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The National Basketball Association is the highest professional league of basketball in the United States and Canada. They've been around in some fashion since 1946. Seasons are usually 82 games in length, with some rare exceptions.note 


The NBA has 30 teams split into two conferences (Eastern and Western); there has been talk of expanding to 32 teams as of December 2020note , but NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated that it's not a priority issue. Each 15-team conference has three five-team divisions. Each conference sends 8 teams to the playoffs; since the 2015–16 season, seeding in the playoffs has been based purely on record, with no automatic berths for division winners at all. So a division winner could be as low as an 8th seed... or (theoretically) even miss the playoffs entirely. This makes the NBA the first major US professional league to eliminate automatic playoff berths for division winners. All playoff games are best-of-seven series.


The primary route from which new players enter the league is the NBA Draft, held each June. Players come mostly from college basketball, though increasingly overseas players are also chosen. The draft consists of 2 rounds, the shortest (by far) of any of the major sports.note  Teams that miss the playoffs are entered into a weighted draft lottery, which determines the first 4 picks. Under the current system, introduced in 2019, the three teams with the worst records get equal chances of getting the first pick,note  with the chances for other teams decreasing as their records improve. Subsequently, players scouted to go as early draft picks are said to be "lottery picks" (a good thing), while teams likely to miss the playoffs are said to be "lottery bound" (a bad thing, except that they're likely to get better players in the draft). The remaining first round picks are awarded in inverse order of record, so the team with the best regular season record gets the 30th and last pick in the first round. The second round is purely inverse record.

The other major route for players to get to the NBA is through the league-run NBA G League (corporately rebranded by Gatorade from the NBA Development League starting in 2017–18). It has 28 teams in the 2019–20 season, with two more on the way, one being from Mexico City and the other being a special team for helping develop younger players there. Players are usually undrafted free agents or players previously cut from NBA teams. Such players are usually role players or backups. The G League fills the same role that the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association filled, and the rules for signing players from the G League to 10-day contracts (as fill-ins; they can be renewed once, after which the NBA team must either sign the player for the rest of the season or release them) are near-identical. The big difference is the G League is owned by the NBA, and teams can actually assign up players with less than three years experience to their affiliated G League team outright. Almost all players in the G League are under contract to the league, not their individual team, regardless of NBA affiliation. (Before the 2017–18 season, this was the case for all D-League players.) This means that any NBA team can call up any G League player... with one major exception. Each NBA team is now allowed to sign two players to so-called "two-way contracts", allowing them to move the players freely between the NBA and G League without risk of losing rights to them. Players under two-way contracts do not count against the NBA team's roster limit, receive a higher salary while in the G League than other players, and are paid a prorated NBA rookie salary for the days they play with the NBA team. Also, their salaries (whether in the G League or with the NBA team) do not count against the league's salary cap. However, they can still only play in the NBA for 45 days in the regular season, and they can't be part of the team's roster during playoff games.

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Eastern Conference

    Atlantic Division 
  • The Boston Celtics are one of the oldest and most storied teams in the history of the league. Founded in 1946, the Celtics have won 17 championships note  behind legends such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havilcek, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird. They're easily the go-to Arch-Enemy for the Lakers, due to classic matchups in the '60s and '80s, as well as the rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Success eluded the Celtics for many years after Bird retired, but behind a revived "Big Three" of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, the Celtics won their 17th championship in 2008. More recently, the Celtics have turned over their roster to a younger set of players, led by young college coaching superstar Brad Stevens as head coach.
  • The Brooklyn Nets were formerly known as the New Jersey Nets note . They were one of four teams to merge into the NBA in the 70s from the merger with the rival ABA. In the Nets' ABA days, they were led by Dr. J himself, Julius Erving, and won two ABA titles. Their years in the NBA, however, have not been as fruitful as the Nets have been mired in mediocrity throughout much of their history, with the only notable exception coming in the form of back to back trips to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 note . In 2012, the Nets moved to Brooklyn to give the borough its first team since the Dodgers left for California in the 50s.note  After three good seasons in Brooklyn, the aging\expensive roster combined with a lack of draft picks saw them bottom out in 2015-16 and 2016-17. They've since climbed out of the abyss, and then signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the 2019 offseason, making them potential title contenders in the near future. Though Durant missed the entire 2019–20 season to a torn Achilles, he came back strong in 2020–21, and the Nets made a monster trade to get James Harden from the Rockets during that season. Notably one of three teams with non-white majority owners; Joseph Tsai, the Taiwanese–Canadian cofounder of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, finalized his purchase of the 51% of the team he didn't already own in September 2019. He spent $2.35 billion in all to buy complete control, the highest price to date for an NBA franchise.
  • The New York Knicks are one of the NBA's most valuable franchises in terms of net worthnote . A charter member of the NBA note . The Knicks won two titles in 1970 and 1973 led by Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, and Willis Reed. In the 90s, the Knicks were led by Patrick Ewing and went to two Finals in 1994 and 1999. More recently, the Knicks have been the victim of several seasons of mismanagement and horrible front office moves. They tried to shed this image in more recent seasons with Carmelo Anthony and Latvian forward Kristaps Porziņģis on the court, and Phil Jackson in the front office. However, none of the three fully panned out. Age caught up to Anthony and he was dealt to the Thunder in 2017 as a salary cap move; Jackson turned into a front-office disaster, and he and the Knicks parted ways after the 2016–17 season; and Porziņģis tore an ACL during the 2017–18 season and apparently fell out with the front office during his rehab, being dealt to the Mavericks during the 2018–19 season as a cap move. Currently play in what in building terms is the oldest arena in the league (Madison Square Garden opened in 1967), but with a comprehensive early 2010s renovation, is a relatively new facility. Following a 2020 corporate spin-off, the company that runs the Garden is separate from the one that owns the Knicks, but James Dolan and his family hold voting control of both companies. The arena's fame as a concert and boxing venue means it's more valuable than the team is.note 
  • The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the more historic teams in the NBA. Dating back to 1946 as the Syracuse Nationals, the Sixers have called Philadelphia home since 1963. The franchise won three titles in their historynote  and have logged nine total trips to the NBA Finals. They have also had some of the greatest players in NBA history play for them, including Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson. For much of the 2010s, they went through perhaps the most extreme rebuilding process the NBA has ever seen in hopes of building a more sustained winning franchise like the Spurs or the Mavericks, with three seasons featuring extended losing streaks and fewer than 20 victories, while also sending away most competitive players in exchange for draft picks, notoriously known as "The Process". (Fans were told during this period to "trust the Process"; diehard Sixers fans during the wilderness years thus came to be called "Process-Trusters"). The saving grace from all this is that they got a bunch of early draft picks thanks to the equally mismanaged Sacramento Kings; the late-2010s-early 2020s team is considered competitive, but has a bad case of Every Year They Fizzle Out.
  • The Toronto Raptors are one of the youngest franchises in the NBA, and are the only team based in Canada (and one of the only two before the Grizzlies relocated to Memphis from Vancouver in 2001) - by the late 2000s they started to focus on that aspect, trading their primary color from purple to red, and coining the slogan "We the North". Started playing in 1995, the Raptors are best known for the teams that featured Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. After many stretches as The Chew Toy, only in 2016, led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors had a major winning breakthrough in the playoffs, going all the way to the Conference Finals. Despite this, they were never good enough to beat LeBron and the Cavaliers, which reached its apex in 2018 when the Cavs swept the Raps in the second round despite the latter team having home-court advantage in their series, leading to the moniker LeBronto. This forced a minor rebuilding process in 2019, the centerpiece of which was trading franchise star DeRozan for former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard; the risk was worth it, as the Raptors won the Eastern Conference championship over the Milwaukee Bucks, advancing to their first-ever NBA Finals and in the process, becoming the first team/city outside the The United States to win the NBA championship, defeating the Golden State Warriors (who themselves were in their fifth consecutive NBA Finals) in six games and earning Leonard his second Finals MVP and NBA trophies. The Raptors seemed to be facing something of a rebuild following Leonard's departure for the Clippers in the 2019 offseason, but despite the loss of Leonard and a revolving door of injured players, the Raptors played well, winning their third straight Atlantic Division title and coming just five points short of another trip to the conference finals. Jurassic Park not only inspired the team name, but became the nickname of Maple Leaf Square during public viewings of the team's games.

