The National Basketball Association is the highest professional league of competitive basketball in The United States and Canada. The league recognizes its formation as 1946, the year the Basketball Association of America ("BAA") was formed, and derives its history primarily from said league. In 1949, the BAA merged with the rival National Basketball League ("NBL", established in 1937) and adopted the NBA name. In 1976, the NBA merged with the rival American Basketball Association ("ABA", established 1967), and brought on several of that league's innovations.
The NBA currently has 30 teamsnote split into two conferences (Eastern and Western). 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. This makes the NBA the first major U.S. professional league to eliminate automatic playoff berths for division winners. NBA regular seasons are 82 games in length, with some rare exceptions.note As of 2003, all playoff series are best-of-seven series. As of 2020 (yes, it relates to the COVID-19 Pandemic), the NBA has also implemented the play-in tournament for teams with records towards the middle of each conference. The current play-in tournament now allows for the 7th through 10th seed to compete for the final two seeds in each conference: The winner of a game between the 7th and 8th teams receives a berth. The 9th and 10th teams play a game, with the winner of that match facing the loser of the 7/8 match. The winner of this third game takes the final playoff spot.
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 and players from other North American leagues are also chosen.note The draft consists of 2 rounds, the shortest (by far) of any of the major North American sportsnote , due to basketball not needing as many players on the court as other sports leagues would, with teams having a maximum 17 signed players at any time. 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* , 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". 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 based on inverse record.
In addition to the NBA professional basketball league itself, the NBA (as an organization) also manages the women's basketball league the WNBA (currently detailed under Useful Notes: Basketball), and a men's "developmental" league, the NBA G League (corporately rebranded by Gatorade from the NBA Development League starting in 2017–18). More information on the G League, and how its players can contract with NBA teams, is in its own section below.
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 and its absorbed leagues.
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*
- 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.*
- 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.*
The 2020s: A New Generation Rises
- 2020–21: Milwaukee Bucks won over the Phoenix Suns 4-2.*
- 2021–22: Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics 4–2.
- 2022–23: Denver Nuggets vs. Miami Heat
- The Boston Celtics are one of the oldest, most storied, and most successful teams in the history of the NBA. Founded in 1946 as one of the league's original teams, the Celtics have recorded the most wins of any NBA team and have won 17 championships, long the most in the league. This number was greatly inflated by an unprecedented eight straight championship wins between 1959-66, by far the longest such streak in North American pro sports. Behind legends such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and John Havlicek and coach Red Auerbach, the Celtics were the most dominant team in basketball in the late '50s and '60s even outside their unbroken run—five-time MVP Russell won 11 total championships within 13 seasons, his first in his rookie '57 season and the last two as a player coach in 1968-69.note Many of these victories came at the expense of the Lakers, which would soon develop into the team's greatest rival. The team picked up two more titles in '74 and '76 before Larry Bird and Kevin McHale added three more to the tally in '81, '84, and '86, the latter two coming in a streak of four straight Finals appearances in which their only losses came to the Lakers; their rivalry was particularly strong in this era thanks to the history between Bird and Lakers star Magic Johnson, which dated back to their college years. Success eluded the Celtics for many years after Bird retired, thanks in part to a pair of tragic deaths of their young players.note However, behind a revived "Big Three" of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, the Celtics won their 17th championship in 2008 after defeating the Lakers, who returned the favor in the Finals two years later. They remained generally competitive in years since and finally returned to the Finals in 2022, though they have yet to add another O'Brien Trophy to the case, allowing their championship record to be tied by their Arch-Enemy. The team's name and mascot, a leprechaun named Lucky, are a reference to Boston's sizable Irish population, and their main colors are green and white. The Celtics are also notable for playing their home games on a unique parquet-style oak floor, a tradition that dates back to the '50s; only the Magic use the parquet styling, and all the other teams use maple wood in their home courts. Finally, they have retired the most numbers of any pro sports team at 23, though few would question whether the franchise has produced at least that many legendary players.
- The Brooklyn Nets were formerly known as the New Jersey Nets (and before that the New York Nets, and before that the New Jersey Americans). They were one of four ABA teams to merge into the NBA in 1976. In the Nets' ABA days, they were led by Julius Erving and won two championships ('74, '76). Their years in the NBA, however, have not been as fruitful, as the Nets have been mired in mediocrity for decades, with the only notable exception coming in the form of back-to-back trips to the Finals in 2002-03, though they lost both. In 2012, a consortium of investors led by real-estate mogul Brett Ratner and including Jay-Z as a significant minority partner bought the Nets and moved them to Brooklyn, giving the borough its first major league franchise since the Dodgers left for California in the '50s.note The involvement of Jay-Z—a Brooklyn native known to be a big basketball fan—lent credibility (and more than a bit of hype) to the project. After three good seasons in Brooklyn, the aging/expensive roster bottomed out, then climbed out of the abyss and signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the 2019 offseason, making them potential title contenders with the hype of being a "superteam", only added to after the Nets made a monster trade to get James Harden; none of these trades have worked in securing a ring, and all of these stars were gone before the end of the 2022-23 season. The Nets are one of three teams with non-white majority owners; Joseph Tsai, the Taiwanese–Canadian co-founder of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, finalized his purchase of the 51% of the team he didn't already own in 2019. He spent $2.35 billion in all to buy complete control, then the highest price for an NBA franchise. Their colors are black and white.
- The New York Knicks (short for "Knickerbockers"note ) are one of the NBA's most valuable franchises in terms of net worth* , though they have been The Chew Toy of the NBA for a long time. A charter member of the leaguenote , the Knicks won two titles in 1970 and '73 led by Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, and Willis Reed. In the '90s, the team was led by Patrick Ewing and went to two Finals in 1994 and '99 but came up short of a championship win against the other dominant teams of the era. More recently, the Knicks have been the victim of several seasons of mismanagement and horrible front office moves, primarily led by executive owner James Dolan. 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, but all of these moves proved disastrous. The Knicks currently play in Madison Square Garden, the oldest (opened in 1967 but a relatively new facility thanks to a 2010s renovation) and arguably most iconic arena in the league. The arena's fame as a concert and boxing venue in America's biggest market means it's more valuable than the team is.note 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. Spike Lee is a devout fan of the team, and his escalating despair over the team's struggles from his front-row seat in the Garden has arguably eclipsed the entertainment value of the team itself. The team's colors are a vibrant Orange/Blue Contrast.
- The Philadelphia 76ers are one of original teams in the NBA. Dating back to 1946 as the Syracuse Nationals, the Sixers have called Philly home since 1963. They have boasted some of the greatest players in NBA history, including Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, and Allen Iverson. The franchise won three titles in their history ('55 as the Nationals and '67 and '83 as the 76ers) and have logged nine total trips to the NBA Finals, with four of them coming in a run of strength in the late '70s/early '80s (fittingly kicking off in the 1976-77 season) and the most recent coming in 2001. In the 2010s, after years of inconsistency, they went through perhaps the most extreme rebuilding process the NBA has ever seen in hopes of building a more sustained winning franchise, with three seasons featuring all-time record losing streaks and fewer than 20 victories while continually sending away most competitive players in exchange for draft picks. 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 Kings; since the late 2010s, the team has been competitive and featured a generational talent in Joel Embiid but has a bad case of Every Year They Fizzle Out, leaving many to question if "The Process" was worth it. The team's colors, reflecting their patriotic name (a reference to the date the U.S. Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia), are red, white, and blue.
- The Toronto Raptors are one of the youngest franchises in the NBA and are the only team still based in Canada after the league's attempted expansion into the country in 1995* . 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". The Raptors were initially known for the teams that featured Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. After many stretches as The Chew Toy, they started to recover in 2016 with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, having a major winning breakthrough in the playoffs and 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, leading to the moniker "LeBronto" for their city. 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 advanced to their first-ever NBA Finals and became the first team/city outside the U.S. to win the NBA championship, defeating the Warriors in six games and earning Leonard his second Finals MVP and NBA trophies. The Raptors seem to be facing something of a rebuild following Leonard's departure for the Clippers in the 2019 offseason. Jurassic Park not only inspired the team name but became the nickname of Maple Leaf Square during public viewings of the team's games.
- The Chicago Bulls were the team of the '90s as the team of the great Michael Jordan and thus remain one of the NBA's most popular teams despite generally underperforming through the rest of their Jordan-less history. The Bulls date back to 1966 and started out a generally good team, even making back-to-back Conference Finals appearances in 1974-75. However, after a few years out of contention, the franchise ascended to its greatest heights with the arrival of Jordan, Scottie Pippen, coach Phil Jackson, and a host of other stars in the late '80s. During Jordan's peak, Chicago won six championships in two separate threepeats (1991-93, 1996-98) and put forth some of the greatest basketball the NBA has ever seen. (The 1995-96 Bulls, which added Dennis Rodman to the mix, went 72-10, a single-season record until the 2015–16 Warriors came along.) Since that era's end, however, the Bulls have struggled to rise back to the top of the Eastern Conference, flirting in and out of being a top contender. They came closest to a revival in the early '10s under Derrick Rose, who took them to the 2011 Conference Finals in an MVP season, but they have not returned to the NBA Finals since Jordan's departure. The team's colors are red and black.
- The Cleveland Cavaliers are best known as having been the team of LeBron James for most of his career. Founded in 1970, the Cavs were borderline mediocre throughout much of their history before James' arrival, having never made it to the NBA Finals and only getting to the prior round twice (in '76, a relative outlier, and in '92, in the midst of their most successful pre-Bron era). In 2003, they drafted James #1 overall and became one of the best teams in the East for the next few seasons, reaching their first Finals in 2007. After several seasons of playoff disappointments, James left the Cavs and signed with Miami in 2010, and Cleveland went roughly nowhere without their best player. After four years in Miami, he decided to come home to much rejoicing; the Cavs got back near the top of the league with four straight Finals appearances and finally won a championship in 2016 (Cleveland's first in any major league sport since 1964). However, LeBron left again in 2018, this time for the Lakers, returning the Cavs to the state they were in after his first departure. They're now back to respectability, though not yet close to title contention. Their colors are dark wine red and gold.
