One of the Biggest Sports in the World
Today Basketball is among the most trending sports in the world, if not the most after soccer. Where sports like football, baseball, rugby, hockey, or cricket are trendy, they reserve popularity in varying regions. For instance, you’re not going to see a growing Hockey organization in the middle of Kuwait or a cricket championship in the US that has ratings like the ones in India.
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Basketball (like Soccer,) has a widespread fan base both locally and internationally in every continent on earth. With multiple leagues in more than 100 countries around the world. It’s evident that basketball broke the same cultural around the globe. The motherload of all leagues is the one and only NBA. Our first team on the list you may recognize if you heard of the liberty bell, or ever had a cheesesteak “wis wit.”
America; Day One – The 76ers
On July 4th, 1776 Philadelphia forever stitched itself into history with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams were looking out for the welfare of the American dream. They took the risk of declaring a new nation to the world with humble hopes; “freedom, and justice for all,” and the spirit of Philadelphia has thrived ever since! Today is known as the city of brotherly love;
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Philadelphia has some of the most passionate fans in sports history with the Liberty Bell etched in the heart of every “Philly” fan in the city, and in 1963 Philly got another gift that too many fans was just as special. Their very own basketball team! After transferring from Syracuse, the “Nationals” needed a new name. One more befitting to Philadelphia, and nothing fits the bill more than the declaration that gave the city its shine. The team was named the 76ers.
Meanwhile in Nevada – The Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns became a franchise with the help of the 28-year-old Jerry Colangelo. He needed a name and thought it best to involve the city of Phoenix in the search for the perfect one. So, in 1968, he promoted the name-the-team contest. The fan whose idea fruited the new team name would get $1,000 and free season tickets.
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Over 28,000 entries were submitted to the campaign, and they were far-out, to say the least; White Wing Doves, Poohbahs, Dudes, Cactus Giants, obviously none would stick. The Phoenix Suns was a simple name, but it spoke of the sunny city of Phoenix and still rolls nicely off the tongue.
One of Two – NY Knicks
New York is a city that boasts many sports team. NY fans are unlike any other, it’s a big city, and the team to follow depends on the burrow the New Yorker is from, and in the case of the Knicks the die-hard fans are in Manhattan and Long Island. Formerly part of the BAA the New York Knicks were called the Knickerbockers after a supposed hat raffle.
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Initially the name of the first organized baseball team in America (1845). Dutch settlers coined the term “Knickerbockers” during the 1600s. Many of them settled in NY, and the famous cartoon of “Father Knickerbocker” was born, to still be part of New England culture today. Easy to guess now what the next team could be.
Knickerbocker going to Boston – Celtics
In the 1920s more than 300 years after the Knickerbocker cartoon, the logo was still sticking and was being used by a successful franchise named the New York Celtics. In 1946 Team owner Walter Brown was choosing his new Boston teams name.
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He decided from options like Whirlwinds, Olympians, and Unicorns, and despite the name Unicorns being one of the alternatives, Brown’s publicity staff reportedly advised him that “that no team with an Irish name has ever won a damn thing in the city of Boston” Walter stood by the Name Celtics citing the winning tradition of the nickname. Now Knickerbocker is soon to hit 500 years old, and he hasn’t aged one bit!
Been All Around – Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks moved cities three times before settling down in Georgia. First in 1948 in the “Tri-Cities of Moline and Rock IL, and Davenport, IA where the NBL awarded them the team. The team’s nickname at the time was the Blackhawks. Who like hockey team Chicago Blackhawks were named for The Native American Chief “Chief Black Hawk” of the Sauk tribe.
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In 1951 the team moved to Milwaukee, with the name shortened to Hawks, they also had a short stint with St. Louis and finally settled down as the Hawks in Atlanta in 1969.
Two of Two – Brooklyn Nets
In 1967 The ABA welcomed to its ranks a new team from New Jersey and moved it right on to New York, and after one season, combining the names of the Jets and the Mets, they changed their name to the NY Nets.
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In 1977 the team came back to Jersey but kept its name. There was a small consideration to change the name to Swamp Dragons in 1994. Let’s thank the Basketgod that did not happen. In 2012, the team moved to a burrow of NY that was ready to have a group of its own, and they became the Brooklyn Nets.
Big Reds – Bulls
In 1966 Chicago was best known as the meat capital of the world. Franchise founder Richard Klein wanted a name that would reflect that. When telling his young boy about the name ideas he had brainstormed like Matadors and Toreadors, his son stopped him and said, “Dad, that’s a bunch of bull!”
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Sometimes children say precisely what you need to hear. In this case, that little boy swearing inspired generations of Chicago culture to come. The Chicago Bulls, it’s perfect!