    Central Division 
  • The Chicago Bulls are the team of the 90s, and remain one of the NBA's most popular teams. Led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls won six championships playing some of the greatest basketball the NBA has ever seen note . Interestingly, the Bulls date back to 1966 and had seen barely any success outside of the Jordan years. More recently, the Bulls have struggled to rise back to the top of the Eastern Conference and have flirted in and out being a top contender, but have not returned to the NBA Finals since the end of the Jordan era.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers are best known as having been the team of LeBron James for most of his career. Founded in 1970, the Cavs have been borderline mediocre throughout much of their history, having never made it to the NBA Finals until 2007; they've reached them four times more since then, in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, and all five appearances have been with LeBron. In 2003, they drafted LeBron first overall and became of the best teams in the East for the next few seasons. After several seasons of playoff disappointments, LeBron left the Cavs and signed with Miami in 2010, and Cleveland went roughly nowhere without their best player. But then after four years in Miami, he decided to come home to much rejoicing; the Cavs got back near the top of the league, and finally won a championship in 2016 (Cleveland's first in any major league sport since 1964).note  However, LeBron left again in 2018, this time for the Lakers, returning the Cavs to the state they were in after his first departure.
  • The Detroit Pistons are remembered for the infamous "Bad Boys" teams of the late 80s and early 90s. Led by Isiah Thomas, and with players such as Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn, the "Bad Boy" Pistons used brutal defense to win two straight championships in 1989 and 1990 note  The Pistons actually predate the NBA itself by five years, having been founded in 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana note . In their almost 70 years, the Pistons have won the NBA championship three times, the two back-to-back "Bad Boy" titles, and the 2004 championship, led by the core of Chauncey Billups, Richard "Rip" Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshawn Prince, and Ben Wallace who dominated the Eastern Conference for most of the 2000s. After nearly 40 years based in Detroit's northern suburbs, the team returned to the city of Detroit in 2017 to share the arena built by the NHL's Red Wings.
  • The Indiana Pacers are one of the four teams that joined the NBA from the ABA merger in 1976. While the Pacers won three championships in the ABA, they lost their only trip to the NBA Finals in 2000. The Pacers are best known for their 90s teams led by Reggie Miller, who had an outstanding rivalry with the New York Knicks throughout the decade. In recent years, the Pacers, led by Paul George, have been one of the most competitive teams in the Eastern Conference—but that was before George was dealt to the Thunder in the 2017 offseason.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks are the former team of Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson, who won a championship in 1971, their third season of existence. The team has been average to mediocre since then, with some good teams in the mid-80s and a deep run in 2001. The Bucks ended a 30-year run at Bradley Center in 2018, by which time it had become the league's oldest unremodeled arena, and now play across the street in the brand-new Fiserv Forum. The current version of the Milwaukee Bucks are led by Greek swingman and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    Southeast Division 
  • The Atlanta Hawks have been around for as long as the NBA has. Founded in 1946 as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks note , the franchise was moved to Milwaukee in 1951, and to St. Louis in 1955, before landing in Atlanta in 1968. Historically, the franchise has not had a successful track record, having won only one championship, won in 1958 back in St. Louis. In more modern terms, the Hawks can be recognized from their teams from the '80s, led by Slam Dunk Contest champions Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins. They had been one of the East's more solid teams in the late 2000s though the mid 2010s; however, the team has now gone into rebuilding mode. From 2004 through 2015, also noted for a circus of discord among its ownership group, featuring numerous lawsuits (with some owners even suing each other), that finally ended with the team's sale.
  • The Charlotte Hornets have an... interesting history. The original Charlotte Hornets were founded in 1988 and were one of the most exciting and popular teams of the 90s. However, falling attendance, uninspired play and a souring relationship between the fans and the owner prompted the Hornets to move to New Orleans. In the aftermath of the Hornets move, the NBA awarded Charlotte an expansion team for the 2004-05 season, giving the league an even 30 teams. So the Charlotte Bobcats were born. In their 10 seasons as the Bobcats, they only made the playoffs twice and became known for some really bad basketball.note  In 2013, the New Orleans Hornets renamed themselves the Pelicans, thus opening the door for the Bobcats to "return" the Hornets back to Charlotte. In addition, by agreement with the NBA and the Pelicans, the team also regained the rights to the history and records of the original Charlotte Hornets. Oh yeah. The team is owned by Michael Jordan. They were also the first NBA team with a non-white majority owner; Jordan's predecessor, founding owner Robert Johnson, is also African-American. As of the 2019–20 season, they are the only Eastern team to have yet to make the Finals.
  • The Miami Heat are one of the more decorated and successful teams in the league, garnering 14 division titles, 21 appearances in the playoffs, eight Conference Finals appearances, six conference championships, and three NBA championships (including four straight Finals appearances in the early 2010s). They were one of the most competitive teams in the 90s when they were led by Alonzo Mourning, and then broke through for their first title in 2006 thanks to Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. From 2010 through 2014, LeBron James and Chris Bosh formed a Power Trio with Wade, turning the Heat into the go-to polarizing team in all of basketball. After the 2013-14 season, LeBron left to go back to Cleveland. Since then, the Heat have been trying to rebuild a team to go back to the Finals - which they managed in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, amusingly, against LeBron's Lakers!
  • The Orlando Magic have only been around since 1989, yet they have competed at or near the the top of the East for a good part of their history, with players like Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard leading the Magic to five division titles and two trips to the NBA finals in 1994 and 2009. Unfortunately, Orlando has been closer to the bottom of the league since Howard left in 2012, and are currently in the midst of a rebuilding process.
  • The Washington Wizards date back to 1961 and have seen plenty of moves and name changes in their historynote . As the Bullets, they had a dominant run in the 1970s, led by Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, that saw them make four trips to the Finals, winning the title in 1978. Sadly, the Bullets/Wizards have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs since their '78 championship. The current Wizards, led by Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, are trying to establish themselves as a legit contender in the East.

Western Conference

    Northwest Division 
  • The Denver Nuggets are one of the four ABA teams that merged into the NBA 1976. Throughout the 80s, the Nuggets were recognized for their high scoring offense, led by Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe, and their so-so defense note . They were anchored defensively by Dikembe Mutombo in the early 90s and notched the very first 8-seeded upset in the first round of the 1994 playoffs over Seattle. The Nuggets were led by Carmelo Anthony from 2003 to 2011 and advanced as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2009. The Nuggets, now led by Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray, are the only former ABA team who has yet to make an appearance in the NBA Finals (the closest they've come is the Conference Final in 2020).
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves are best known for having been Kevin Garnett's main team. Founded in 1989, the T-Wolves' successes are tied with the prime years of Garnett, which culminated in 2004 with an MVP award and the team's only division title and only trip to the Western Conference Finals. Ever since then, the T-Wolves have finished at or near the bottom of a hyper-competitive Western Conference. Even though Garnett left Minnesota for Boston in 2007, note  an older Garnett returned to the T-Wolves in 2015 for one final season as a mentor to the current young roster, which is now led by Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell.
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder were formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics. Founded in 1967, the Sonics had a history of moderate successes in the Northwest, winning the NBA title in 1979 and reaching the Finals on two other occasions. Unfortunately, the lack of a new arena deal in Seattle, coupled with the owners' ties to Oklahoma and the feverish support OKC gave the Hornets in their part-time home, prompted the move of the Sonics to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder in 2008 (this is still a sore point in Seattle, particularly as the league is still unclear regarding giving the city another franchise whether by relocation or expansion). In Oklahoma City, the franchise grew into one of the league's top franchises, led by superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The young core of talent led the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012. The Thunder were still one of the elite teams in the NBA, and a perennial championship contender when Durant and Westbrook were healthy... until Durant left for the Warriors as a free agent after the 2015–16 season, leaving the Thunder with a very uncertain future as a contender. During the 16–17 season, Westbrook carried the team to a sixth-seed playoff appearance and an MVP title with an all-time record 42 triple-doubles in a single season, and then during the offseason the Thunder picked up Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks and Paul George of the Pacers, creating a new Big 3. While the start was shaky, the trio picked up steam... or rather two of the trio, as Melo didn't completely fit in. After OKC surprisingly got George to re-up for four years, they traded Melo as a salary dump. Then, during the 2019 offseason, they made two major trades that signaled the start of a rebuild. First, George was traded to the Clippers after he expressed a desire to follow Kawhi Leonard there (not to mention return to the area where he grew up), getting a treasure trove of future first-round picks that gave them several legs up on said rebuild. Then, they traded Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul and still more draft picks. A year later, they got yet another future first-round pick by flipping Paul to the Suns. Also of note with the Thunder are their loyal and passionate fans, who give the Thunder one of the toughest home court advantages for visiting teams.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers date back to 1970 and are the former team of Clyde Drexler (who led Portland to the Finals in 1990 and '92) and Bill Walton (who won their only championship in 1977). The Blazers are also unfortunately associated with not one but TWO drafts which they passed up picking a superstar in favor of a player whose career got cut short due to injuries, Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in 1984, and Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in 2007. note  In recent years, the Blazers have overcome setbacks after setbacks to try to stay competitive in the Western Conference, thanks in large part to the exploits of Damian Lillard. With the moving of the SuperSonics, the Blazers are the only NBA team that's actually in the Pacific Northwest.
  • The Utah Jazz are the former team of John Stockton, Karl "The Mailman" Malone, and longtime head coach Jerry Sloan. In the more distant past, "Pistol" Pete Maravich (Disney made a movie about his childhood hoop exploits) played for them. The Jazz made the playoffs in 19 consecutive seasons, from 83-84 to 02-03, and was led for many of those years by the tandem of Stockton and Malone. However, despite their dominance, they have no championships to show for it. The team have only made the finals twice, both of which they lost to Michael Jordan's Bulls. If you're wondering what Mormon Utah has to do with jazz, this is yet another team with an Artifact Title. The franchise was originally from New Orleans and moved to Salt Lake City in 1979. The team's then-owner didn't change the name because he thought the move would be temporary. But after all these years, nobody even questions it anymore. note  When Tom Benson acquired the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012, Benson attempted to reclaim the Jazz name for New Orleans; however, the Jazz owners weren't interested in giving up the name.