- The Detroit Pistons actually predate the NBA itself by nine years, having been founded in 1937 in Fort Wayne, Indiana as a semi-professional team created by a request from the workers of the team's original owner, Fred Zollner of the Zollner Corporation. The Zollner Pistons later became professional in 1941 as part of the NBL (where they won two championships in 1944-45) before joining the NBA (removing the Zollner from the team name in favor of just Fort Wayne) in 1948. They became a key figure for the NBL/BAA merger into the NBA a year later, with the leagues literally agreeing to the merger in Zollner's house at his kitchen table. The team made back-to-back Finals appearances in 1955-56 before moving to Detroit in 1957. They struggled through most of the '60s and '70s before entering their most famous era, that of the infamous "Bad Boys" teams of the late '80s and early '90s. Led by Isiah Thomas and with supporting players such as Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, and Dennis Rodman, they used brutal defense to reach five straight Conference Finals, three straight Finals appearances, and win two consecutive championships in 1989-90, knocking out Michael Jordan and his Bulls in the process. After another regression, the team had another impressive run in the 2000s, when a core of Chauncey Billups, Richard "Rip" Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, and Ben Wallace dominated the Eastern Conference and reached six straight Conference Finals, though they only reached the next round twice (2004-05) and only won the championship in '04. The team has since regressed back to the bottom of the league. After nearly 40 years based in Detroit's northern suburbs, the team returned to the city proper in 2017 to share the arena built by the NHL's Red Wings. Their colors are blue and red.
- The Indiana Pacersnote (named in reference to the pace cars of IndyCar) 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. They are best known for their '90s teams led by Reggie Miller, who had an outstanding rivalry with the Knicks throughout the decade. In recent years, the Pacers were one of the most competitive teams in the Eastern Conference before star player Paul George was dealt to the Thunder in the 2017 offseason. The Pacers' home arena, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, is often held up as one of the best atmospheres in the NBA due to being the only venue in the league designed primarily for basketball.note Their colors are navy blue and gold, and their slogan is "Boom, Baby".
- The Milwaukee Bucks are the former team of Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson and the current team of Greek swingman and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. They won a championship in 1971, their third season of existence, and had another Finals appearance three years later, but were generally average to mediocre after that, with some good teams in the mid-'80s and a deep run in 2001. The acquisition of Giannis turned the Bucks' fortunes around in the late 2010s, and after he bucked (no pun intended) the trend of small-market superstars leaving through free agency or forcing a trade, something Kareem did to the Bucks in the seventies, by signing a supermax extension* in the 2020 offseason, he took the team to their first title in a half-century in 2021. The Bucks ended a 30-year residence 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 new Fiserv Forum. For decades, the team was owned by U.S. Senator/Kohl's department store CEO Herb Kohl before being bought out by a hedge fund in 2014. More recently, one of the co-owners sold his 25% stake to Jimmy and Dee Haslam, owners of the Cleveland Browns, in February 2023 for a sum that values the Bucks at $3.5 billion. Their main colors are green and cream, and their slogan is "Fear the Deer".
- The Atlanta Hawks have been around for as long as the NBA itself, though they have not spent all that time in Atlanta. Founded in 1946 as the Buffalo Bisons, they moved after barely a month of play to become the Tri-Cities Blackhawksnote . The franchise moved to Milwaukee in 1951 and to St. Louis in 1955. The franchise experienced the most success in Missouri with the great Bob Pettit leading the way, winning their sole championship in 1958 (and losing three more Finals appearance to the dominant Celtics). They landed in Atlanta in 1968, and Ted Turner bought the team in the late '70s, mostly so his Superstation WTBS would have sports to air (he bought the MLB Atlanta Braves for the same reason). In the 1980s, Slam Dunk Contest champions Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins made the team very entertaining to watch, even if they didn't have much postseason success, a trend that has continued ever since. From 2004-15 (after Time Warner sold off Turner's sports teams), the Hawks were 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. Ironically, the team was pretty solid on the court during most of this era, including their first Conference Finals visit since conferences were formed in 2015. After this, the team entered into a brief rebuilding mode before emerging for another Conference Finals appearance in 2021 under current star Trae Young. Their colors are red, yellow, and black.
- The Charlotte Hornets have an... interesting history. The original Hornets were founded in 1988 and were one of the most exciting and popular teams of the '90s (helped by their very decade-appropriate teal and purple color scheme). 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 to give the league an even 30 teams, and 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; the strike-shortened 2011-12 season saw the Bobcats log the worst winning percentage in NBA history, winning just 7 of 66 games (.106). In 2013, the New Orleans Hornets renamed themselves the Pelicans, thus opening the door for the Bobcats to "return" the Hornets name and colors back to Charlotte. Additionally, by agreement with the NBA and the Pelicans, the team also regained the rights to the history and records of the original Charlotte Hornets. The other most notable thing about the team is that it has been owned by Michael Jordan since 2010, making him the only former player to have majority ownership for a franchise, though he has had far less success leading a team off the court; they remain the only Eastern team to have yet to make a Finals appearance. They were also the first NBA team with a non-white majority owner; Jordan's predecessor, founder Robert Johnson, is also African-American.
- The Miami Heat are one of the more decorated and successful teams in the league, garnering six Finals appearances (including four straight in the early 2010s) and three NBA championships since stepping on the court as an expansion franchise in 1988. The arrival of the Showtime Lakers' coach Pat Riley in the '90s, first as coach and then as GM/president, elevated the young team. They had their first era of success with legendary defender Alonzo Mourning, then broke through for their first title in 2006 thanks to Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. From 2010-14, LeBron James and Chris Bosh formed a Power Trio with Wade, turning the Heat into the go-to polarizing team in all of basketball and earning back-to-back league titles in 2012-13. LeBron returned to Cleveland after 2014 and the Heat were forced to rebuild. Once they landed on current star Jimmy Butler, the Heat quickly bounced back to the Finals in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season (amusingly against LeBron's Lakers, which defeated them). They made the Conference Finals in 2022 and returned to the Finals in '23, in the latter becoming only the second #8 seed to go that farnote . Their colors are black, red, and yellow.
- The Orlando Magic have only been around since 1989, yet were competitive in 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, they have been closer to the bottom of the league since Howard left in 2012 and are currently in the midst of a rebuilding process. Their name is a lawyer-friendly allusion to nearby Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, as they are the only Big Four sports franchise to call the Theme Park Capital of the World home, and their colors are blue, black, and silver.
- The Washington Wizards date back to 1961. They have seen plenty of moves and name changes in their history: Chicago Packers in 1961, Chicago Zephyrs in 1962, Baltimore Bullets (2.0) in 1963, Capital Bullets in 1973, Washington Bullets in 1974, and finally the current name in 1997 after enough people pointed out that having a gun-related name in a city with a high crime rate was a poor marketing strategy. As the Bullets, they had a dominant run in the '70s, led by Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, that saw them make four trips to the Finals and win the championship in 1978. Sadly, the Bullets/Wizards have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs since their '78 championship, through the '90s couldn't even get to the postseason, and were known in the early 2000s as the place where an aged Michael Jordan un-retired for two years and failed to develop Kwame Brown into his heir apparent. The current Wizards are still trying to establish themselves as a legit contender in the East, as the past decade has seen a rotating cast of stars like John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Bradley Beal lead the team to playoff spots and the occasional division title but never past the conference semis. Their colors, fitting with their position in the nation's capital, are red, white, and blue.
- The Denver Nuggetsnote were founded in 1967 as an ABA team called the Rockets* and are one of the four ABA teams that merged into the NBA in 1976 (just after they lost in that league's Finals). They spent the next half-century establishing a reputation for general regular season excellence with little to show for it in the postseason, not even appearing in the NBA Finals until 2023, reaching just four Conference Finals ('78, '85, '09, '20). This trend for postseason ineptitude is especially painful considering the Nuggets have visited the playoffs more than any team in North American pro sports that haven't won a single championship. Throughout the '80s and early '90s, the Nuggets were recognized for their high-scoring offense led by Alex English and their so-so defense.note They were anchored defensively by Dikembe Mutombo in the early '90s and notched the very first #8 seed upset in the first round of the 1994 playoffs over Seattle before entering another period of irrelevance. Their prospects were somewhat turned around by Carmelo Anthony in the 2000s, but they continued to struggle in the playoffs and were torn asunder by interpersonal drama. Today, the team is led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, whose play has returned them to being regular competitors in the West and helped them achieve their first Finals berth. Their colors are blue, yellow, and red.
- The Minnesota Timberwolvesnote hold the dubious "honor" of having the worst lifetime win percentage in the NBA and in major North American pro sports. Founded in 1989, the T-Wolves' biggest successes are tied with Kevin Garnett's prime years in the late '90s and early 2000s, which culminated in 2004 with an MVP award and the team's only division title and trip to the Conference Finals. During this span, they rival Sacramento in the biggest draft misses, frequently taking poor-middling players over future superstars.note Ever since then, the T-Wolves have finished at or near the bottom of a hyper-competitive Western Conference, only making the playoffs twice since. Garnett left Minnesota for Boston in 2007 to finally win a championship, then 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 is finally showing some signs of improvement. They are another NBA team that recently changed hands, having been purchased in May 2021 for $1.5 billion by e-commerce mogul Marc Lore and former MLB superstar Alex Rodriguez. Their colors are blue and green.
- 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, reaching the Finals on two other occasions ('78, '96), and appearing in three other Conference Finals. 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 when they were displaced for two seasons by Hurricane Katrina, prompted their move to become the Thunder in 2008. (This is still a sore point in Seattle).note . As the only major pro sports franchise in Oklahoma, the team quickly grew powerful under superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and the young core of talent led the Thunder to a Finals appearance in 2012 and three other Conference Finals, coming up short each time. Durant's departure for the Warriors as a free agent after 2016 left the Thunder with a very uncertain future, though Westbrook carried the team to a playoff appearance and an MVP title. They picked up Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to create a new Big 3 in the offseason, but this failed to get them back to contention, leading to the team entering rebuild mode in 2019. The team's colors are orange, blue, and yellow.
- The Portland Trail Blazers date back to 1970 and are the former team of Bill Walton (who won the team's only championship in 1977, their first ever winning season) and Clyde Drexler (who led Portland to the Finals in '90 and '92). They had another run of success in the late '90s, reaching consecutive Conference Finals before its players had so many off-field legal issues that they gained the nickname "The Jail Blazers". 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 setback after setback to try to stay competitive in the Western Conference, thanks in large part to the exploits of Damian Lillard, who took them to a Conference Finals appearance in 2019. The Blazers are both the only Big Four sports team in Portland and, with the moving of the SuperSonics, the only NBA team in the Pacific Northwest (they actually share owners with the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League, the only football team in the region). Their colors are red and black, and their "pinwheel" logo is meant to be an abstract illustration of a 5-on-5 player matchup (yes, really — what can we say, it's Portland).
