season. Additionally, The Sporting News awards an unofficial (but widely recognized) Executive of the Year Award to the general manager who is adjudged to have performed the best job for the benefit of his franchise.
The post-season teams are the All-NBA Team, the All-Defensive Team, and the All-Rookie Team; each consists of five players. There are three All-NBA teams, consisting of the top players at each position, with first-team status being the most desirable. There are two All-Defensive teams, consisting of the top defenders at each position. There are also two All-Rookie teams, consisting of the top first-year players regardless of position.
The NBA Playoffs begin in late April, with eight teams in each conference qualifying for the playoffs. The three division winners, along with the team with the next best record from the conference are given the top four seeds. The next four teams in terms of record are given the lower four seeds.
Having a higher seed offers several advantages. Since the first seed plays the eighth seed, the second seed plays the seventh seed, the third seed plays the sixth seed, and the fourth seed plays the fifth seed in the playoffs, having a higher seed generally means one will be facing a weaker team. The team in each series with the better record has home court advantage, including the First Round. This means that, for example, if the team who receives the 6 (six) seed has a better record than the team with the 3 (three) seed (by virtue of a divisional championship), the 6 seed would have home court advantage, even though the other team has a higher seed. Therefore, the team with the best regular season record in the league is guaranteed home court advantage in every series it plays. For example, in 2006, the Denver Nuggets won 44 games and captured the Northwest Division and the #3 seed. Their opponent was the #6 seeded Los Angeles Clippers, who won 47 games and finished second in the Pacific Division. Although Denver won its much weaker division, the Clippers had home-court advantage and won the series in five games.
The playoffs follow a tournament format. Each team plays a rival in a best-of-seven series, with the first team to win four games advancing into the next round, while the other team is eliminated from the playoffs. In the next round, the successful team plays against another advancing team of the same conference. All but one team in each conference are eliminated from the playoffs. Since the NBA does not re-seed teams, the playoff bracket in each conference uses a traditional design, with the winner of the series matching the 1st and 8th seeded teams playing the winner of the series matching the 4th and 5th seeded teams, and the winner of the series matching the 2nd and 7th seeded teams playing the winner of the series matching the 3rd and 6th seeded teams. In every round except the NBA Finals, the best of seven series follows a 2-2-1-1-1 home-court pattern, meaning that one team will have home court in games 1, 2, 5, and 7, while the other plays at home in games 3, 4, and 6. For the final round (NBA Finals), the series follows a 2-3-2 pattern, meaning that one team will have home court in games 1, 2, 6, and 7, while the other plays at home in games 3, 4, and 5. The 2-3-2 pattern in the NBA Finals has been in place since 1985.
The final playoff round, a best-of-seven series between the victors of both conferences, is known as the NBA Finals, and is held annually in June. The victor in the NBA Finals wins the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. Each player and major contributor -- including coaches and the general manager -- on the winning team receive a championship ring. In addition, the league awards an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.
On August 2, 2006, the NBA announced the new playoff format. The new format takes the three division winners and the second-place team with the best record and rank them 1-4 by record. The other 4 slots are filled by best record other than those other 4 teams. Previously, the top three seeds went to the division winners.
 Recent problems
The NBA has lost a lot of its popularity due to widely publicized problems within the league. In 1998, Sports Illustrated reported on the large number of players, including few of the league's stars, who exhibited a general lack of personal and social responsibility by fathering multiple children with multiple women in many different cities across the country.
 Criminal activity, possible gang-related behavior
Numerous stories have also been published over the last decade reporting on the criminal activities of many players. On November 19, 2004, the NBA suffered one of its most embarrassing and damaging moments, now known as the Pacers-Pistons brawl, when an altercation involving players and fans broke out near the end of the game.
The league is monitoring on-court behavior to ensure athletes are not displaying gang signs to other players. This effort follows suspicions that Boston Celtics player Paul Pierce made a "menacing" gesture, in April 2008, towards the Atlanta Hawks' bench. (Yet, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge denied that it was a gang sign and said that the hand signal was a sign used within the team.) Pierce apologized, however, the league fined him $25,000. The Los Angeles Times reported July 15, 2008 that the league would inspect videotapes of games to determine whether players or officials used gangsta hand signs.
 Alleged corruption
More recently, a June 2008 accusation filed by the lawyers of disgraced referee Tim Donaghy alleges a conspiracy to fix games, possibly at the direction of NBA executives, as a way to extend the playoffs and increase television revenues. Commissioner Stern flatly denied the allegations, dismissing the accusations as a desperate attempt to ease Donaghy's sentence.
 Notable people
- Further information: Basketball Hall of Fame
 Presidents and commissioners
 See also
 Notable statistics
 Television partners
 Video games
- ^ USA Basketball: USA Basketball Members
- ^ The First NBA Game: 1946 New York-Toronto
- ^ "History of Basketball in Canada". NBA Media Ventures, LLC. Retrieved on 2007-04-13.
- ^ Stein, Marc. Leather ball will return on January 1 2007- NBA, ESPN. December 12, 2006.
- ^ Stein, Mark. "NBA ball controversy reaches new level", ESPN. December 8, 2006.
- ^ Donaghy under investigation for betting on NBA games, ESPN. July 20, 2007.
- ^ NBA.com: NBA Trading Deadline Trades Since 1987
- ^ Fathering out-of-wedlock kids has become commonplace among - 05.04.98 - SI Vault
- ^ a b O'Hern, Tim. "NBA made of thugs", Western Courier. October 30, 2002.
- ^ "NFL steps up monitoring of players for gang signs", Yahoo Sports. July 16, 2008.
- ^ Donaghy says refs fixed playoffs; Stern says no, FOXSports.com
 External links