Presidential Inspiration – Cleveland Cavaliers
Ohio is a state of winners. Seven former US presidents came from there, and the city of winners needed a mighty name for their new Cleveland team in 1970. Unlike some other teams on the list. The name ideas for Cleveland were pretty good. It included the Jays, Foresters, Towers, and (in reference to their presidential success) the “Presidents.”
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Cleveland had their very own name competition, and a man by the name Jerry Tomko (Who’s son went on to become an MLB Pitcher) suggested the “Cavaliers” writing; “Cavaliers represent a group of daring, fearless men, whose life pact was “never surrender”, no matter what the odds.”
Everything Is Bigger in Texas! – Mavericks
After a Dallas radio station sponsored the ever so original name-the-team contest for a new team coming to town, forty-one different people suggested the name Mavericks. Team Owner Donald Carter loved the title and gave all 41 free tickets to the opening game. They even held a raffle between them with one winning season tickets.
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The winner of the season tickets was Freelance Writer Carla Springer she said of the name that it “represents the independent, flamboyant style of the people of Dallas” Current team owner Mark Cuban definitely fits the description.
Warriors Come Out to Play – Golden State
The Golden State Warriors started their namesake on the other side of the country. In 1946 they won the inaugural Championship of the BAA. At the time their name was reminiscent of the 1920s team that played in the ABL the “Philadelphia Warriors.”
The team moved to San Francisco in 1961 and kept their name. In 1971 they crossed the Bay to Oakland, and in the spirit of the move, they changed their name to the Golden State Warriors.
“Small Step for Man A Giant Leap for Mankind” – Rockets
Originally from San Diego, the team was given the somewhat mundane name the “San Diego Home.” Today Houston is coming of age as one the most bustling cities in America. That did not happen overnight. In 1971 the “Home” team moved to Texas, and the city of Houston would spice things up a little bit.
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It was a simple decision to name the team the “Rockets” given that Houston was home to the NASA Space Centre and was even nicknamed the “Space City” since 1967.
Just like NY – Clippers
The City of Angels is home today to some adoring basketball fans, and just like in New York they boast many sports teams. Two in the NBA two in the NFL and as well as one in the MLB and MLS. The Clippers have been a staple of the city since 1984. Formerly the Buffalo Braves, the team moved first to San Diego in 1978 and were rebranded the Clippers after the famous 19th-century shipping vessels.
Owner Donald Sterling bought the Clippers in 1981 and two years later moved them to his hometown of LA. The people of San Diego loved the team and felt very betrayed by the move. The next group would prove tough competition for the Clippers to beat.
Free Nachos for All – Lakers
In the seasons between 2009 to 2012 the Lakers were giving out free nachos to fans if the team reached 100 points or more, and you can bet that fans were coming home full. Yellow and purple runs in the blood of the people in LA, with the team retaining impressive seasons back to back since they moved to the city in 1960.
Surprisingly the name Lakers had kept its clout since 1947 when the Detroit Gems relocated to Minnesota “The land of 10,000 lakes” and the name Lakers came to light about the lakes of the city. Yes, there is no abundance lakes in LA, but the team was ripe with tradition and did not want to give up the name they came to love.
Once Supersonic – Thunder
Oklahoma City inherited their team long after the inception of the NBA. The Seattle Supersonics transferred to the town in 2007; fans were given a vote choosing from 64 possibilities. Names like Renegades, Twisters, and Barons came to mind, but the name best received by fans was “Thunder.”
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On the day the name was revealed to the public, sales record beaten, and it became clear that thunder was not going anywhere. Team chairman Clay Bennett told reporters “There’s just all kinds of good thunder images and thoughts, and the in-game experience of Thunder,”
Making Magic Happen – Magic
The Orlando Magic, like many other NBA teams, got their name with an ever so original name-the-team campaign. The difference though is that the most popular suggestion was beyond controversial. As the name suggests “Challengers” alluded the Challenger space shuttle crash of 1986.
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Luckily there was a team of judges to filter through all the names. They picked one that made much more sense. A pleasing reference to Disney World amusement park; the name chosen by the judges came to be the Orlando “Magic” Makes perfect sense, right?
Trailblazing! – Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Oregon is a beautiful place, chances are when you visit, you will see some of the most magnificent scenery in the world, and you’ll need a long trip to see it all, as Portland is one of the biggest cities in America. In 1970 the team was granted a deal for franchise expansion in the NBA the team got more than 10,000 entries to pick a name from!