- The Utah Jazznote are the former team of "Pistol" Pete Maravich, John Stockton, Karl "The Mailman" Malone, and longtime head coach Jerry Sloan. The Jazz have been one of the league's stronger teams, being the only one to never post more than 60 losses in a season and making the playoffs 19 years straight from 1984-2003, being led for many of those years by the tandem of Stockton and Malone. However, despite their regular season dominance, they have no championships to show for it. The team have only made the Finals twice ('97-'98), losing both to Michael Jordan's Bulls, and came up short in three other Conference Finals in the Stockton-Malone era. Their last Conference Finals visit came in '07, late in Sloan's career, and they have yet to come any closer to contending for a title. Donovan Mitchell and three-time DPotY Rudy Gobert returned the Jazz to strength in the early 2020s until both were traded in the 2022 offseason. Needless to say, a championship still eludes them. ...Oh, right; if you're wondering what Mormon Utah has to do with jazz, this is yet another team with an Artifact Title. The franchise started in New Orleans in 1974 and moved to Salt Lake City in 1979. The team's then-owner didn't change the name and kept their Mardi Gras-inspired colors of blue, green, and gold because he thought the move would be temporary, but after all these years few question it anymore.note When Tom Benson acquired the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012, he attempted to reclaim the Jazz name for New Orleans, but the Jazz owners weren't interested in giving it up.
- The Golden State Warriors are the Bay Area's team, and while their recent accomplishments stand out most clearly, they have a deep and well-traveled history. Formed as the Philadelphia Warriors, a charter member of the NBA, the franchise has won seven championships, the most in the league behind only the Lakers and Celtics: two in Philly in 1947 (the first in league history) and '56, and five in California in 1975, 2015, '17, '18, and '22. Wilt Chamberlain played for the Warriors before and after their cross-country move prior to his return to Philadelphia. The team took the "Golden State" name in 1971 after moving to neighboring Oakland, and Rick Barry led them to the title in '75. They declined into nearly three decades of mediocre basketball soon after (save for a glimmer of promise in the late '80s/early '90s with the "Run-TMC" trio of Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and Tim Hardaway). However, things changed dramatically for the Warriors in the 2010s when they drafted "Splash Brothers" Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who led them to five straight Finals appearances from 2015-19. With the additions of power forward Draymond Green in '12 and head coach Steve Kerr in '14, the Warriors established themselves as arguably the greatest shooting team in NBA history, winning the title in '15. They 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 having a 3-1 series advantage over the Cavaliers). Thanks to the "Dubs"note relative youth, they appeared to be a title threat for years to come... and that was before they added Kevin Durant in 2016, which helped them go on a historic rampage through the playoffs, with their only postseason loss coming in Game 4 of the Finals against The Rival Cleveland. They swept the Cavs completely in their next Finals, effectively sending LeBron James to the Lakers in the process. The Dubs had less luck in the '19 Finals, where they lost 4–2 to the Raptors due to injuries to Durant and Thompson. They subsequently departed Oakland for a new arena in San Francisco, which seemed to curse the team for the next two seasons; however, the dynasty resumed with his return in 2021-22, winning the Warriors another title. Their colors are yellow and royal blue.
- The Los Angeles Clippers are one of two teams in Los Angeles, both of which currently share Crypto.com Arena (previously known as Staples Center). Born as the Buffalo Braves in 1970, they became the San Diego Clippers (as in the boats, not the hair-cutting instruments) in 1978 and moved to L.A. in 1984. For a long time, they were 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 poor signing decisions) and the raving success of the crosstown Lakers didn't help matters either. Things started to look up for them in the 2010s when they drafted Blake Griffin, acquired Chris Paul, and Sterling was permanently 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 in that time, being named that after Paul's skillful passing and Griffin and DeAndre Jordan'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, who finally managed to take the team to a conference championship for the first time in its half-century history of existence in 2021, though they still fell short of the finals, keeping them the franchise that has gone the longest (over 50 years) without ever playing in one. 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, set to open in 2024. Their colors are red, blue, and black.
- The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the NBA's most popular team. They are one of the most accomplished franchises in sports, winning 17 championships and posting 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, Pau Gasol, and LeBron James. They're also known for their celebrity fanbase, most notably Jack Nicholson. The Artifact Title name comes from their original city, Minneapolis, located in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes", which were originally created for the then-rivaling NBL after the wretched Detroit Gems folded and were pretty much sold off to a Minneapolis owner after the Gems' only season of existence. The Lakers began stacking up championships immediately, winning the NBL's title in 1948 after their very first season before jumping over to the BAA (the precursor to the NBA) the next year and claiming five of the next six championships there. They moved to LA in 1960 and quickly established themselves as the city's favorite sports franchise by bringing titles to multiple generations of Angelenos. The Lakers have produced some of the most dominant eras in the NBA, which makes them as big as a love-em-or-hate-em team (and fanbase) as you'll ever come across. Fans of different ages can remember Chamberlain winning a late-career championship in '72 shortly after an NBA record 33-game win streak; the "Showtime" era of Magic, Kareem, and coach Pat Riley in the '80s that saw them win five championships and engage in an epic rivalry with Larry Bird and the Celtics (dramatized in the series Winning Time); and the Kobe-Phil Jackson years, with either the Shaq three-peat from 2000-02 or the back-to-back titles in 2009-10. The following decade was not as kind to the Lakers, as Bryant fell victim to injuries and attempts to follow the superteam trend fizzled out; after never posting a playoff drought longer than two seasons in the franchise's entire history, they missed out on the postseason for six years. However, the arrival of James and Anthony Davis brought them back to the top of the league once again after the COVID-impacted 2019–20 season, tying their rival Celtics for the most championships. Their colors are purple and gold.
- The Phoenix Suns date back to 1968 and are the former team of Charles Barkley in the early-to-mid '90s and Steve Nash for much of the 2000s. Despite generally being a strong team, the Suns' successes have almost always flamed out in some fashion or another and the franchise has never won a championship; in fact, they have the most Finals appearances of any team without a title. 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 '76 Finals, where the Suns lost to Boston 128-126 in triple overtime. After two more Conference Final visits, the team's performance dipped until they returned to consecutive Conference Finals appearances in the early '90s. The acquisition of Barkley in 1992 helped them get to the next stage and reach the '93 Finals, where they were cut short by Jordan's Bulls. In the 2000s, Nash took the Suns to the top of the standings and another two Conference Finals with a high octane offense, but the franchise slumped mightily following his departure. In 2020-21, after not reaching the postseason for a full decade, the team went on a resurgent run led by Devin Booker and Chris Paul all the way to a third Finals appearance, only to come up short against the Bucks. At around this same time, however, franchise owner Robert Sarver became embroiled in serious allegations of racism, sexism, and misogyny that had not been seen since Donald Sterling owned the Clippers; while serving a suspension through the 2022-23 season, he officially sold the team to Mat Ishbia, a benchwarmer on Michigan State's 2000 NCAA title team, and his older brother Justin Ishbia for $4 billion in 2023, the largest such sale for any NBA franchise. Currently, the Suns host the biggest superteam of the season with Kevin Durant being traded to the Suns and joining their rich starting lineup. Their colors are purple and orange.
- 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 eventually renaming themselves the Royals in 1945* , they won the NBL Championship. Three years later, they joined the BAA/NBA. They moved to Cincinnati in 1957, became the Kansas City(-Omaha) Kings in 1972, and finally settled in Sacramento in 1985, becoming the only Big Four sports team in the market. Despite their long history, the Kings only have one NBA title to their name, won in 1951, and haven't even made it to the Finals since, the longest such droughts of any franchise. They have come agonizingly close, though, taking both Bill Russell's Celtics and Shaq and Kobe's Lakers to seven games in the Conference Finals. During the early 2000s, the team was a perennial contender thanks to a strong starting five 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 Finals before entering the longest playoff drought in NBA history from 2006-22, a stretch that brought into question the team's future in the small market of California's capital. After many relocation rumors, including a close call in 2013 where the team almost moved to Seattle, a local entrepreneur (and former minority owner of the Warriors) bought the Kings, and Sacramento was able to get a deal in place to build a new downtown arena. This transaction made the Kings the second NBA team with a non-white majority owner, as said entrepreneur, Vivek Ranadivé, is originally from India. A series of poor ownership decisions (both from the old and current owners), a carousel of lame-duck coaches, and boneheaded front office choicesnote kept the team in the NBA basement before they finally broke the historic drought with a strong 2022-23 season. During that season, the Kings started a highly memetic victory celebration, lighting a massive laser beam in their primary color of purple atop their arena after wins.note Their colors are royal purple and gray.
- The Dallas Mavericks were founded in 1980 and were home to some okay basketball in the '80s (reaching the Conference Finals in '88) and some truly awful basketball in the '90s. Then 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, reaching Conference Finals in 2003 and being a regular competitor, the Mavs could never seem to win it all until 2011, when they upset LeBron and the Heat to give the franchise its first championship. With Nowitzki having retired in 2019, the Mavs are now led by Luka Dončić, who helped lead the team back to the Conference Finals in 2022. The Mavericks got their name because Maverick star James Garner was a part of the founding ownership; their mascot is a stallion and their colors are blue and silver.
- The Houston Rockets date back to 1967. They were the San Diego Rockets for their first four seasons before moving to Houston; obviously, with Houston's NASA roots, there was no reason for a name change. After a Conference Finals appearance in 1977 and a Finals appearance in 1980, the team picked up local college star Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984. "The Dream" led them to another Finals appearance in '86, but it was when the Rockets named former player Rudy Tomjanovich their coach that they became a true dynasty in the '90s, winning back-to-back championships in '94-'95 (and one last Conference Finals in '97). 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 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 2012. His play established them as a true contender in the West, advancing to the Conference Finals in '15 and '18, finishing the latter season with the league's best record. However, the team was never able to get over the hump to return to the Finals, and they entered a rebuild in 2021, engineering a four-team trade that sent Harden to the Nets. Their colors are red and black.
- The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the youngest teams in the league and started out in Vancouver in 1995. After six seasons of some REALLY bad basketball in Canada, compiling an all-time winning percentage of .220 in Canada, the Grizzlies moved to Memphis (a region without any native grizzly bears) in 2001, becoming the city's only Big Four sports team. 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 Conference Finals in 2013 in the midst of their so-called "Grit and Grind" era of Stone Wall defensive play. They are currently led on the floor by highlight-reel-generator Ja Morant. Their colors are blue, grey, and gold.