    Pacific Division 
  • The Golden State Warriors are the Bay Area's team and have one of the deepest histories in the league. Originally the Philadelphia Warriors, the franchise has won six championships in its historynote  The Warriors are notable for being the first team for Wilt Chamberlain before he joined the Philadelphia 76ers. Rick Barry led the Warriors to the title in 1975, which marked the beginning of a long dark period of mediocre basketball.note  Things changed dramatically for the Warriors when they drafted "Splash Brothers" Stephen Curry (2009) and Klay Thompson (2011). With the additions of power forward Draymond Green in 2012 and head coach Steve Kerr in 2014, the Warriors established themselves as arguably the greatest shooting team in NBA history, winning the title in 2015, and followed that up by going 73–9 in the 2015–16 regular season, surpassing the 1995–96 Bulls for the best regular-season record in league history (though unlike the Bulls, they were defeated in the finals, despite at one point having a 3-1 series advantage over the Cavaliers). Through 2018–19, the "Dubs"note  were one of the greatest teams the league has ever seen, and thanks to their core's relative youth, appeared to be a title threat for years to come. And that was before they added Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason... They didn't do quite as well in the regular season in 2016–17, but still had the league's best record, and then went on a historic rampage through the playoffs, with their only postseason loss coming in Game 4 of the Finals in Cleveland. They didn't have the league's best record in 2017–18 (that going to Houston), but got to the conference finals with little trouble, survived a seven-game dogfight with the Rockets, and then swept the Cavs in the NBA Finals. The Dubs had less luck in the 2019 Finals, in which they lost 4–2 to the Raptors, with Durant playing only in Game 5 before tearing an Achilles (also his last game with the Dubs, as he left for Brooklyn in free agency), and Thompson tearing an ACL in the series finale. Game 6 of that series was also their last in Oakland; they opened a new arena in San Francisco for the 2019–20 season. Said season, however, ended up being a lost season, with both Splash Brothers injured (Thompson out for the whole season with the ACL, and Curry out for most of it with a broken wrist suffered early in the season). And just when Thompson was supposed to be coming back, he tore an Achilles and will miss the 2020–21 season as well.
  • The Los Angeles Clippers are one of two teams in Los Angeles, both of which share an arena for now. Born as the Buffalo Braves, they then became the San Diego Clippers, then moved to LA in 1984, where for a long time they became regarded as the worst team in the league, if not in all four major sports leagues. This was largely due to the ineptitude of longtime owner Donald Sterling, though a lack of talent (either due to draft busts or not just having All-Star talent in general) and the raving success of the crosstown Lakers didn't help matters. Things started to look up for them in the 2010s when they drafted Blake Griffin, acquired Chris Paul, and Sterling was banned from league operations thanks to his history of racist comments, giving up the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The Lob City era was born, named as such because of Paul's skillful passing and Griffin's awe-inspiring dunks, and the Clippers became perennial playoff contenders. The team's fortunes continued to improve at the end of the decade when they obtained two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and All-Star Paul George, though only time will tell if they can take the franchise past the second round for the first time. Shortly after Kawhi and PG came on board, the team announced plans to build a new arena in Inglewood next to the stadium that opened in 2020 for the NFL's Rams and Chargers. The new arena is set to open in 2024.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers, the reigning NBA champions, are arguably the NBA's most popular team. They are one of the most accomplished franchises in sports, winning 17 championships and a record 32 appearances in the NBA Finals. The Lakers have been home to some of the greatest teams and greatest players the NBA has even seen, such as Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. They're also known for their celebrity fanbase, most notably Jack Nicholson; expect broadcast cameras to focus on Nicholson several times a game. Many fans will remember the Lakers from the "Showtime" era of Magic and Kareem in the 80s that saw the Lakers win five championships and engage in an epic rivalry with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics. Younger fans will most likely remember the Kobe Bryant years, with either the Shaq three-peat from 2000 to 2002, or the back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. The following decade was not as kind to the Lakers, since Bryant fell victim to injuries and attempts to follow the superteam trend fizzled out, though it ended on a high note for them thanks to Anthony Davis joining the team, and 2020 saw them atop the league once again. Either way, the Lakers have produced some of the most dominant eras in the NBA, which made them as big as a love-em-or-hate-em team as you'll ever come across. The Artifact Title name comes from their original city, Minneapolis, located in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes".
  • The Phoenix Suns date back to 1968, and are the former team of Charles Barkley in the early 90s, and Steve Nash for much of the 2000s. They have been involved in many benchmark moments in NBA history, including what many consider the greatest NBA game ever played, Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals where the Suns lost to Boston 128-126 in triple overtime.The 2000s saw the Suns led by Steve Nash who powered the Suns to the top of the standings with a high octane offense. Despite everything, the Suns' successes have almost always flamed out in some fashion or another and the franchise has never won a championship.
  • The Sacramento Kings are the journeyman franchise of the NBA. They're also by far the oldest franchise in the league, tracing their roots back to 1923, when they were founded as the semi-pro Rochester Seagrams. After going pro and renaming themselves the Royals in 1945, they became the Cincinnati Royals in 1957, the Kansas City(-Omaha) Kings in 1972, and finally the Sacramento Kings in 1985. Despite their history, the Kings only have one NBA title to their name, won in 1951, and haven't even made it to the Finals sincenote . During the early 2000s, the team was a perennial contender thanks to a strong starting five of Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Doug Christie, Peja Stojaković, Mike Bibby, and the home-court advantage of its raucous crowd. Unfortunately, that core of players could never defeat the Shaq and Kobe Lakers and were never able to reach the NBA Finals. Since then, the team has fallen into the bottom tier of the league. After many relocation rumors note , a local entrepreneur (and former minority owner of the Golden State Warriors) bought the Kings, and Sacramento was able to get a deal in place to build a new arena. Incidentally, this transaction made the Kings the second NBA team with a non-white majority owner, as said entrepreneur Vivek Ranadivé is originally from India. Nowadays, the Kings are trying to build a playoff-contending team, but a series of poor ownership decisions, a carousel of lame-duck coaches, and boneheaded front office choices (drafting Thomas Robinson note  and Jimmer Fredette note , AND trading away DeMarcus Cousins for virtually nothing) have prevented the Kings from having sustained success in the NBA. Immense luck in the lottery in 2017 and 2018 have given the Kings a beginning of a core, with De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III leading the Kings to their best season in over a decade.

