In November of 1946, comprised of owners of major ice hockey teams in the Midwestern and Northeastern parts of United States and Canada. By 1949, the league absorbed the rival NBL (which had been founded earlier), and after condensing the league down to 11 teams a year later, changed its name to the National Basketball Association (NBA), which we currently know it as today.
With the first iteration of the league in place, the 1950’s were characterized by two key storylines: the dominance of the Boston Celtics, under legendary head coach Red Auerbach and the play of Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, and the relocation of multiple franchises into cities we’re now more familiar with. For instance: the Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Warriors moved to the San Francisco bay area, the Syracuse Nationals moved to Philadelphia and became the Philadelphia 76ers, and the St. Louis Hawks moved to Atlanta.
In 1967, the NBA’s existence faced a new threat, in the form of the rival American Basketball Association (ABA). The ABA began luring away many of the nation’s biggest basketball stars, including Lew Alcindor (who was eventually known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and later on, Julius Erving. While the NBA increased its number if franchises to 17, the ABA thrived. However, the two leagues would merge towards the end of the 1970’s, and though the newly combined league was flush with stars, including Abdul-Jabbar, Erving, Elvin Hayes, Walt Frazier, Moses Malone, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin, Dan Issel, and Pete Maravich, the league’s popularity began to dip due to low-attendance in stadiums and drug issues from the players.
However, those “darker” times would soon be overtaken by the NBA’s golden age, coinciding with the arrival of Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson into the NBA, the marketing savvy of new commissioner David Stern, and shortly thereafter, the arrival of a high-flying and prodigiously gifted star named Michael Jordan. Between the competing dynasties of Bird’s Celtics, Johnson’s Lakers, and subsequently Jordan’s Bulls, the NBA was enjoying star power and ratings at unprecedented level. This came to a head in 1992, when the United States Olympic Committee oversaw the formation of what could be argued as the greatest collection of talent on any professional team ever: the 1992 Men’s Olympic Basketball Team, nicknamed “The Dream Team.” Said Dream Team dominated opponents on the international stage, won the Gold Medal, and inspired an entire generation of youths all over the world into playing the game of basketball.
At the dusk of Jordan’s career, the NBA’s new culture was dominated by the rise of players going straight to the pro game from the high school level. This gave rise to generation-defining players like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and eventually, LeBron James. The NBA also saw a major influx of talent from other countries, including the Baltic States of Europe and South American nations like Argentina and Brazil. With all of that collected talent, and a generation of young players who were inspired by Jordan, Bird, and Johnson, the NBA currently enjoys a level of talent that continues to build each year.
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