- 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. A deal struck with the current Charlotte Hornets has officially deemed the Pelicans as though they never were in Charlotte, having been founded in 2002 instead of 1988. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, they played home games in Oklahoma City for two years, making them the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets for two seasons (and contributing to Seattle losing the SuperSonics). The team's been fairly consistently mediocre in their history. Point guard Chris Paul led the team to their first division title in '08, but they've slipped back into mediocrity since then. Through 2012 and '13, the team gained a new owner, their new name, and drafted Anthony Davis, making them one of the more exciting young teams in the league. However, with the Pels mired in mediocrity, Davis forced a trade to the Lakers in 2019 in exchange for a treasure trove of young prospects and draft picks which, along with the Pels' selection of college sensation Zion Williamson as the first pick in the 2019 Draft, gave the team a jump start on a rebuild. Their colors are navy blue, gold, and red.
- The San Antonio Spurs are arguably the most consistently dominant team in NBA history, boasting the highest win percentage of any team in the league (.611 in 2022, better than any team in North American pro sports besides the young Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL). From their entrance into the NBA from the ABA in 1976 to 2019, they only missed the playoffs four times, never in back-to-back years. Originating in Dallas as the Chaparrals, they moved to San Antonio in 1973, becoming the city's sole Big Four sports team. While the Spurs saw moderate successes with George Gervin in the late '70s and '80s (with three Conference Final visits) and David Robinson in the mid-'90s (with one), it was the arrival of Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich in 1997, alongside the acquisition of Tony Parker in 2001 and Manu Ginóbili in '02, that propelled the Spurs into championship success and made them one of the most premier franchises in sports. The Spurs won five championships ('99, '03, '05, '07, '14) with another Finals loss in '13 and four other Conference Finals appearances, and they consistently won 50 games or more year in and year out. They have seen soaring victoriesnote , and heart-wrenching lossesnote . Interestingly, they were NOT among the NBA's most popular teams, with their play frequently described as "boring", but the Spurs just kept on winning until finally trailing off in the late '10s into a long rebuild that has yet to produce results. 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 Their colors are black and silver.
- The Anderson Packers (1945-1951) were previously known as the Anderson Duffey Packers, the Anderson Chiefs, or even the Chief Anderson Meat Packers in the NBL* before changing their name in the NBA due to Product Placement with the meat packing company known as Duffey's Incorporated being involved at the time; they were the last champion team for the NBL, which was a big chunk of teams for the early NBA at the time. 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 to impress in the NBA (primarily being one of three specific places that were ridiculed for being farming areas competing against teams representing major cities), they decided to move on to the competing National Professional Basketball League before later folding alongside the league.
- 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 ABL* team that once won a championship there against the Philadelphia Sphas (who actually were a precursor to 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 afterward before folding after 14 games with a record of 3-11 into the 1954-55 season, with those games being considered wiped away from existence from the teams that played against them in that time. Also, they shouldn't be confused with the Baltimore Bullets team that are now the Washington Wizards, especially since the NBA doesn't recognize the original Baltimore Bullets as an ancestor to the Wizards.
- The Chicago Stags (1946-1950) are Chicago's first attempt at having an NBA team before they eventually settled with the Chicago Bulls. Originally, they were meant to be the Chicago Atomics in the preseason before having a sudden name change to the Stags before the start of the inaugural season. The Stags had a good opportunity to succeed 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 those other years, they just didn't have the luck or cash 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. The team was once planned to be renamed the Chicago Bruins after 1950 and planned to be a part of the Harlem Globetrotters' touring areas in that time, but that plan was aborted almost immediately. 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 of 30-30 and ended up losing to the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. After that, they just went out of business with them having a net loss of $3,140 in their sole season in the league.
- The original Denver Nuggets (1932-1951) 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 in the NBA that year. On the plus side, they were a great AAU* team competing in the Missouri Valley section back in 1932-48 (as well as competed semi-professionally before entering the NBL) with a few different names to them in their earlier years* , and they put the city on the map in terms of sports there. 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 Due in part to their location being far away from the rest of the NBA at the time (their quickest trip had them going to Waterloo, Iowa for road games), their only season in the NBA led to them starting with a 0-15 record and finishing with the worst record that season at 11-51. That team also was one of four teams to leave for the failing NPBL before later renaming themselves to the Denver (Frontier) Refiners and then the Evansville Agogans there before folding around the same time the failed league did. As such, the NBA doesn't recognize that Denver Nuggets team as a predecessor to the current Nuggets team, which began in the ABA.
- The Detroit Falcons (1946-47) were Detroit's first NBA team before they acquired the Detroit Pistons. They were also an original 11 NBA team. However, their team was a bad one (getting a 20-40 record in their only season), with their only star, Stan Miasak, making it just on their first ever All-BAA/NBA First Team. Combine that with them rivaling against an NBL team named the Detroit Gems that same season (who were also terrible that season, though at least they were a precursor to the modern-day Los Angeles Lakers by them being bought out and relocating them to Minneapolis afterward), and it's no wonder why they didn't work out as a team.
- The Indianapolis Kautskys (1928-1949) were the first chance Indiana had for a professional basketball team. The team's owner, farmer turned grocer Frank Kautsky, created his own successful amateur team in 1928 (despite never playing the sport before) before it became fully professional by the next year. They previously competed in the National Professional Basketball League in their sole season of existence (1932-33) and the Midwest Basketball Conference (which Kautsky co-created and owned alongside Paul Sheeks and was considered a precursor to the NBL) from 1935-1937 before later becoming a founding charter member of the National Basketball League. However, 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, the latter of which was due to World War II happening. However, the team did compete under the temporary monikers of the Indianapolis Pure Oils and Indianapolis Oilers during their time at the World Professional Basketball Tournament in World War II, with them even later winning that tournament in 1947 when they returned to being the Kautskys once again. 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 there due to them being named after their owner. Unfortunately for them, they still ended up having a losing record (finishing 18-42 as the second-worst team that season), and they were folded by force after one season with the BAA soon turned into 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) were Indiana's second chance for a professional basketball team after the Kautskys/Jets experiment failed by force from the NBA merger. 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, as well as 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 university careers, they were banned from the NBA for life and the Olympians were never the same, despite still 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 in the league 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 Island* , as well as an original 11 BAA/NBA team. The Steamrollers were named after the original NFL team that went by the (relatively) same name. However, this team was simply put a horrible team, with one season giving them only 6 total wins out of 48 games played! (They still aren't the worst team, percentage-wise. That dubious "honor" now belongs to the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats, who had 7 wins and 59 losses.) While going under the NBA, they also played what is considered the oldest NBA player ever in a guy named "Nat Hickey", a Croatian-American who himself was renamed to that after his family moved to the U.S.A. and 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 (1933-1952) were from the Wisconsin lakeshore city, with the Red Skins being a team that has 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 as a syndicate team 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 once they moved to the NBA, despite starting out so well early 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 themselves 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 getting by then, 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. If this team were still around to this day, however, their team name would be rife with controversy similar to what happened with the Washington "Football Team" and likely would require a name change in the modern-day era due to the cultural insensitivity relating to their team name. In fact, this is the only former NBA team that the league itself doesn't hold a copyright on because of the team name being considered insensitive toward the Native American population.
- 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 around.
- 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 employing four different coaches in their only season, one of whom 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. However, recent success made by the Raptors makes a change highly unlikely now. They also made a 75th anniversary game on that date occur between the two teams there, though the Raptors will be playing in the Madison Square Garden instead due to real life conflicts.
- 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 in January 1951 with a record of 10-25 (with that record still counting in the record books for that season). 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" in their sole season there.
- The Waterloo Hawks (1948-1951) were the only major sports franchise to ever hold a permanent home somewhere in Iowa.note The original Hawks team first started out as a replacement team for the Toledo Jeeps (named after Willys Jeep Plant, now the Toledo Complex) in the rivaling NBL. They basically first started out as a more-or-less average team when they were in the NBL, finishing up with a 30-32 record for their only season in that league. When they moved to the NBA, however, they did a horrible job there, finishing 19-43 for the second-worst record in their only NBA season (ahead of only the original Denver Nuggets above) with complaints regarding them (alongside a couple other teams) as an area of "bush league" quality from the bigger teams there, like in Philadelphia or New York. When the Hawks finally moved to the NPBL, they actually were a good team, setting out a 32-24 record there. Unfortunately for the Hawks (as well as the Anderson Packers, original Denver Nuggets turned Refiners turned Evansville Agogans, and the Sheboygan 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 in their first season. However, due in part to the then-upcoming NBL-BAA merger, those plans were permanently scrapped.note
Awards and Honors
AwardsAfter the regular season, a number of different awards are given out to those who excelled in some aspect of the game. Most of them are determined 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. There are also All-Star and postseason specific awards. In the late 2010s, the NBA briefly experimented with an awards banquet but ended the practice after the COVID pandemic. In 2022-23, many of the trophies for the awards were renamed after prominent players.
The specific awards are as follows. The "most recent winners" are from 2023 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 two MVPs in the last 35 years (2017 winner Russell Westbrook and Nikola Jokić in his second MVP season in 2022) played on a team that won fewer than 50 games in a regular season that wasn't shortened by labor issues or COVID-19. 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. Originally, the trophy for this award was named after the NBA's first president, Maurice Podoloff; for the 2022-23 season onwards, it has been named after Michael Jordan.
- Most Recent Winner: Joel Embiid, C, 76ersnote
- 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). The trophy is named after Wilt Chamberlain, who famously won MVP in his rookie season.
- Most Recent Winner: Paolo Banchero, F, Magicnote
- 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. The trophy is named after Hakeem Olajuwon, who won it twice.
- Most Recent Winner: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Grizzliesnote
- 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". It can also go to a known bench player who seizes the chance to be a starter, as 2001 winner Tracy McGrady did in his first season with the Magic, or, as with 2017 winner Giannis Antetokounmpo or 2022 winner Ja Morant, it goes to a new member of the league's elite. The trophy is named after George Mikan.
- Most Recent Winner: Lauri Markkanen, F, Jazznote
- 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). The trophy is named after John Havlicek, who was the Trope Codifier for the role during his long career with the Celtics.
- Most Recent Winner: Malcolm Brogdon, PG/SG, Celticsnote
- The Hustle Award first presented for the 2016–17 season, is 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: Marcus Smart, SG/PG, Celticsnote
- The Clutch Player of the Year Award is the newest NBA honor, introduced in 2022-23, and is given to the player who performed best in the final five minutes in close games (and overtime).
- Inaugural Winner: De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kingsnote
- 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). The trophy is named after Red Auerbach.