    Southwest Division 
  • The Dallas Mavericks were founded in 1980, and was home to some OK basketball in the 80s, and some truly awful basketball in the 90s. That was until dot-com bubble billionaire Mark Cuban bought the team in 2000. Since then, the Mavs have consistently been one of the best teams in the NBA led by players like Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Jason Terry, and Dirk Nowitzki. Despite being one of the toughest teams to play in the 21st century, the Mavs could never seem to win it all until 2011, when they upset LeBron and the Miami Heat to give the franchise its first NBA championship. Interestingly, the Mavericks got their name because Maverick star James Garner was a part of the founding ownership. With Nowitzki having retired in 2019, the Mavs are now led by Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porziņģis.
  • The Houston Rockets date back to 1967 note  and are the former team of Hakeem Olajuwon, who won two championships in the '90s. The Rockets made an international splash in 2002 when they won the right to draft Chinese superstar Yao Ming. Sadly, injuries shortened not only Yao's career, but also that of fellow superstar Tracy McGrady, which also affected the Rockets' chances of competing against Kobe's Lakers, Dirk's Mavs, and Duncan's Spurs. After Yao retired in 2011, the Rockets were left in mediocrity limbo until a fortunate trade landed James Harden in Houston in 2012. Since then, the Rockets have established themselves as a true contender in the West, advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and finishing the 2017–18 regular season with the league's best record. And then, during the 2019 offseason, they traded for Russell Westbrook, sending Chris Paul and several future draft picks to OKC. The 2019–20 season was notable for the Rockets going all-in on the small-ball revolution, trading away their starting center and going to a starting lineup with a 6'5" center and no player taller than 6'7". They ended up going out to the Lakers in the conference semis, and that offseason dealt Westbrook to the Wizards for John Wall and a future first-round pick, and also picked up a more normal-sized center in DeMarcus Cousins. However, they soon decided to start a rebuild, engineering a four-team trade in January 2021 that sent Harden to the Nets, with the Rockets getting three players and four future first-round picks out of it.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the youngest teams in the league and actually began life in Vancouver. After six seasons of some REALLY bad basketball in Canada note , the Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001. They've shown improvement in their time in Memphis, but have never experienced big time success in the playoffs, only logging one trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. The Grizzlies were led by Pau Gasol in the mid-2000s before he was traded to the Lakers in a deal that saw Memphis acquire Pau's kid brother, Marc Gasol, who emerged as one of the best big men in the NBA before being moved to the Raptors in a salary dump in 2019. Currently known for their defensive style of play, and for giving what was then the most expensive NBA contract... to Mike Conley.note 
  • The New Orleans Pelicans, formerly the New Orleans Hornets, were the de facto original incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets who moved to New Orleans in 2002 note . They've been fairly consistent in their history - occasionally very bad, occasionally very good, but mostly in the middle of the pack. Point guard Chris Paul led the team to their first divisional title in 2008, but they've slipped back into mediocrity since then. Through 2012 and 2013, the team gained a new owner, a new name and drafted Anthony Davis into their team, making the Pelicans one of the more exciting young teams in the league. However, with the Pels mired in mediocrity in 2018–19, Davis let it be known that he wouldn't re-sign with NOLA once his contract ends in 2020. He got his wish in the 2019 offseason, being traded to the Lakers for a treasure trove of young prospects and draft picks, which along with the Pels' selection of Zion Williamson as the first pick in the 2019 draft gave the team a jump start on a rebuild. Interestingly, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the Hornets played home games in Oklahoma City for two years, making them the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets for two seasons. The Seattle SuperSonics' owner took note of the team's strong reception there, and eventually moved the team out of Seattle, renaming them the Thunder.
  • The San Antonio Spurs are arguably the most consistently dominant team in NBA history. In the almost 40 years since entering the NBA from the ABA in 1976, they have won a total of 18 division titles and only missed the playoffs four times! While the Spurs saw moderate successes with George Gervin in the 80s and David Robinson in the 90s, it was the arrival of Tim Duncan in 1997, alongside the arrivals of Tony Parker in 2001 and Manu Ginóbili in 2002 and the coaching brilliance of Gregg Popovich, that propelled the Spurs into one of the most premier franchises in sports. The Spurs have won five championships, and have consistently won 50 games or more year in and year out. The Spurs have seen soaring victories note , and heart-wrenching losses note . Interestingly, they are NOT among the NBA's most popular teams, with their play frequently described as "boring", and in recent years the team labeled as "old" as well. No matter what, the Spurs just keep on winning. And with the acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard (since traded for DeMar DeRozan) and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs are getting younger as well. Their streak of consecutive postseason appearances ended in 2020 at a NBA record-tying 22, making them the last team in the four major American sports leagues to miss the playoffs in the 21st century.note 

Information about Other Teams

    Former Teams 
Additionally, there were 15 teams back in the 1940s and 1950s that no longer exist, even if some of their names ended up being revived altogether. Some teams' stories are more interesting than others, but they're all still dead. These are their stories.

  • The Anderson Packers (1946-1951) Sometimes known as the Anderson Duffey Packers or even the Chief Anderson Meat Packers, they were the last champion team for the NBL, which was a big chunk for the early NBA. In their one season with the NBA (1949-50), they ended up defeating their division rivals in the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and the Indianapolis Olympians before being bested by the eventual champion Minneapolis Lakers. After their failure in the NBA, they decided to move on to the failing National Professional Basketball League before folding.
  • The original Baltimore Bullets (1944-1954) are currently the only dead NBA team to end up winning an NBA Finals championship. Baltimore began as an ABLnote  team that once won a championship there against the Philadelphia Sphas (who later became the Washington Generals) before moving to the BAA in 1947-48, where they had their best success as a team. They are also the only ABL team to move to the NBA. Afterwards, the team had unfortunate luck, making it to the playoffs twice before folding after 14 games with a record of 3-11 into the 1954-55 season. Also, they shouldn't be confused with the Baltimore Bullets team that are now the Washington Wizards.
  • The Chicago Stags (1946-1950) are Chicago's first attempt at having an NBA team before they settled with the Chicago Bulls. The Stags had a good opportunity with being the first of two teams to enter the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the success they had was short-lived, as while they did make it to the playoffs in all the other years, they just didn't have the luck, cash, or talent needed to help keep the team around, despite the acquisition rights to eventual Boston Celtic Bob Cousy and having a leading scorer in Max Zaslofsky. They do hold some remembrance, as the Stags' old jerseys were worn in a few NBA games back in the 2005-06 season. They are also one of the original 11 NBA teams in their first ever NBA season.
  • The Cleveland Rebels (1946-47) are Cleveland's first attempt at an NBA team before getting the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were also an original 11 NBA team. In their one year with the BAA/NBA, they ended up grabbing an average record, and ended up losing to the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. After that, they just went out of business.
  • The original Denver Nuggets (1948-1950) are Denver's first ever top-level professional team. Unfortunately, they were probably the worst team they had. In their two years with the NBL/NBA, they ended up getting two losing records, the second of which being the worst. On the plus side, they were a great un-named Denver amateur team back in 1938-48, and they put the city on the map in terms of sports. Just like Baltimore, they shouldn't be confused with the current Denver NBA team of the same name, albeit that Denver Nuggets weren't originally named the Nuggets to begin with.note 
  • The Detroit Falcons (1946-47) Detroit's first NBA team before they acquired the Detroit Pistons, as well as an original 11 NBA team. Their team was a bad one, with their only star, Stan Miasak, making it on their first ever All-BAA/NBA First Team. Combine that with the Detroit of the past, and it's no wonder why they didn't work out.
  • The Indianapolis Kautskys (1937-1949) are the first chance Indiana had for a professional basketball team. The Kautskys weren't really one of the best NBL teams around, even going around and temporarily suspending operations for the 1940-41 season and from 1942-45, which was most likely due to World War II happening. Along with the Lakers, the (Zollner) Pistons, and the Rochester Royals, the Kautskys ended up moving from the NBL to the BAA in their 1948-49 season, and rebranded themselves as the Indianapolis Jets. Unfortunately for them, they still ended up having a losing record, and they folded after one season with the NBA. However, not all hope would be lost for Indiana because they ended up gaining "another" NBA team in the form of...
  • The Indianapolis Olympians (1949-1953) are Indiana's second chance for a professional basketball team after the failed Kautskys/Jets experiment. Unlike the first Indianapolis team, the Olympians were led by some players who were on the U.S. Olympic team in 1948. Four of these were among the University of Kentucky's fabled "Fabulous Five". They even ended up gaining a winning record in their first year, and even ended up making it to the playoffs in every season they played. In fact, the creation of the Olympians was directly responsible for the BAA–NBL merger (see the entry for Danny Biasone and Leo Ferris in the "notable executives" folder for more details). Unfortunately, when the NBA discovered that two key components admitted in 1951 to have shaved points during their UK careers, they were banned from the NBA for life and the Olympians were never the same, despite having a winning record again after that year. When they had a horrid losing record that still made it to the playoffs and your first opponent would be the eventual champion Lakers, you might as well consider yourself dead afterwards. On a plus side, they were the winners of a six-overtime game against the Rochester Royals in 1951. Despite that long amount of time, the score on that game was rather small, since it ended with the score of 75-73! Eventually, Indiana finally found a NBA team to truly call their team... with a former ABA team entering the NBA.
  • The Pittsburgh Ironmen (1946-47) are the NBA's only attempt to venture out to the land of Pittsburgh, but it wouldn't be the end of their ventures in Pennsylvania. They were also an original 11 NBA team. In their one year around, they were the worst team with a 15-45 record. On a trivia note, the Pittsburgh Steelers were temporarily renamed the Pittsburgh Iron Men back in 1941.
  • The Providence Steamrollers (1946-49) The last professional team in general to ever play in the state of Rhode Islandnote , as well as an original 11 NBA team. The Steamrollers were simply put, a horrible team, with one season giving them only 6 wins! (They still aren't the worst team, percentage-wise. That dubious "honor" now goes to the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats.) They also played the oldest NBA player ever in a guy named "Nat Hickey", who decided to play while still being a head coach for the team as an early birthday gift. He only scored two points via free throws, thus making him the oldest NBA player ever at 45 years, 363 days old!
  • The Sheboygan Red Skins (1938-1952) from the Wisconsin lakeshore city, the Red Skins are a team with a somewhat tragic end. They began as a few successful small teams like the Ballhorns, the Art Imig's, and the Enzo Jels (all local businesses which still exist today) before being renamed as the Sheboygan Red Skins in the NBL, to which they were admitted due to their performance against Hall of Fame teams in the New York Renaissance and even the Harlem Globetrotters! After a bad first NBL season, they revamped themselves with a new coach, and later a new arena to help them not only enter the finals, but even win a championship in 1943. After that, they ended up entering a finals a few more times and even joined the playoffs for a few more years afterwards, but they never could replicate the success found in that year. They were the second-longest team to ever play in the NBL and the team with the second-most NBL championship appearances, being only behind the also defunct Oshkosh All-Stars in each experiment. Unfortunately, they didn't fare so well despite starting out so well in the 1949-50 NBA season. With the Red Skins playing in the smallest market and arena in professional basketball history (a 3,500 all-bleacher seat building meant more as an armory), it wouldn't really help Sheboygan's cause. After giving the Olympians a scare in the playoffs despite having a losing record, they withdrew to the aforementioned NPBL, where they posted the best NPBL record there (29-16). After that experiment, the Red Skins had one last chance in saving them, and two other former NBA teams by creating a new ten-team league called the Western Basketball Association (WBA), but they realized how big the NBA was, and they ended up being an independent team for one year before folding altogether due to sparse crowds and the team losing to College All-Stars.
  • The St. Louis Bombers (1946-1950) were the NBA's first attempt at having a team in St. Louis, as well as an original 11 NBA team. When the NBA was the BAA, they did pretty good, with the team always entering the playoffs, but losing in either the quarterfinals or the semifinals. When the BAA changed into the NBA, however, they never were the same, as the Bombers suffered a losing record that resulted in the team folding afterwards, despite them having star guys in Grady Lewis and Ed Macauley.
  • The Toronto Huskies (1946-47) were the NBA's first attempt at bringing in a Canadian basketball team, as well as being an original 11 NBA team. They were the losing team of the first ever NBA game, they played at the Maple Leaf Gardens, and they ended up holding four different coaches in their only season, one of which didn't win a game at all. They also had a famous promotion gimmick in the first game ever played by giving anyone who was taller than the Huskies' tallest player (6'8" C George Nostrand) free admission. With a lack of organization, a lack of talented players, and odd promotions found (i.e., free stockings for all women in attendance), the franchise ended up folding after their only season. Despite the flaws, they're still remembered just like the Chicago Stags by having the Toronto Raptors wear the Huskies' old jerseys for 6 games in the 2009-10 season. However, unlike the Stags, the Huskies have a movement where loyal Huskies fans want to see the Raptors abolished and replaced with the old Huskies name, and they apparently made a bit of a mark with the Raptors keeping the retro jerseys beyond that season, the Raptors' official website holding a Toronto Huskies banner, and one game even had the team referred to as the Huskies instead of the Raptors.
  • The Washington Capitols (1946-1951) were the NBA's first attempt at having a team in the U.S.A.'s capital. They're also not only an original 11 NBA team, but they also were the former head coaching team of famous head coach Red Auerbach (who went to an improving Tri-Cities Blackhawks team for a year before finally coaching the Boston Celtics) and it does show since they were one of two former NBA teams to lose in the NBA Finals. After the Capitols lost Red as their head coach, they never were the same, as they kept losing and losing until the Capitols ended up folding with a record of 10-25. Also, they shouldn't be confused with the current hockey team that spells their name as "Capitals", nor should they be confused with the ABA team that abbreviated their name as "Caps".
  • The Waterloo Hawks (1948-1951) were the only major sports franchise to ever hold a permanent home somewhere in Iowa. The original Hawks team started out as a more-or-less average team when they were in the NBL. When they moved to the NBA, however, they did a horrible job there. When the Hawks finally made it to the NPBL, they actually were a good team, setting out a 32-24 record. Unfortunately for the Hawks (as well as the Packers and the Red Skins), the NPBL failed without a champion truly being awarded, and the Hawks soon folded afterwards.

