The National Basketball Association (NBA) is North America's premier professional men's basketball league, composed of thirty teams; twenty-nine in the USA, 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 the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Football League (NFL), and Major League Baseball (MLB).
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.
On August 3, 1949, the BAA agreed to merge with the NBL, expanding the National Basketball Association to 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).
While contracting, the league also saw its 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 with 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 doesn't 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 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.
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.
In 1991, Susan O'Malley became the first female president of a major sports franchise 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.
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.
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.
On February 19, 2008, the NBA declared that the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets will play the first outdoor game on October 11, 2008, at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It will be the first outdoor game in the modern era of the NBA.
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 will begin playing in the 2008-2009 season. This marks the third NBA franchise to relocate in the past decade.
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.
|Atlantic||Boston Celtics||Boston, MA||TD Banknorth Garden||1946|
|New Jersey Nets||East Rutherford, NJ||Izod Center||1967*|
|New York Knicks||New York City, NY||Madison Square Garden||1946|
|Philadelphia 76ers||Philadelphia, PA||Wachovia Center||1939*|
|Toronto Raptors||Toronto, ON||Air Canada Centre||1995|
|Central||Chicago Bulls||Chicago, IL||United Center||1966|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||Cleveland, OH||Quicken Loans Arena||1970|
|Detroit Pistons||Auburn Hills, MI||The Palace of Auburn Hills||1941*|
|Indiana Pacers||Indianapolis, IN||Conseco Fieldhouse||1967|
|Milwaukee Bucks||Milwaukee, WI||Bradley Center||1968|
|Southeast||Atlanta Hawks||Atlanta, GA||Philips Arena||1946*|
|Charlotte Bobcats||Charlotte, NC||Time Warner Cable Arena||2004|
|Miami Heat||Miami, FL||American Airlines Arena||1988|
|Orlando Magic||Orlando, FL||Amway Arena||1989|
|Washington Wizards||Washington, D.C.||Verizon Center||1961*|
|Northwest||Denver Nuggets||Denver, CO||Pepsi Center||1967|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||Minneapolis, MN||Target Center||1989|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||Oklahoma City, OK||Ford Center||1967*|
|Portland Trail Blazers||Portland, OR||Rose Garden||1970|
|Utah Jazz||Salt Lake City, UT||EnergySolutions Arena||1974*|
|Pacific||Golden State Warriors||Oakland, CA||Oracle Arena||1946*|
|Los Angeles Clippers||Los Angeles, CA||Staples Center||1970*|
|Los Angeles Lakers||Los Angeles, CA||Staples Center||1946*|
|Phoenix Suns||Phoenix, AZ||US Airways Center||1968|
|Sacramento Kings||Sacramento, CA||ARCO Arena||1945*|
|Southwest||Dallas Mavericks||Dallas, TX||American Airlines Center||1980|
|Houston Rockets||Houston, TX||Toyota Center||1967*|
|Memphis Grizzlies||Memphis, TN||FedExForum||1995*|
|New Orleans Hornets||New Orleans, LA||New Orleans Arena||1988*|
|San Antonio Spurs||San Antonio, TX||AT&T Center||1967*|
As of 2008, the NBA is one of only two major leagues in North America (besides the Canadian Football League) in which teams play every other team during the regular season (the other being the National Hockey League). 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.
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. Thus, 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.
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.
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 gangster hand signs.
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