- Most Recent Winner: Mike Brown, Kingsnote
- 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, one while with the Suns.) 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: Monte McNair, Kingsnote
- 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: Patty Mills, PG, Nets (2022)
- The J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, revived in 2022–23 after a two-season absence, is presented and voted on by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, the trade association for NBA print and web reporters, for "outstanding service and dedication to the community". It's named for the league's second commissioner. Unlike all other NBA awards, it is not restricted to a narrow category of participants—anyone who regularly sits on an NBA bench (when not playing) is eligible. This includes athletic trainers, one of whom has won the award. The only individual to win the award more than once is Dikembe Mutombo (twice).
- Most Recent Winner: Stephen Curry, SG/PG, Warriors
- The Bob Lanier Community Assist Award (renamed from the "NBA Cares Community Assist Award" after Lanier's passing in 2022) started out as a monthly award program, but a season-long award was added in 2011–12; while monthly awards are still presented, they receive far less notice by media and fans than the season award (which is one of the league's more obscure ones as it is). Unlike the Citizenship Award, the winner is determined by the league itself. The 2019-20 season was unique in that five winners were named. The plaque awarded to the winner is named after David Robinson.
- Most Recent Winner: Gary Payton II, PG/SG, Warriors (2022)
- 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, Bucksnote
- The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award, first presented after the 2020–21 season and named after the Bucks and Lakers legend whose involvement with social issues dates to the 1960s civil rights movement. Each team nominates one player for consideration, with a panel of NBA greats, league executives, and social justice leaders narrowing the list to five finalists and then to the recipient. Somewhat similar to the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, though that award honors charitable work in general and is not limited to social justice issues.
- Most Recent Winner: Curry
- 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: Jayson Tatum, F, Celtics
- 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.
- Most Recent Winner: Curry (2022)
- Starting in 2021-22, the NBA has also issued an award for the NBA Conference Finals Most Valuable Players, with the trophies being named after Larry Bird for the East and Magic Johnson for the West.
- Most Recent Winners: Jimmy Butler, SF, Heat (East); Nikola Jokić, C, Nuggets (West)
HonorsAlso after the regular season, all-league teams are chosen honoring the best players in three different categories. The all-league honor dates back to the first season of the BAA in 1947. A team may be expanded in the case of ties in voting. The number of players on the all-league 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.
- From 1989 to 2023, it consisted of 15 players divided into three teams, with the same positional restrictions.
- Starting in 2024, positions will no longer be considered in voting. The number of honorees and teams will not change.
Not coincidentally, positionless voting will resume when a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players' union kicks in. Because All-NBA selections are a key criterion in determining eligibility for the so-called "supermax" contract, this had to be hashed out in CBA negotiations.
All teams are listed in order of points received in voting. Recipients listed here are from the 2022–23 season.
- First Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Bucks; Jayson Tatum, F, Celtics; Joel Embiid, C, Sixers; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Thunder; Luka Dončić, G, Mavericks
- Second Team: Nikola Jokić, C, Nuggets; Donovan Mitchell, G, Cavaliers; Stephen Curry, G, Warriors; Jimmy Butler, F, Heat; Jaylen Brown, F, Celtics
- Third Team: Domantas Sabonis, C, Kings; De'Aaron Fox, G, Kings; Damian Lillard, G, Blazers; Julius Randle, F, Knicks; LeBron James, F, Lakers
- First Team: Jaren Jackson Jr., F, Grizzlies; Jrue Holiday, G, Bucks; Brook Lopez, C, Bucks; Evan Mobley, F, Cavaliers; Alex Caruso, G, Bulls
- Second Team: Derrick White, G, Celtics; Draymond Green, F, Warriors; OG Anunoby, F, Raptors; Dillon Brooks, G, Grizzlies; Bam Adebayo, C, Heat
- First Team: Paolo Banchero, F, Magic; Walker Kessler, C, Jazz; Bennedict Mathurin, G, Pacers; Keegan Murray, F, Kings; Jalen Williams, F, Thunder
- Second Team: Jalen Duren, C, Pistons; Tari Eason, F, Rockets; Jaden Ivey, G, Pistons; Jabari Smith Jr., F, Rockets; Jeremy Sochan, F, Spurs
Notable PlayersThe 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 FiguresThe list of big names in NBA history doesn't stop with players. The league has had many famous coaches, announcers, superfans, etc. through the years.
- Leo Ferris was the founder and owner of the Buffalo Bisons (later Tri-Cities Blackhawks; today's Atlanta Hawks) in the National Basketball League ("NBL") and one of the presidents of the NBL. As a part of his tenure, he was compelled by the league's owners to force a merger with the rival BAA, which occurred in 1949. He then went on to become Danny 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. However, Ferris left basketball for good just a few months before the shot clock was introduced. Ferris didn't get nominated for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame until 2016, and still hasn't been inducted. This story provides a good overview of Ferris' contributions.
- Maurice Podoloff was the president of the Basketball Association of America ("BAA") and first president of the NBA. An immigrant from a Russian Jewish family (from modern-day Ukraine), he was appointed president of the BAA upon its formation in 1946, oversaw its merger with the NBL to form the NBA three years later, introduced the draft and the shot clock, and issued a massive wave of suspensions in response to the 1951 point shaving scandal. He retired in 1963 and passed away in 1985. The MVP trophy was originally named after him until 2022, when the league renamed it after Michael Jordan; to continue to honor his legacy, the NBA introduced a new Podoloff trophy to be issued to teams with the best regular season record.
- J. Walter Kennedy was the second NBA commissioner (and first to use the term "commissioner" instead of "president"), taking the reins from Podoloff in 1963 after serving as mayor of Stamford, Connecticut. A firm-handed leader, he signed the league's first TV contracts and oversaw its expansion from 9 to 18 teams. He stepped down in 1975 and passed away two years later. The NBA's Citizenship Award (discontinued in 2020) was named after him.
- Larry O'Brien was the third NBA commissioner, serving from 1975-84, and is the namesake of the league's championship trophy. Prior to basketball, O'Brien was one of the United States' most influential politicians, serving as one of the Democratic Party's main strategists for nearly two decades, including an appointment to the Cabinet of Lyndon Johnson as Postmaster General and two stints as the chair of the Democratic National Conference. His main contributions to the NBA were overseeing the merger with the ABA, expanding the league's TV presence, and instituting a more stringent anti-drug policy. O'Brien died in 1990.
- David Stern was the fourth NBA commissioner, serving from 1984-2014, and 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 Audience-Alienating Era; by his retirement, the league had expanded to 30 teams and had a major TV presence throughout the world, firmly cementing it as one of the world's most financially successful sports leagues and giving 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 did help contribute to that). The WNBA and NBA G League were also founded during his tenure. He became a Naismith Hall of Fame member in 2014 and died on New Year's Day 2020.
- Adam Silver is the fifth and current NBA commissioner. He first started as the COO and vice chairman under Stern's tenure before taking over for Stern in 2014, and he let his impact become almost immediately known when he had the gumption to have former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling banned for life from the NBA during the 2014 NBA Playoffs after Sterling's racist comments against African Americans were leaked to the public.note He also helped increase public support for legalized, regulated sports betting entering the 21st century during that same period of time, which further brought up the notion of taking a more progressive approach for the NBA. He also looked to fix problems relating to the competitive nature of the sport during the 2010s both in terms of teams losing games (presumably) on purpose to gain a higher draft pick and with the general lack of parity between teams, implementing an improved lottery system in 2019 and a play-in tournament for some final playoff spots a year later. However, Silver has also faced a fair share of negative press with regards to the league's controversy with China before starting their 2019-20 season which grew even worse once the COVID-19 Pandemic started affecting the league itself.. Despite that, Silver has continued to make a positive impact on the sport, easily being the most respected commissioner of the Big 4 sports leagues in the U.S.A.
- Arnold "Red" Auerbach (so nicknamed for hair and temperament) was a legendary coach of the early NBA, coaching for the Washington Capitols (1946-49) and the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (1949-50) before joining the Boston Celtics, which he led from 1950-66. Auerbach pioneered the role of the modern basketball coach and redefined the game to emphasize the team as opposed to the individual. He was the first coach to develop his players into role players and "sixth man" bench players and also innovated the fast break strategy, one of only seven plays he ever used. During his remarkable tenure with the Celtics, Auerbach won nine titles (eight in a row) and 936 games (both records when he retired which have since been surpassed), and he was named head coach in 11 All-Star Games (the most of any coach). The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants was vital to the racial desegregation of the NBA; during his time with the Celtics, he drafted Chuck Cooper (the first African-American player in the NBA) and Bill Russell (the first African-American superstar), fielded the first all-Black starting five in the NBA, and made Russell the first African-American head coach by naming him his successor. After retirement from coaching, the Celtics made Auerbach their general manager and then president, a position he held (with a few breaks) until his death in 2006, during which he won Executive of the Year in 1980 and brought Boston another seven championships; his 16 total rings make him by far the most accomplished team official in NBA history. Over a half a century with the Celtics made the Hall of Famer an iconic, even sacred figure in Boston, and his affinity for a victory cigar and Chinese food remain iconic; the team retired their #2 to honor their winningest coach. The NBA's Coach of the Year award (which he only won once in 1965) is named after him; the statue itself is of him sitting on a bench.
- Larry Brown had a decades-long and very well-traveled coaching career in basketball that is perhaps most notable for his success in both the college and pro levels. A former player in the ABA who won Olympic gold in 1964, Brown first became an ABA coach (notably being the HC of the Denver Nuggets during their transition to the NBA) before moving to great success at the college level coaching UCLA and Kansas. Brown took the relatively rare college-to-NBA leap right after winning a national championship with Kansas in 1988, though that likely had something to do with avoiding the sanctions the school got slapped with for recruiting violations. Brown hopped around multiple teams, usually reenergizing a struggling franchise before departing when they regressed; in 1991-92, he notably became the first and only person to serve as head coach of two teams in the same season when the Spurs gave him the boot and the Clippers immediately hired him. After another stint with the Pacers, Brown landed with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1997 and once again revived their prospects, winning Coach of the Year in 2001 after taking them to the Finals. Brown resigned as coach and was inducted into the Hall of Fame the following year, but his career wasn't done; he immediately re-signed with the Pistons and led them to a championship, becoming the only coach to win one in both the NCAA and NBA. Unfortunately, Brown's reputation took a hit soon afterwards when he became the only U.S. Olympic coach in the NBA era to fail to win gold in 2004. He went on to serve stints with the Knicks and Bobcats (becoming the only coach to take eight different teams to the playoffs) before returning to the college ranks at SMU, where he got slapped with sanctions and a suspension for recruitment violations. He currently serves as an assistant to Penny Hardaway at Memphis.