Additionally, the BAA had planned on creating some new Buffalo and Indianapolis teams for the BAA only. However, due to the NBL-BAA merger, those plans were permanently scrapped.note 

    NBA Champions 
In the NBA, there have been many different champions and there have been many different rules in the NBA over the years. However, over half of the championships were won by either the Boston Celtics or the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers. Furthermore, of the last 30+ seasons, only nine teams have won championships, as compared to 16 and 17 in the NFL and MLB, denoting greater trends in dominance in this league.

While the NBA doesn't consider the championships that were won in the NBL or the ABA as "real" championships, we do.note  Here's what had happened over the years in the NBA.

The NBL & BAA Years (Note: bolded years represent the NBL; italic years represent the BAA.)

  • 1937-38: Akron Goodyear Wingfoots won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 2-1.
  • 1938-39: Akron Firestone Non-Skids won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-2.
  • 1939-1940: Akron Firestone Non-Skids won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-2.
  • 1940-41: The Oshkosh All-Stars swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
  • 1941-42: The Oshkosh All-Stars won over the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2-1.
  • 1942-43: Sheboygan Red Skins won over the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2-1.
  • 1943-44: Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
  • 1944-45: Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons won over the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-2.
  • 1945-46: Rochester Royals swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
  • 1946-47: Chicago American Gears won over the Rochester Royals 3-2.
  • 1946-47: Philadelphia Warriors won over the Chicago Stags 4-1.
  • 1947-48: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Rochester Royals 3-1.
  • 1947-48: Baltimore Bullets won over the Philadelphia Warriors 4-2.
  • 1948-49: Anderson Duffey Packers swept the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-0.
  • 1948-49: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Washington Capitols 4-2.

After the BAA-NBL Merger: Minneapolis Domination

  • 1949-1950: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Syracuse Nationals 4-2.
  • 1950-51: Rochester Royals won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
  • 1951-52: Minneapolis Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
  • 1952-53: Minneapolis Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-1.
  • 1953-54: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Syracuse Nationals 4-3.

The Shot-Clock Years: Boston Domination

  • 1954-55: Syracuse Nationals won over the Fort Wayne Pistons 4-3.
  • 1955-56: Philadelphia Warriors won over the Fort Wayne Pistons 4-1.
  • 1956-57: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-3.
  • 1957-58: St. Louis Hawks won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
  • 1958-59: Boston Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers 4-0.
  • 1959-1960: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-3.
  • 1960-61: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-1.
  • 1961-62: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1962-63: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
  • 1963-64: Boston Celtics won over the San Francisco Warriors 4-1
  • 1964-65: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
  • 1965-66: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1966-67: Philadelphia 76ers won over the San Francisco Warriors 4-2.

NBA-ABA Rivalry (ABA years are bolded, ABA teams that joined the NBA are italicized.)

  • 1967-68: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
  • 1967-68: Pittsburgh Pipers won over the New Orleans Buccaneers 4-3.
  • 1968-69: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1968-69: Oakland Oaks won over the Indiana Pacers 4-1.
  • 1969-1970: New York Knicks won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1969-1970: Indiana Pacers won over the Los Angeles Stars 4-2.
  • 1970-71: Milwaukee Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets 4-0.
  • 1970-71: Utah Stars won over the Kentucky Colonels 4-3.
  • 1971-72: Los Angeles Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-1.
  • 1971-72: Indiana Pacers won over the New York Nets 4-2.
  • 1972-73: New York Knicks won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
  • 1972-73: Indiana Pacers won over the Kentucky Colonels 4-3.
  • 1973-74: Boston Celtics won over the Milwaukee Bucks 4-3.
  • 1973-74: New York Nets won over the Utah Stars 4-1.
  • 1974-75: Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets 4-0
  • 1974-75: Kentucky Colonels won over the Indiana Pacers 4-1.
  • 1975-76: Boston Celtics won over the Phoenix Suns 4-2.
  • 1975-76: New York Nets won over the Denver Nuggets 4-2.
  • 1976-77: Portland Trail Blazers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2. (The year of the NBA-ABA merger)
  • 1977-78: Washington Bullets won over the Seattle SuperSonics 4-3.
  • 1978-79: Seattle SuperSonics won over the Washington Bullets 4-1.

The 80s: Larry Bird Vs. Magic Johnson

  • 1979-1980: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2.
  • 1980-81: Boston Celtics won over the Houston Rockets 4-2.
  • 1981-82: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2.
  • 1982-83: Philadelphia 76ers swept the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0.
  • 1983-84: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1984-85: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
  • 1985-86: Boston Celtics won over the Houston Rockets 4-2.
  • 1986-87: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
  • 1987-88: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Detroit Pistons 4-3.
  • 1988-89: Detroit Pistons swept the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0.
  • 1989-1990: Detroit Pistons won over the Portland Trail Blazers 4-1.

The 90s: The Reign of Michael Jordan

  • 1990-91: Chicago Bulls won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
  • 1991-92: Chicago Bulls won over the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2.
  • 1992-93: Chicago Bulls won over the Phoenix Suns 4-2.
  • 1993-94: Houston Rockets won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
  • 1994-95: Houston Rockets swept the Orlando Magic 4-0.
  • 1995-96: Chicago Bulls won over the Seattle SuperSonics 4-2.
  • 1996-97: Chicago Bulls won over the Utah Jazz 4-2.
  • 1997-98: Chicago Bulls won over the Utah Jazz 4-2.

The 2000s: Kobe, Tim and the Wild West

  • (1998-)99: San Antonio Spurs won over the New York Knicks 4-1 note 
  • 1999-2000: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Indiana Pacers 4-2.
  • 2000-01: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-1.
  • 2001-02: Los Angeles Lakers swept the New Jersey Nets 4-0.
  • 2002-03: San Antonio Spurs won over the New Jersey Nets 4-2.
  • 2003-04: Detroit Pistons won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
  • 2004-05: San Antonio Spurs won over the Detroit Pistons 4-3.
  • 2005-06: Miami Heat won over the Dallas Mavericks 4-2.
  • 2006-07: San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0.
  • 2007-08: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
  • 2008-09: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Orlando Magic 4-1.
  • 2009-2010: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-3.