- Mike Brown took his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005 at just 35 years old and helped lead the team to some of the best seasons in franchise history, including their first Finals berth in just his second season and the franchise's best ever win record in 2008-09 (which won him Coach of the Year). However, Brown's inability to win a championship despite having the great LeBron James on the roster led to him being fired in 2010 in a failed attempt to keep James in town. Brown subsequently succeeded Phil Jackson as coach of the Lakers in 2011 and had a successful first season, but he was fired at the first sign of trouble just five games into his second; the Lakers subsequently entered into the roughest stretch in the franchise history. He returned to the LeBron-less Cavs the following season, failed to improve the struggling team, and was fired after just one year (James returned soon after). Brown spent the next several years as one of the most successful assistants in the NBA with the Warriors before finally being given another HC job in 2022 with the Sacramento Kings, where he broke the franchise's record 16-year playoff drought in his first season, winning his second Coach of the Year.
- Rick Carlisle is a Long Runner coach currently with the Indiana Pacers. After a short and unspectacular stint as a player with the Celtics in the late '80s, Carlisle entered coaching, eventually being named HC of the Detroit Pistons in 2001 and winning Coach of the Year in his first season. Despite taking the team to the Conference Finals in his second, he was fired by the Pistons for clashes with management and was subsequently hired by former teammate Larry Bird to coach the Pacers. After a decline in performance, he was hired by the Dallas Mavericks in 2008 and served there until 2021, becoming the winningest coach in franchise history and helping to lead the team to their only championship in 2011. In 2021, he stepped down from the Mavs and returned to Indiana.
- Dwane Casey is the all-time winningest coach in Toronto Raptors history, having started coaching the team in 2011 after a failed stint with the T-Wolves. Under his leadership, the Raptors developed into a consistent contender for the first time, culminating in winning Coach of the Year in 2018 after posting the best regular season in franchise history... only to be fired mere days after receiving the award due to his continued struggles in the playoffs (the Raptors won the championship the next year). He went on to a much worse tenure with the Pistons and now works in that franchise's front office.
- Larry Costello was a six-time All Star with the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers before he entered coaching, immediately becoming HC of the expansion Milwaukee Bucks. Costello led the Bucks to the '71 championship and helped make them a power in the early '70s, though the team's decline in performance after losing Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led to him being fired in 1976. He would later briefly coaching for the Bulls during the 1978-79 season, died in 2001, and was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2022.
- Chuck Daly is the winningest coach in Detroit Pistons history, leading the franchise from 1983-92 in the peak of their "Bad Boy" era that won back-to-back titles in 1989-90. The Hall of Famer had several decades of experience in college and as an assistant for the Sixers (and a brief HC job with the Cavs) before his remarkable run at Detroit (which retired "his" #2), then followed it up by coaching the '92 Olympic Dream Team. Daly had a few instances of 10-Minute Retirement, returning to basketball for short but reasonably successful stints with the Nets and Magic before retiring for good in 1999. He passed away in 2009.
- Cotton Fitzsimmons was hired as the second HC of the Phoenix Suns after Jerry Colangelo (see under "Other Figures") in 1970 after success at Kansas State and immediately led the franchise to their first winning season. He departed soon after for less successful stints with the Hawks and Braves before landing with the Kansas City Kings in 1978, winning Coach of the Year after immediately taking the team to a winning record followed by a Conference Finals trip two years later. Following another short stint with the Spurs, Fitzsimmons returned to Phoenix in 1988 and again won Coach of the Year in his first year after immediately turning the team around and taking them to back-to-back Conference Finals in his first two seasons. He retired in 1992, only to return for one more short stint with the Suns before retiring for good during the 1996-97 season. The winningest coach in Suns history died of lung cancer in 2004 and was posthumously inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2021.
- Mike Fratello was a very successful coach and broadcaster. He was HC of the Atlanta Hawks from 1983-90, becoming the franchise's all-time winningest coach and winning Coach of the Year in '86. He later had very successful stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers (1993-99) and Memphis Grizzlies (2004-06), though he became infamous for never advancing past the first round despite numerous playoff berths. Fratello filled his time between coaching by serving as color analyst next to Marv Albert for many years.
- Alex Hannum was a Hall of Fame journeyman coach who had a good deal of success with numerous franchises, though he never stayed in one place for long. At the tail end of a decent playing career, he became player-coach of the St. Louis Hawks, leading them to a Finals berth before retiring from play and immediately leading them to the franchise's sole championship in his only season as a pure HC. He bounced around to the Syracuse Nationals, San Francisco Warriors (where he won Coach of the Year in '64), and Philadelphia 76ers (leading them to the '67 title in his first season). He then made the leap to the ABA, winning a title with the Oakland Oaks in '69, his first and only season there. He retired in 1974 after less successful stints with the Rockets (of both San Diego and Denver) and passed away in 2002.
- Del Harris was a well-traveled Hall of Fame HC, with tenures with the Houston Rockets (1979-83), Milwaukee Bucks (1987-91), and Los Angeles Lakers (1994-99). His stint in Houston was notable for the team's Cinderella run to a 1981 Finals appearance (following the only full season of his career in which his team had a sub-.500 regular season record), and he won Coach of the Year in his first season in L.A. for immediately returning the Lakers to their winning ways. After his NBA head coaching career, he gained a bit of notoriety in the United States for agreeing to coach the Chinese national team in the 2004 Olympics.
- William "Red" Holzman was a Hall of Fame coach most famous for leading the New York Knicks during their championship years of the early '70s. Before coaching, Holzman won a NBL and NBA championship as a player while with the Rochester Royals in the late '40s and early '50s. He transitioned into coaching during his final playing years with the Hawks, though the team underperformed under his leadership. After spending ten years with the Knicks as a scout, Holzman became head coach in 1967 and led the star-studded team to two titles in 1970 and 1973, winning Coach of the Year in the former season. He retired in 1982, boasting the second most wins of any NBA coach to that point; the Knicks "retired" a #612 jersey in recognition of his still-record wins with the team. Holzman died in 1998.
- Phil Jackson is the NBA coach (and, indeed, coach in any Big 4 sport) with the most championship titles, winning 11 in over his 33-year career (and that's not including the two he won as a player for the New York Knicks, who drafted him in the second round in 1967 out of North Dakota). After a few years of coaching in the minor leagues and in Puerto Rico, Jackson served as the HC of the Chicago Bulls from 1989-98, leading the Michael Jordan-fronted squad to both of their three-peats, popularizing the triangle offense, and being named Coach of the Year in '96. His tenure in Chicago, by far the winningest in the franchise's history, would have been enough to get him in the Hall of Fame, but he then switched teams to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999 and won five more championships with teams led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant (though clashes with the latter led to him being fired before and rehired after the 2004-05 season). 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 and has the best win percentage of any coach in NBA history (.704); his tally of 229 playoff wins is not only the most of any coach but is nearly 60 wins ahead of nearest runner-up Pat Riley. Jackson was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2007 while he was still coaching the Lakers and retired in 2011. He also had a brief stint as an exec with the Knicks that fans would rather not talk about.
- George Karl was a well-traveled coach who spent 27 seasons at the helm of six different teams. Originally a fourth round pick by the Spurs in the '70s, Karl's playing career was short and unspectacular. However, he moved quickly up the coaching ranks, becoming one of the youngest NBA HCs ever in 1984 at age 33 after a very successful run in the CBA. While his first two stints with the Cavaliers and Warriors were short and not particularly successful, sending him back to the CBA for a time, he returned to great success with the Seattle SuperSonics from 1992-98, visiting his first and only NBA Finals with the team. After another fairly successful run with the Milwaukee Bucks (1998-2003), he was hired as HC of the Denver Nuggets in 2005, where he became somewhat infamous for clashing with Carmelo Anthony and for first round playoff departures almost every season (which was offset somewhat by him still seeing regular season success despite multiple fights with cancer). He was fired in 2013 just weeks after being named Coach of the Year, and his time in the NBA was over after a short stint with the Kings. Despite his postseason woes, Karl was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2022.
- Steve Kerr is the current coach of the Golden State Warriors and an accomplished figure in multiple aspects of the league. The child of American academics specializing in the Middle East, Kerr grew up abroad before attending high school in Los Angeles and playing college ball at Arizona. As a freshman, he played one of the most memorable non-tournament college games ever when he led his team to victory shortly after his father was murdered by terrorists in Beirut. He would later compete in the final USA FIBA championship team comprised purely of amateurs; while the team won gold, he blew out his knee in what is often a Career-Ending Injury. The point guard eventually recovered, finished his college eligibility, and was drafted in the second round in 1988 by the Phoenix Suns. After bouncing around several teams, he landed with the Bulls in 1993, winning three championships with the star-laden team before being traded to the Spurs in '98, where he won another two prior to his retirement in '03. He entered into broadcasting for several years, with a break to serve as the Suns GM from 2007-10. Kerr was hired to be the Warriors' HC in 2014, kicking off a remarkable stretch in which the team has won four championships and appeared in six Finals. He won Coach of the Year after setting the NBA record for most wins in a season in 2015-16 (though he actually missed significant time in that season- and many others- due to recurring back issues) and is the winningest coach in franchise history.
- Bobby "Slick" Leonard was an iconic figure for the Indiana Pacers. After playing for the Hoosiers in college, the Indiana native had a fairly unspectacular pro career in the late '50s and early '60s most notable for his brief stints as a player-coach for the Zephyrs/Bullets. After retiring, he returned to his home state to coach the newly formed Pacers in 1968 in the middle of their second season. He immediately led them to an ABA Finals appearance, followed by three championships over the next four seasons; these remain the franchises' only titles. Leonard retired in 1980 after a few years of declining performances; the franchise "retired" a #529 jersey to recognize his wins with the team, a number which has yet to be surpassed. Leonard became the team's color commentator in 1985 and mostly stayed at the position until 2019, with his exclamatory "Boom, baby!" quickly becoming iconic. The Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster passed away in 2021.
- John MacLeod was the longest tenurednote coach of the Phoenix Suns. Hired in 1973 after a tenure at Oklahoma, MacLeod coached the team for the next 13 seasons, taking them to three Conference Finals and the franchise's first NBA Finals appearance. He later had shorter and less successful tenures with the Mavericks and Knicks before returning to the college ranks at Notre Dame, later returning to the NBA as an assistant. He passed away in 2019.
- Doug Moe was a former ABA player who saw success in the late '70s with the San Antonio Spurs and through the '80s with the Denver Nuggets. His teams were known for their Glass Cannon strategy, prioritizing the fast break and often even surrendering shots to the other team to get the ball back faster. Though his style rarely resulted in deep playoff runs, he won Coach of the Year in 1988 and the Nuggets "retired" the #432 to celebrate his record number of wins with the franchise.
- Don Nelson notched up the most regular season wins in NBA history by the end of his 30+ year coaching career (1,335; since surpassed only by Gregg Popovich, see below). Originally a player picked in the third round in 1962 out of Iowa by the Chicago Zephyrs, Nelson briefly played with the Lakers before being picked up by Red Auerbach's legendary Boston Celtics in 1965, where he blossomed as a role-player and won five championships; the Celtics retired his #19. Immediately after retiring from playing in 1976, Nelson entered coaching, being promoted to head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks after just 18 games as an assistant. Nelson pioneered the "point forward" strategy (which soon gained the nickname "Nellie Ball") and was named Coach of the Year twice in '83 and '85. He stepped down in 1987 as the winningest coach in franchise history but returned to the NBA a year later with the Golden State Warriors, where he was named Coach of the Year a then-record third time in '92 after reviving their prospects. He resigned three years later to take a job with Knicks, who fired him after a poor start to the season, and then posted a long run with the Dallas Mavericks (1997-2005) and a second stint with the Warriors (2006-10). Despite being generally winning and well-liked by players, Nelson never as much as made the Finals, let alone win a championship as a coach. He still was inducted into the Hall of Fame shortly after his final retirement.
- Gregg Popovich is the longest-serving active head coach in American pro sports, having served that role for the San Antonio Spurs since 1996. In that time, Popovich has amassed the most winsnote and most consecutive winning seasons (25) of any HC in the league's history, shaping the Spurs into the league's most consistent winners and bringing San Antonio five championships. The Air Force Academy graduate is one of the most highly respected figures in the NBA, with his nickname "Coach Pop" reflecting his reputation as a gruff but relatable Father To His Men who gets the best out of his players (and, you know, abbreviating his name). He won Coach of the Year thrice ('03, '12, '14), tied for the most of any coach and the only one to win them all with the same team. His coaching philosophy has shaped a good amount of current head coaches in the NBA, including the four head coaches that have led their teams to the last two NBA Finals (Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, Steve Kerr, and Ime Udoka). He also led the 2020* Olympic team to a gold medal in Tokyo and will enter the Hall of Fame in 2023 while still an active coach.
- Jack Ramsay (nicknamed "Dr. Jack"; he obtained a doctorate from Penn) was one of the most respected early NBA coaches and the winningest in Portland Trail Blazers history. After a decade as head coach of St. Joseph's, he had stints with the 76ers and Braves before landing with the Blazers in 1976. He and Bill Walton helped take the young franchise, which had never posted a winning season to that point, to a championship in his first season. He spent the next decade in Portland before moving on to an unsuccessful stint with the Pacers, after which he became an extremely successful broadcaster known for his propensity for nicknames. He died of cancer in 2014.
- Pat Riley was the first figure in American pro sports to win a championship as a player, assistant coach, head coach, and team president, claiming nine in total in a NBA career that has lasted over half a century. Drafted #11 overall out of Kentucky in 1967 by the Rockets, Riley spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers (1970-75), where he won his first ring. After retiring from playing in 1976 following a year with the Suns, Riley returned to the Lakers, first as a broadcaster and then as an assistant coach to Paul Westhead in 1979-80 after his predecessor was injured in a bike accident. Despite the Lakers winning the title that season, player dissatisfaction with Westhead led to Riley's promotion to HC the next year. He took the reins of the "Showtime" Lakers and led them to four more titles and three more Finals appearances, becoming the legendary franchise's winningest coach. After winning Coach of the Year in '90, Riley stepped down for a short stint in broadcasting before returning to coach the Knicks, notching a second CotY nod and another Finals appearance. When the Miami Heat offered him a dual position as head coach and team president in 1995, Riley took the job and has held on to the latter title ever since. He won his third CotY honors in Miami (tying the record and becoming the only coach to win it with three different teams) but stepped down as coach in 2003 following the first two losing seasons of his career... only to push out his successor two years later when the team got good again and win another ring. He retired from coaching for good in '08 after an abysmal season but still immediately entered the Hall of Fame; he stayed on as team president, winning Executive of the Year in '11 after securing LeBron James and winning another two rings the following years. Riley was one of the few basketball coaches to rival their players in terms of fame, with his slicked back hair and Armani suits making him instantly recognizable and earning him the nickname "The Godfather". His unmatched success with the Showtime Lakers led the NBA to institute the "Riley Rule" to prevent coaches from being named to consecutive All-Star Game positions (he racked up nine in total, second only to Auerbach). He was portrayed by Adrien Brody in Winning Time, and the role played by Kurt Russell in the 1988 film Tequila Sunrise was originally written with Riley in mind. Russell modeled much of his look in that film after Riley's, and Riley himself said about Russell, "He plays me better than I can play me."
- Glenn "Doc" Rivers was a former player (drafted out of Marquette in the second round in 1983 by the Atlanta Hawks, where he set the franchise record for assists) who went on to a long and mostly successful coaching career after his retirement from play in '96. In his first year as a head coach with the Orlando Magic, Rivers was named Coach of the Year despite missing the playoffs by one game, the only coach with that distinction. They did make the playoffs the next three years, but Rivers was sacked early in his fifth season after a disastrous 1-10 start. His hiring by the Boston Celtics in 2004 was widely questioned by the hostile and insular Boston fanbase, particularly as the team's performances declined year over year, but the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in '07 helped him turn the team around and win the franchise's first championship in two decades. He had several more strong seasons in Boston before he was acquired by the Clippers for a first-round pick in 2013, where he coached his son Austin and became the franchise's all-time winningest coach, but multiple playoff chokes led to him departing for the 76ers in 2020. Unfortunately, his reputation for playoff ineptitude continued; Rivers has more Game 7 losses and blown series leads than any coach in NBA history, and he was fired in 2023 after another playoff disappointment.
- Philip "Flip" Saunders was easily the winningest coach in Minnesota Timberwolves history. He took the reins in 1995 and helped guide the struggling young franchise to their earliest sucesses and arguable peak in their 2004 Conference Finals appearance. Saunders was fired and replaced by former college teammate Kevin McHale in the middle of the following season, which alienated many of the players and contributed significantly to the team's backslide. Saunders meanwhile landed with the Detroit Pistons and remained extremely successful, though he was fired after falling short in the Conference Finals in each of his three seasons. After a few disastrous years with the Wizards, Saunders returned to Minnesota in 2014 in part of a bid to get Kevin Garnett to return to the team. While this effort was successful, Saunders was tragically diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma the following year and died a few months later. Flip's son Ryan would later serve as T-Wolves HC, though he experienced much less success than his father in the role.
- Byron Scott had a long (and mostly unsuccessful) career as an NBA head coach that was almost matched by his tenure as a player. Drafted #4 overall in 1983 out of Arizona State, Scott played a decade with the Showtime Lakers. After spending 1997-98 playing in Greece, he moved into coaching. In his first stint as HC with the New Jersey Nets, he took the franchise to appearances in two straight Finals before abruptly being fired in the middle of the following season; this would be the undeniable peak of his coaching success. He spent the next six years with the New Orleans Hornets, becoming the now-Pelicans all-time winningest coach (though that's not saying much), followed that with a brief and disastrous stint in Cleveland, and finally wound up back with his Lakers, where he posted the worst win percentage of any coach in franchise history during his two terrible seasons.
- Bill Sharman was a Hall of Fame player and coach, famous in the latter category for pioneering the "morning shootaround" as a practice method. After a legendary career with the Celtics in the '50s, he moved straight into coaching, first with the very short-lived Cleveland Pipers (winning the ABL title in their only season in the league). After a few years in the college ranks, he had a short but successful stint with the Warriors, visiting the Finals in his second year before signing with the ABA's L.A. Stars; he'd follow them to Utah, being named ABA Coach of the Year in '70 and winning the league title the next year. Sharman again catapulted off this success by immediately leaving to join the Los Angeles Lakers, where he was named Coach of the Year in his first year essentially by convincing Wilt Chamberlain to join the shootaround; the Lakers ripped off a still-record 33-game win streak and won a championship. He'd move to an executive position in 1976 after a decline in on-court performance, picking up five rings during the Showtime era. He passed away in 2013.
- Gene Shue had a four-decade career in the NBA as a player and coach. Despite having a losing record as a coach, Shue was greatly respected for his innovative playbooks and ability to get good performances out of seemingly talent-starved teams. He remains the winningest coach in Baltimore/Washington Bullets (now Wizards) history with two lengthy stints (1966-73, 1980-86) with the team, taking them to their first Finals appearance in '71 and winning Coach of the Year twice ('69, '82). He also had a productive stint with the Sixers (taking them to a Finals as well in '77) and two forgettable ones with the Clippers. Shue passed away in 2022.
- Jerry Sloan was a legendary coach for the Utah Jazz. He started out as a very successful player; drafted #4 overall out of Evansville in 1965 by the Bullets, he was soon picked up by the expansion Bulls. Nicknamed "The First Bull", he blossomed as the franchise's first star, and his #4 was the first to be retired by the franchise after he ended his playing career in 1976. He served as the head coach for his Bulls from 1979-82, but he went on to his greatest success in Utah, where he held the HC position for 23 seasons from 1988-2011. Sloan turned the Jazz into a consistent winner through multiple iterations of players; he posted only one losing season in Utah (2004-05) and took them to two Finals (ironically losing both to the Bulls). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 while still coaching and died of Parkinson's in 2020.
- Erik Spoelstra is the current and all-time winningest coach of the Miami Heat. The handpicked successor of team president Pat Riley (see above) in 2008, Spoelstra's early tenure was marked by the acquisition of LeBron James, which helped the franchise visit four straight Finals and bring home two championships. After James' departure, Spoelstra proved his merit by keeping the Heat contenders for the next several years, returning to the Finals in 2020 (ironically losing to James' Lakers) and '23. Spoelstra is also the first Asian-American coach in any of the Big Four North American sport leagues (he's Filipino on his mother's side).
- Rudy Tomjanovich is the greatest coach in Houston Rockets history. He also happened to have been one of their best players; drafted #2 overall out of Michigan in 1970, the year before the team's move to Houston, he played his whole 11-year career with the Rockets, earning five All-Star nods and famously surviving a near-fatal punch to the face during a 1977 game. After spending another decade as an assistant for the Rockets, he was elevated to HC in 1992. He served there another eleven seasons, leading Houston to their only championships in '94 and '95, setting most franchise coaching records, and coaching the U.S. team to Olympic gold in 2000. His 33 years with the franchise ended in 2003 after he was diagnosed with bladder cancer; he briefly attempted to return to the NBA a few years later as HC of the Lakers but retired again before the end of the season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2021, and the Rockets retired his #45.