The 2010s: LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry

  • 2010-11: Dallas Mavericks won over the Miami Heat 4-2.
  • 2011-12: Miami Heat won over the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1. note 
  • 2012-13: Miami Heat won over the San Antonio Spurs 4-3.
  • 2013-14: San Antonio Spurs won over the Miami Heat 4-1.
  • 2014-15: Golden State Warriors won over the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2.
  • 2015-16: Cleveland Cavaliers won over the Golden State Warriors 4-3.
  • 2016-17: Golden State Warriors won over the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1.
  • 2017-18: Golden State Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0.
  • 2018-19: Toronto Raptors won over the Golden State Warriors 4-2.
  • 2019-20: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Miami Heat 4-2.note 

    G League 
The NBA G League (known as National Basketball Development League prior to 2005 and as the NBA Development League [or simply D-League] from 2005 until 2017; Gatorade acquired the naming rights to the league in 2017), is the NBA's official minor league basketball organization, founded in 2001. While at first it was common for the G League teams to be independently owned and affiliated with many franchises, all are now on a one-on-one basis with the major leaguers owning virtually all the minors. Most G League franchises are now also located relatively close to their parent club to make G League assignments and call ups easier. As of April 2021, the Nuggets, Suns, and Trail Blazers currently do not have their own G League affiliate.

For the 2020-21 G League season, due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, the league conducted an abbreviated season in a single-site "bubble", similar to the 2020 NBA playoffs and the 2020 WNBA season. Like the 2020 NBA playoffs, the 2021 G League bubble was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex; however, 11 teams elected to opt out of the bubble and one team which was scheduled to join this season postponed their entry to the 2021-22 season.

Current teams (followed by affiliate)

  • Agua Caliente Clippers (Clippers): One of four new teams that launched in 2017; owned by the Clippers. Named for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians through a sponsorship deal. Plays in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario, California.
  • Austin Spurs (Spurs): Founded in 2001 as the Columbus (Georgia) Riverdragons, moved to the Texas capital in 2005 to become the Austin Toros. Have always been affiliated with San Antonio, who purchased the team in 2007 and renamed them seven years later.
  • Birmingham (Pelicans): In October 2018, the Pelicans announced plans to launch their G League team in Birmingham, Alabama after earlier efforts to start a team in the Gulf Coast region stalled, partly due to the death of Pelicans owner Tom Benson in March 2018. As the team's intended home venue, Legacy Arena, required renovations, the Pelicans temporarily placed their team in Erie, Pennsylvania, becoming the third team to assume the BayHawks identity after the Hawks-owned G League affiliate, now known as the Skyhawks, moved to suburban Atlanta for the 2019-20 season. The Pelicans plan to move the team to Alabama for the 2021-22 season.
  • Canton Charge (Cavaliers): Founded as the Huntsville Flight in 2001 and late renamed Albuquerque/New Mexico Thunderbirds, were purchased in 2011 by the Cavs, who moved them to Ohio and gave them a similar knight-based theme.
  • Capital City Go-Go (Wizards): Began play in 2018 under the Wizards' ownership. They play in an arena in southeast DC that also serves as (1) the Wizards' main practice facility and (2) home to the WNBA's Mystics. The team is named for the R&B music genre that originated in DC's African-American community in the '60s and '70s.
  • College Park Skyhawks (Hawks): Another 2017 entry; originally planned to launch in 2019–20 in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, Georgia, the Hawks launched their franchise early, becoming the second incarnation of the Erie BayHawks, temporarily replacing the original franchise who had moved to central Florida, while their permanent arena in College Park was under construction. In May 2019, the Hawks announced that rapper and College Park native 2 Chainz would join the ownership group for the Skyhawks. The Skyhawks are the other G League team that shares its arena with a WNBA team; the Atlanta Dream will move in starting with that league's 2021 season.
  • Delaware Blue Coats (76ers): Formerly the 87ers, AKA "Sevens", with the name referring to the year Delaware ratified the US Constitution. Their new name and motif of a rider on horseback refer to a revolutionary soldier (opposite the British Redcoats). Founded as Utah Flash in 2007 and purchased by the Sixers and moved to Delaware in 2013. They originally played on the campus of the University of Delaware in Newark; however, with the rebranding, the Blue Coats moved to a new arena in nearby Wilmington.
  • Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Pacers): The Punny Name refers to the guy who named the city, General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. Being located in an Indiana city, have always been affiliated with the Pacers, but only in 2015 became a solo connection by the Pacers buying the team.
  • G League Ignite (unaffiliated): The G League's official developmental squad. This team will only play in exhibition games; however, the team is participating in the 2021 bubble season.
  • Grand Rapids Drive (unaffiliated): Founded in 2006 as Anaheim Arsenal and later known as Springfield Armor; moved to Michigan in 2014, and earned another car piece name. The Drive is one of the few remaining independently owned G League teams. In July 2020, the Pistons announced that their affiliation with Grand Rapids would end following the 2020-21 season after buying the rights to the Suns' G League team.
  • Greensboro Swarm (Hornets): Third team in North Carolina (following a defunct one in Fayetteville and a relocated one in Asheville).
  • Iowa Wolves (Timberwolves): Founded in 2007 as the Energy and based in Des Moines, the team was purchased by the Timberwolves a decade later.
  • Lakeland Magic (Magic): Founded as the original Erie BayHawks in 2008, they were affiliated with the Cavs and Sixers, given this Pennsylvania city is between the two teams. Purchased by the Magic in 2017, and moved to Lakeland, Florida, roughly halfway between Orlando and Tampa.
  • Long Island Nets (Nets): Played in the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, the former one-time home of the Nets (mostly during their ABA days) as well as the longtime home of the NHL's Islanders.note  The G League Nets uses the parent club's classic color scheme of red, white, and blue rather than the current black and white.
  • Maine Red Claws (Celtics): Based in Portland, Maine. The Red Claws had been an independently owned team affiliated with the Celtics since 2012, however, the Celtics bought the Red Claws in July 2019.
  • Memphis Hustle (Grizzlies): Another 2017 entry, an expansion team purchased by the Grizzlies after their former affiliate, then the Iowa Energy, was bought by the Timberwolves. Playing in the Memphis suburb of Southaven, Mississippi. The Hustle uses the red and white color scheme of the ABA's Memphis Sounds rather than the Grizzlies' current blue and gold.
  • Motor City Cruise (Pistons): Founded as the Bakersfield Jam in 2006, were purchased by Phoenix a decade later and relocated to Prescott Valley and rebranded as the Northern Arizona Suns. In July 2020, the Pistons bought the rights to the NAZ Suns, with plans to move the team to Detroit, which will be rebranded as the Motor City Cruise, to play on the campus of Wayne State University starting in the 2021-22 season.
  • Oklahoma City Blue (Thunder): Founded as the Asheville Altitude in 2001, relocated to Oklahoma in 2005 to become the Tulsa 66ers. As soon as the Thunder came to the state in 2008, the 66ers were purchased, and were eventually forced to move into a smaller OKC arena in 2014.
  • Raptors 905 (Raptors): 905 is the main area code for the Greater Toronto Area outside of the city of Toronto propernote  - the team plays in Mississauga, Ontario, and like the parent company, it is currently the only team in Canada.
  • Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Rockets): Based in the urban area at the southernmost end of Texas, originally in Hidalgo but now in Edinburg. The Vipers have been solely affiliated with Houston since 2009, after two years of partnership. One of the few G League teams not owned by their NBA affiliate.
  • Salt Lake City Stars (Jazz): Originally the Idaho Stampede, who begun play in 1997 on the now defunct Continent Basketball Association, joined the D-League in 2006 and were one decade later purchased by Utah, who relocated them to a smaller building in the same city they play. The team's name pays homage to the ABA's Utah Stars; the city's former WNBA team also paid homage to the original Stars.
  • Santa Cruz Warriors (Warriors): Originally the Dakota Wizards, who were based in Bismarck, North Dakota, begun in 1995 and were in both the CBA and the International Basketball Association before joining the D-League in 2006. Golden State purchased them in 2011, and one year later moved the team to California.
  • Sioux Falls Skyforce (Heat): Actually dates back to 1989, having also played in the IBA and CBA. In 2017, the Heat purchased a controlling stake in the franchise; however, there are presently no plans to relocate the Skyforce from South Dakota.
  • South Bay Lakers (Lakers): Originally known as the Los Angeles D-Fenders, they are the first G League team owned by a NBA franchise; plays in the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo.
  • Stockton Kings (Kings): Founded as the Reno Bighorns in 2008, and affiliated with the Kings since their inception, though also holding affiliations with six other teams before becoming the Kings' sole affiliate in 2013. The Kings purchased the Bighorns outright during the 2016–17 season, and at the end of the 2017–18 season announced that they would move the Bighorns to Stockton, California, roughly an hour south of Sacramento, rebranding the G League team as the Kings in the process.
  • Texas Legends (Mavericks): Began as the Colorado 14ers in 2006, before the Mavs purchased them and relocated to the DFW city of Frisco in 2009. Notable for being the first men's professional basketball team to hire a woman as head coach.
  • Westchester Knicks (Knicks): Play just north of NYC, in White Plains. They originally used a modernized version of the "Father Knickerbocker" logo before switching to a logo similar to the parent club's. For two seasons, they shared their arena with the WNBA's New York Liberty, but that arrangement ended after the WNBA's 2019 season, when Nets owner Joseph Tsai, who had bought the Liberty before that season, moved the team into the Nets' home of Barclays Center.
  • Windy City Bulls (Bulls): Started play in 2016 in the northwest suburb of Hoffman Estates.
  • Wisconsin Herd (Bucks): Started play in 2017 in Oshkosh, a couple of hours north of the parent team.