- Stan and Jeff Van Gundy were a sibling duo who both had success as NBA coaches. Younger brother Jeff got the first NBA HC gig with the New York Knicks from 1995-2002 after serving as Pat Riley's assistant, seeing a great deal of success and helping them become the first #8 seed to reach the Finals in 1999. His resignation in the middle of the 2001-02 season was very unexpected; the Knicks struggled mightily for the next decade, and Jeff had a decent run with the Houston Rockets from 2003-07. Meanwhile, Jeff had been serving as Riley's assistant with the Miami Heat and was promoted to the lead role in 2003, only to be controversially driven out of the position by Riley early in his third season; the Heat won a championship without him that year. Jeff landed next with the Orlando Heat, having a good deal of success from 2008-12 before Dwight Howard drove him out of the job (the Magic have likewise struggled ever since). He had much worse stints with the Pistons and Pelicans. Both brothers now work as TV commentators.
- Lenny Wilkens was a Hall of Famer as both a player and a coach, being the only man honored in both categories on the league's 75th Anniversary team (fitting, since he was an active part of the league for over half that time). The nine-time All-Star first became a coach while still playing with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1969. He continued that stint with the Trail Blazers until retiring from play in 1975 (see the Player page for more details). After one more year as coach in Portland, he was out of a job... only to be rehired midseason by Seattle to replace their fired former coach. Wilkens led one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NBA history by going 11-1 to end the season, securing the Sonics a seemingly out-of-place playoff berth, then taking them all the way to Game 7 of the Finals. While they fell short that year, Wilkens' team brought home the franchise's only championship the following season, and he would go on to become the Sonics' all-time winningest HC. After being fired from Seattle in 1985, Wilkens put up impressive coaching runs with the Cavs (1986-93, becoming that franchise's all-time leader in wins as well) and Hawks (1993-2000, winning Coach of the Year in his first season), visiting the All-Star Game with both teams. He also won Olympic gold twice as a coach, first as an assistant for the 1992 Dream Team and then as the HC four years later. After shorter runs with the Raptors (2000-03) and Knicks (2003-05), Wilkens called it a career; he was briefly the NBA's winningest coach, only since passed in total wins by Don Nelson and Gregg Popovich.
- Danny Biasone was the founding owner of the Syracuse Nationals (today's Philadelphia 76ers) of the BAA (which merged with the NBL to become the NBA). The early years of the NBA saw many games degenerate into stall-fests, with the most infamous being a 19–18 game in 1950. This led Biasone and Leo Ferris to innovate the shot clock, which is still used in professional basketball to this day.
- Jerry Buss was the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1979 (when he purchased them from multi-sport owner Jack Kent Cooke) until his death in 2013. Initially a chemist who made his fortune off of a real estate side-hustle, Buss was a noted eccentric and one of the most successful sports owners of all time, winning ten championships in his three decades as Lakers' owner; his heavy marketing of the "Showtime" era team likely helped to save the NBA from bankruptcy. Besides basketball, he was also visible as a regular participant in high stakes pro poker tournaments. He is enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a contributor, and the Lakers are currently owned by his daughter Jeanie Buss. In the HBO series Winning Time, Buss is portrayed by John C. Reilly.
- Jerry Colangelo was an extremely important figure in the history of the Phoenix Suns. After being hired as the expansion franchise's first GM in 1968 before even turning 30, he stuck with the Suns until 2004, serving two brief stints as their head coach in the early '70s and outright buying the team in 1987. Colangelo was named Executive of the Year four times ('77, '82, '90, '94) while simultaneously working to expand sports in Phoenix, securing an MLB expansion franchise in the Arizona Diamondbacks and leading the team that brought the NHL's Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix as the current-day Arizona Coyotes. He sold his teams in 2004 to what turned out to be a controversial new owner in Robert Sarver for a huge sum (a then-record high $401 million) and immediately entered the Hall of Fame, but he later attempted a return to the NBA by joining the front office of the Philadelphia 76ers to get out of what the NBA perceived as their Audience-Alienating Era. This tenure was short-lived and controversial, as he drove out the team's GM and replaced him with his son, Bryan Colangelo (who, admittedly, had also won Executive of the Year twice in prior stints with the Suns and Raptors), who eventually left through his own controversial means himself.
- Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and 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. This is due in part to his presence on TV shows like Shark Tank and in part due to his personality seemingly matching how fans would imagine they would act if they were to own their favorite team. Cuban bought the team in 2000 after he sold his internet start-up Broadcast.com 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.
- Ernie Johnson Jr. has hosted Inside The NBA since 1990 and is thus one of the most recognizable voices in basketball. Son of MLB pitcher-turned-announcer Ernie Johnson Sr., "E.J." followed his father's footsteps in the Atlanta sportscasting scene. When the young TNT channel began its foray into sports, Johnson was in the right place in the right time to take the reins of what would become one of the most successful sport analysis shows in the history of American television. The show's success comes in no small part from Johnson playing Only Sane Man to the former players who make up the rest of the panel.
- Al McCoy is currently the radio play-by-play announcer for the Phoenix Suns, taking on broadcasting roles for the team either on the radio or local TV starting in 1972, looking to continue in what will be his 51st and final season doing so. McCoy has rarely missed broadcasting duties for the Suns, missing only one game on New Year's Eve in 2005 before facing some limitations in more recent years. Like Chick Hearn before him (as seen above), McCoy is also well-known for his own catchphrases and colloquiums that happen during games ("Shazam!", "Zing go the strings!", "Wham Bam Slam!", etc.), as well as creating nicknames for certain Suns players during their times there.* McCoy won the Curt Gowdy Media Award for the NBA in 2007 and was induced in both the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Iowa Hall of Pride in 2015 before being induced into the Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor in 2016, confirming he'll continue going on with his position as long as he's able to keep on going. That turned out to be by the end of the 2022-23 season.
NBA G League HistoryThe 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. note The G league has 30 teams in the 2022–23 season.. Players are usually undrafted free agents or players previously cut from NBA teams. Such players are usually role players or backups.
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 2023, the Suns are the only team without their own G League affiliate, selling their franchise rights to the Pistons. NBA teams can sign players with less than three years of professional experience to their affiliated G League team outright. Almost all players in the G League are under contract to the league itself, not their individual team, regardless of NBA affiliation. This means that any NBA team can call up any G League player, though 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 the 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 competing there, 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. Starting in the 2020-21 season, two-way contracts were given significant raises (values equal to half of a minimum NBA rookie scaled contract), and were allowed to play for up to 50 games in a season before requiring a promotion to continue playing with the team (though the latter note wasn't considered necessary for the first two seasons the 50 game restriction was added as a replacement).
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)
- 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 Squadron (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 (and final) team to assume the Erie 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 moved the team to Alabama for the 2021-22 season, and in July 2021, the team's name was revealed as the Squadron, which ties to both the Pelicans (as in a group of pelicans) and Alabama's rich military history.
- 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.
- Capitanes de Ciudad de Méxicotranslation (unaffiliated): An existing team from Mexico's top professional basketball league, the Capitanes became 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, though their inaugural G League season had them playing in exhibition games completely inside the US as a result of the pandemic. The 2022-23 season saw the Capitanes play a full season slate, with their home games in Mexico. Some fans see their inclusion in the G League as an experiment for the NBA to determine whether a potential NBA team in Mexico City would be viable for them in their upcoming future.
- Cleveland Charge (Cavaliers): Founded as the Huntsville Flight in 2001 and later renamed Albuquerque/New Mexico Thunderbirds, were purchased in 2011 by the Cavs, who moved them to Canton, Ohio and rebranded as the Charge. In 2021, the Cavs moved the Charge to the campus of Cleveland State University after electing not to renew their arena lease in Canton.
- 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 moved 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.
- Grand Rapids Gold (Nuggets): 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. The Gold was 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. Following Detroit's departure as their affiliate, Denver announced they would affiliate with the Grand Rapids team, which was then rebranded as the Gold.
- 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 the Iowa state capital of 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, between Orlando and Tampa.
- Long Island Nets (Nets): Plays in the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, the former one-time home of the Nets during their ABA days as well as the former 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 Celtics (Celtics): Based in Portland, Maine and formerly known as the Red Claws. 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. In May 2021, the Red Claws were rebranded as the Maine Celtics; however, the lobster mascot is still retained, albeit recolored green.
- 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. Plays 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 Long Beach Jam of the revived ABA in 2003 and then the Bakersfield Jam in 2006, they were purchased by Phoenix a decade later and relocated to Prescott Valley to be rebranded as the Northern Arizona Suns. In July 2020, the Detroit Pistons bought the franchise rights to the NAZ Suns from the Phoenix Suns, with plans to move the team to Detroit, which was rebranded as the Motor City Cruise, to play on the campus of Wayne State University starting in the 2021-22 season.
- NBA G League Ignite (unaffiliated): They are the NBA G League's official developmental squad. This team only plays in exhibition games; however, the team participated in the 2021 bubble season and even competed in the Playoffs that year, though they lost in the first round that year. They initially played home games in Walnut Creek, California before moving to Henderson, Nevada as of the 2022-23 season; also in the same season, the Ignite played a full 50-game schedule in the league.
- 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. In 2021, the Blue's arena was converted to a film studio, forcing the G League team to move into their parent club's arena for the time being.
- Ontario Clippers (Clippers): One of four new teams that launched in 2017; owned by the Clippers. Plays in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario, California, not in the Canadian province of the same name. Previously went by the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario before shortening it out to just the Ontario Clippers in 2021.
- 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 based 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 fully 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. As such, they're currently the only team from the IBA/CBA days to continue sticking with their original team name from those leagues.
- 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): Plays 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. In the two seasons following the 2021 G League Bubble, the team temporarily moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut, due to their regular arena being used as a temporary hospital for COVID.
- Windy City Bulls (Bulls): Started play in 2016 in the northwest suburb of Hoffman Estates.
- Wisconsin Herd (Bucks): Started play in 2017 in Oshkosh, which is roughly halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Future (for 2023-24):
- Portland (Trailblazers): The team plans to start play in 2023, playing their home games on the campus of the University of Portland.
- 2002: Greenville Groove (defunct team)
- 2003: Mobile Revelers (defunct team)
- 2004 and 2005: Asheville Altitude (current Oklahoma City Blue)
- 2006: Albuquerque Thunderbirds (current Cleveland 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
- 2022: Rio Grande Valley Vipers
- 2023: Delaware Blue Coats