Future team

  • Capitanes de Ciudad de Méxicotranslation : An existing team in Mexico's top professional basketball league, the Capitanes will become the first Mexican team to join any US-based professional league. The team had initially planned to enter the league in the 2020-21 season; however, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Capitanes elected to postpone their entry in the G League to the 2021-22 season.


  • 2002: Greenville Groove (defunct team)
  • 2003: Mobile Revelers (defunct team)
  • 2004 and 2005: Asheville Altitude (current Oklahoma City Blue)
  • 2006: Albuquerque Thunderbirds (current Canton Charge)
  • 2007: Dakota Wizards (current Santa Cruz Warriors)
  • 2008: Idaho Stampede (current Salt Lake City Stars)
  • 2009: Colorado 14ers (current Texas Legends)
  • 2010: Rio Grande Valley Vipers
  • 2011: Iowa Energy (current Iowa Wolves)
  • 2012: Austin Toros (current Austin Spurs)
  • 2013: Rio Grande Valley Vipers
  • 2014: Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • 2015: Santa Cruz Warriors (same year Golden State won the major league)
  • 2016: Sioux Falls Skyforce
  • 2017: Raptors 905
  • 2018: Austin Spurs
  • 2019: Rio Grande Valley Vipers
  • 2020: Playoffs canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • 2021: Lakeland Magic


After the regular season, a number of different awards are given out to those who excelled in some aspect of the game. Most of these awards are determined by voting by a panel of American and Canadian media members. Note that unlike MLB awards, most of which are voted on only by sportswriters, the voting panel for the NBA awards (except as noted) specifically includes broadcasters. In addition, there are two more awards—one involving the All-Star Game, and the other for the NBA Finals. The 2016–17 season was the first in which the NBA held an awards banquet after the playoffs, with almost all of the winners being announced and recognized during that event. Previously, the season-based awards were all presented during the playoffs. However, because of COVID-19 disruptions, no banquet was held for the 2019–20 season; awards were announced and presented during the playoffs.

The specific awards are as follows. The "most recent winners" are from 2020 unless otherwise indicated. Team affiliations reflect those in the season for which the award was presented.

  • The Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) is given to the player who is considered to have been the top performer of the regular season. There are no restrictions on who can be named MVP, but it almost always goes to a player from a team that made the playoffs. Only one MVP in the last 35 years (2017 winner Russell Westbrook) played on a team that won fewer than 50 games in a regular season that wasn't shortened by labor issues. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record for most MVP awards with six; Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have five each. Kareem and Wilt are two of the four players who have won this award with two different franchises, with Moses Malone and LeBron James being the others.
  • The Rookie of the Year Award is given to the rookie who is considered to have had the best season. Though a rookie is generally defined as a first-year player, he doesn't necessarily have to be. As long as the player enters the current season without having played in the NBA, he is considered to be in his rookie season. Experience in leagues outside the NBA is not counted against a player; unlike baseball, which has experienced controversy due to Japanese-born players winning that sport's award despite having prior professional experience in Japanese baseball, there has been little if any controversy over eligibility of former foreign professionals. Then again, only two players with foreign pro experience have been named Rookie of the Year: Pau Gasol in 2002 and Luka Dončić in 2019. And both were of typical NBA rookie age when they won (Gasol just shy of 22, and Dončić 20).
    • Most Recent Winner: Ja Morant, PG, Grizzlies
  • The Defensive Player of the Year Award is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace have the most awards, each with four.
    • Most Recent Winner: Antetokounmpo
  • The Most Improved Player of the Year Award is also Exactly What It Says on the Tin. There are no specific guidelines on who can win, but it usually goes to a player who takes a sudden jump from "who the heck is he?" to "he's actually pretty good". Or (as with 2017 winner Giannis Antetokounmpo) it goes to a new member of the league's elite.
    • Most Recent Winner: Brandon Ingram, SF, Pelicans
  • The Sixth Man of the Year Award goes to the best bench player of the regular season. Players who started in more games than they played strictly as a substitute are ineligible. Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams have the most awards with three each. Two players have won this award and been named MVP—Bill Walton (MVP, 1977; Sixth Man, 1986) and James Harden (Sixth Man, 2012; MVP, 2018).
    • Most Recent Winner: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Clippers
  • The NBA Hustle Award is one of the league's newest awards, first presented for the 2016–17 season. It's the only NBA award to be determined solely by statistical criteria. All players who played at least 50 regular-season games and averaged 15 or more minutes are eligible. The award is determined by analysis of five "hustle" stats that the league collects: "screen assists" (screens that lead directly to baskets), deflections, loose balls recovered, charges taken, and shots contested. Each eligible player is compared against players at his position (center, forward, guard) in each statistic on a per-minute basis. A metric then establishes his performance against his positional peers for each statistic, with the five results then summed to determine the final winner.
    • Most Recent Winner: Harrell
  • The Coach of the Year Award goes to the top head coach of the regular season. There are no specific guidelines for who can win, but the award typically goes to the manager of a team who achieved surprising success, usually a team that was expected to finish low in the standings but ended up competing for a title. The record for most wins is three, held by Don Nelson, Pat Riley, and Gregg Popovich. Riley is the only coach to have won the award with three different franchises (Lakers, Knicks, Heat). Several other coaches (Nelson among them) have won with two franchises, but Hubie Brown might be the most notable among them because he won his two awards 26 years apart (1978 and 2004).
    • Most Recent Winner: Nick Nurse, Raptors
  • The Executive of the Year Award goes to the season's top general manager. Unlike the other season awards, media members play no role in the voting; the league's GMs vote instead. There are no specific guidelines for who can win, but the award typically goes to the GM of a contending team. Former Suns GM Jerry Colangelo has the most awards, with four. (And, incidentally, his son Bryan has two of his own.) Three individuals have won with two different franchises—Bob Bass (Spurs, Hornets), Jerry West (Lakers, Grizzlies), and the younger Colangelo (Suns, Raptors).
    • Most Recent Winner: Lawrence Frank, Clippers
Another group of awards based mainly on non-playing criteria is handed out. Each has a different voting procedure from the seasonal awards.
  • The NBA Sportsmanship Award goes to the player viewed as the league's most sportsmanlike. Similar to the Lady Byng Award in the NHL, although unlike that award it does not demand excellence of play. Each NBA team nominates a player, with a screening committee selecting one finalist from each NBA division. The final voting body is the league's players. The winner receives the Joe Dumars Trophy, named for the award's first recipient. Grant Hill and Mike Conley have the most awards, with three each.
    • Most Recent Winner: Vince Carter, SG, Hawks
  • The J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, named after the league's second commissioner, is presented for outstanding community service. Unlike all other NBA awards, it is not restricted to players, coaches, or GMs—any employee of an NBA team is eligible for the award. However, it has only been awarded twice to non-players (once each to a coach and a trainer). Voted on exclusively by sportswriters. The only two-time winner is Mutombo. It's the only season-based award whose winner is not announced at the end-of-season awards banquet.
    • Most Recent Winner: Malcolm Brogdon, PG, Pacers
  • Another community service award, the NBA Cares Community Assist Award, is presented at the awards banquet. It started out as a monthly award program, but a season-long award was added in 2011–12, and the seasonal award is now the only one presented. Unlike the Kennedy Award, the winner is determined by the league itself. The 2019-20 season was unique in that five winners were named.
    • Most Recent Winners: Harrison Barnes, PF/SF, Kings; Jaylen Brown, SG/SF, Celtics; George Hill, PG/SG, Bucks; Chris Paul, PG, Thunder; Dwight Powell, PF/C, Mavericks
  • The Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award (see the Sacramento Kings folder in the "Notable Players" page for an explanation of its namesakes) is presented to the player viewed as the league's "ideal teammate". A panel of NBA legends nominates six players from each conference, with the league's players then casting votes to determine the winner.
    • Most Recent Winner: Jrue Holiday, PG, Pelicans
  • The NBA Lifetime Achievement Award is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It was also first presented after the 2016–17 season, and its recipient is chosen by the league itself.
    • Most Recent Winners (2019): Larry Bird & Magic Johnson
  • The Sager Strong Award, also first presented after the 2016–17 season and determined by the league, is named after Craig Sager, who had been the longtime sideline reporter for Turner's NBA coverage until his death from cancer in 2016. According to the league, it goes to an "individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace." The actual award is unique—instead of a trophy or plaque, it's a distinctive suit jacket, a replica of one that Sager wore while making an iconic acceptance speech for the Jimmy V Award at the 2016 ESPY Awards.
    • Most Recent Winner (2019): Robin Robertsnote 
Finally, the other two awards:
  • The NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player is just that. Like the seasonal playing awards, voted on by the media, in this case immediately after the game so that the trophy can be handed out in the postgame festivities. Bob Pettit and Kobe Bryant (for whom the award was named after his tragic death in January 2020) have the record for most awards, each with four.
    • Most Recent Winner: Kawhi Leonard, SF, Clippers
  • The Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award honors the best performer in the NBA Finals. Russell's name was added to the award in 2009, honoring his record 11 NBA titles as a player. Almost always goes to a player on the championship team—the only player on the losing team ever to win the award was the Lakers' Jerry West in 1969, the first time it was awarded. Michael Jordan has the most awards with six. LeBron James, with four wins, is the only player to have won the award with three different franchises (Heat, Cavs, Lakers); Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kawhi Leonard have won with two franchises.


Also after the regular season, all-league teams are chosen honoring the best players in three different categories. Recipients listed here are from the 2019–20 season.
    All-NBA Team 
The best players in the league. The honor dates back to the first season of the BAA in 1947. The number of players on the team has varied over time:
  • From 1947 to 1955, it consisted of 10 players divided into two teams, without regard to position.
  • From 1956 to 1988, the same number of players were honored, but positions were taken into account—each team consisted of one center, two forwards, and two guards.
  • Since 1989, it has consisted of 15 players divided into three teams, with the same positional restrictions.
A team may be expanded in the case of ties in voting; this applies to the other honors listed below.
  • First Team: Anthony Davis, F/C, Lakers; Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Bucks; LeBron James, F, Lakers; Luka Dončić, G, Mavericks; James Harden, G, Rockets
  • Second Team: Nikola Jokić, C, Nuggets; Kawhi Leonard, F, Clippers; Pascal Siakam, F, Raptors; Damian Lillard, G, Blazers; Chris Paul, G, Thunder
  • Third Team: Rudy Gobert, C, Jazz; Jimmy Butler, F, Heat; Jayson Tatum, F, Celtics; Ben Simmons, G, Sixers; Russell Westbrook, G, Rockets
    All-Defensive Team 
Exactly What It Says on the Tin. First presented in 1969, with the league's head coaches voting; coaches could not vote for players on their own teams. Starting in 2014, the voting body changed to media.note  Throughout the history of the award, 10 players have been chosen, divided into two teams without regard to position.
  • First Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Bucks; Anthony Davis, F/C, Lakers; Ben Simmons, G, Sixers; Rudy Gobert, C, Jazz; Marcus Smart, G, Celtics
  • Second Team: Kawhi Leonard, F, Clippers; Brook Lopez, C, Bucks; Bam Adebayo, F/C, Heat; Patrick Beverley, G, Clippers; Eric Bledsoe, G, Bucks
    All-Rookie Team 
Also Exactly What It Says on the Tin; first presented in 1963. The league's head coaches have been the voting body throughout the history of the award. Coaches cannot vote for their own players. Throughout the history of the award, 10 players have been chosen, divided into two teams without regard to position.
  • First Team: Ja Morant, G, Grizzlies; Kendrick Nunn, G, Heat; Brandon Clarke, F, Grizzlies; Zion Williamson, F, Pelicans; Eric Paschall, F, Warriors
  • Second Team: Tyler Herro, G, Heat; Terence Davis II, G, Raptors; Coby White, G, Bulls; P.J. Washington Jr., F, Hornets; Rui Hachimura, F, Wizards

Notable Players

The NBA has so many players of note throughout its history that they had to be put on their own page.

Notable Coaches, Executives, and Other Figures

The list of big names in NBA history doesn't stop with players. The league has also been home to many famous coaches, executives, announcers, superfans, etc. through the years.

  • Red Auerbach was a legendary coach of the early NBA, coaching for the Washington Capitols and the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now the Atlanta Hawks, and with whom Auerbach drafted Chuck Cooper, the first African-American player in the NBA) before joining the Boston Celtics, which he led from 1950 to 1966. Auerbach pioneered the role of the modern basketball coach, and redefined the game to emphasize the team as opposed to the individual, and he was the first coach to develop his players into role players and "sixth man" bench players. He also innovated the fast break strategy, one of only seven plays he ever used. During his tenure with the Celtics, Auerbach won nine titles and 936 games (both records when he retired which have since been surpassed). After retirement, the Celtics made Auerbach their general manager and then president, a position he held until his death in 2006.
  • Phil Jackson is the NBA coach with the most titles, winning 11 in over the course of his 33-year career (and that's not even including the two he won as a player for the New York Knicks in the 1970s). Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998, leading the Michael Jordan fronted squad to both of their three-peats. His tenure in Chicago would have been enough to get him in the Hall of Fame, but he switched teams to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999 and won five more championships with teams led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Jackson based his coaching techniques on Eastern zen philosophy, earning him the nickname "The Zen Master." He had a winning record every year he was head coach for a team, and is one of only six coaches to accumulate over 1,000 wins. He was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 while he was still coaching the Lakers, and retired in 2011.

  • Without Danny Biasone and Leo Ferris, the NBA might not have survived the 1950s.
    • Biasone was an Italian immigrant who grew up in Syracuse, New York, becoming a successful businessman and founding owner of the Syracuse Nationals (today's Philadelphia 76ers) of the Basketball Association of America (the main predecessor to the NBA). The early years of the NBA saw many games degenerate into stall-fests, with the most infamous being a 19–18 game (not a misprint!) in 1950. Biasone knew something had to change, which is where Ferris came in.
    • Ferris, also a successful businessman, was the founder and owner of the Buffalo (later Tri-Cities) Bisons in the BAA's rival, the National Basketball League. He soon became president of the NBL with one mandate from the league's owners: force a merger with the BAA. Ferris convinced the NBL owners to outbid the BAA for top college players, and then came up with the idea of giving an entire team (specifically the Indianapolis Olympians) to a group of prominent college players, namely Kentucky's "Fabulous Five" of the late 1940s (actually, four of them plus their sixth man). That move led to the merger of the two leagues in 1949. He then went on to become Biasone's general manager in Syracuse, where together they devised the modern 24-second shot clock. That led to an immediate increase in scoring and fan interest, securing the league's survival and setting the stage for its future growth. Interestingly, while Biasone is remembered in basketball history for this innovation—to the point that he's in the Hall of Fame—newspaper accounts of the day gave more credit to Ferris. On top of that, Ferris' role in the creation of the NBA was also widely covered at the time. However, Ferris left basketball for good just a few months before the shot clock was introduced, and by the time his contributions were becoming recognized, he was suffering from Huntington's disease, an incurable and fatal genetic neurological disorder. Ferris didn't even get nominated for the Hall until the late 2010s, and still isn't in. This story provides a good overview of Ferris' contributions.
  • David Stern may be the most influential figure in the modern history of the NBA. He made his first major impact on the league as a young attorney for the NBA's law firm, when he negotiated a settlement of the Oscar Robertson lawsuit that paved the way for player free agency. He would move into the NBA front office in 1978, where he helped institute the league's first player drug testing program and successfully negotiated its first salary cap. After these successes, he became commissioner in early 1984, the same year that saw four of the league's marquee players for the next two decades enter—Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. When Stern's tenure started, the league had just come out of a decade-long Dork Age, but by the middle of the 2000s, the league had expanded to 30 teams and had a major TV presence throughout the world. He retired in 2014 with the NBA firmly cemented as one of the world's most financially successful leagues, and its players having the highest average salaries of any league in any world sport (though the small size of NBA rosters relative to those of other major sports contributed to that). He became a Naismith Hall of Fame member later in 2014, passing on New Year's Day 2020.

    Other Figures 
  • Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and is one of the most famous sports team owners in the United States, typically being better known than the coach or most of the players on the current Mavericks squad. Cuban bought the team in 2000 after he sold his internet start-up to Yahoo! for billions in stock. He is known as a hands-on owner, and sits in the stands with fans every game as opposed to watching it from a private skybox. Cuban's exuberant personality and regular proximity to the court means he's gotten in trouble a bunch with the league, and has been fined millions for his critical statements and confrontations with players and referees.
  • Chick Hearn was the play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1965 until his death in 2002, broadcasting for a record 3,338 consecutive games. Hearn was famous for his enthusiastic delivery style and for coining several quirky neologisms and catchphrases during his broadcasts, including some that later became standard basketball terminology like "slam dunk" and "air ball". The year after his death, Hearn became the first broadcaster to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor.


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