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The first choice was Pioneers, but it was ruled out due to its use in the local Lewis & Clark College using the name already. A favorited entry that stuck out after the disappointment was actually in some respects a better description of the city of Portland. “The Trail Blazers” The simple logo of the team would portray a five on five matchups of players.
Sacrifice the Royals – Sacramento Kings
In 1945 the NBL’s Rochester Royals were founded as a franchise.
The Royals kept their name through a move to Cincinnati in 1957; the name went untouched until the next relocation to Sacramento California in 1985, where the Name Royals was sacrificed for the Kings.
A Spur of the Moment – Hot Spurs
The Dallas Chaparrals were purchased from the ABA in 1973 and would move from Dallas to San Antonio. They accepted ideas from their future fans, and 5,000 entries were submitted.
The first name considered for the team was the Aztecs, but one of the team’s main investors; Red McCombs, was born in Spur Texas, and the team name would reflect that. It is safe to say it was probably Red’s call. Can you blame him? When was the last time you got to name a team after your home country?
A Name That Doesn’t Fly – Washington Wizards
D.C. never had much luck picking a name for their beloved basketball franchise. The team was first called the Washington Bullets. A name that would not have flown today, and even in the past met its maker with owner Abe Pollin. Abe expressed frustration with the name he felt gave support to gun violence.
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In 1997 the group announced its new name; the Washington Wizards. The team was not in the clear as the D.C. NAACP chapter president complained that it Carried associations with the KKK. Despite the NAACP reprisal, the name still exists today.
Jazzing It Up – Utah Jazz
In 1974 New Orleans was choosing a name for a new team coming to town. New Orleans is no boring city, and a lot of the name submissions were pretty good! Finalists included names like Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights. Had the team picked Deltas, it would have been a nice coincidence seeing that they moved to Salt Lake City in 1979. The name chosen for New Orleans was rightful “Jazz.” The name would showcase what the city is best known for, and that’s Jazz Music!
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When the team moved to Utah, the name didn’t make so much sense, but it stayed nevertheless.
Canada Gets in the Mix – Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors joined the NBA very late. The franchise started its season in 1995, and a year earlier held an extensive research campaign to find the perfect name for the team.
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Hollywood blockbuster “Jurassic Park “would compass the team towards choosing the name Raptors, knowing very well, that the title would trend in conjunction with the movie. No big story here. Just surgical branding and marketing at its best!
Goodbye Hornets – The Pelicans
New Orleans had a team for quite a while, and the name and logo were not all bad; “The Hornets.” But the team was not successful, and when Tom Benson purchased it in 2012, he felt a change would do them a bit of good.
The team considered many names, such as “Krewe” to reference the costumed paradors of the world-renowned Mardi Gras Carnival. Also, the name “Brass” rung a few bells, but the team settled for the name Pelicans being that Louisiana’s state bird is the brown pelican.
On the Hunt for A Name – Timberwolves
In 1986 Minnesota decided to hold more than just a name the team competition. Three hundred thirty-three different city councils across the state took part in the voting process for the title. The winner of the contest was B-ball fan Tim Pope. He was one of the first people to nominate a name as well.
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He told reporters that he had a feeling that a two-word name would win. The most famous name submitted was actually “Blizzard,” but the franchise wanted something more unique to the home state it represented. A team official is quoted as saying that the name was chosen due to Minnesota being the “only state in the lower 48 with free-roaming packs of Timber Wolves.”
“Never Mind We Will Choose” – Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukeeans were not too helpful in finding a name when tasked the search in 1968 when the team was founded. The most popular entry in the competition to name the team was Robins, and an even worse choice was Skunks.
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Its almost as if the city was playing a joke on the side. Rightfully the judges of the competition decided to overrule the name choices, and go with the strongest animal known to the states hunting tradition, and that’s how the name team name Bucks joined the league.
Turn Up the Heat – Miami Heat
During the 1980s the city of Miami was the place to be! Great music, brand new hotels. Clean, beautiful beaches. The home of the Spring Break culture needed an iconic name for their team before its 1986 season would start.
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Twenty thousand entries were submitted; Sharks, Tornadoes, Beaches, and even the Barracudas were among the finalists. Stephanie Freed’s submission for the name “Heat” was quickly picked up and matched to the city of Miami pound for pound.
What About the Grizzly Bears? – The Grizzlies
In 1994 another Canadian team would join the mix and bring their A-game to compete in the NBA the Vancouver franchise would get a lot of buzz. At first, the team’s owners wanted a try finding a name without the help of the public with the name Mounties top on the roster. But the Royal Canadian Police, as well as the people of Vancouver were not into the idea.
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A newspaper-sponsored name the team campaign fruited the name “Grizzlies” over the “Ravens” as grizzly bears much like the Vancouver team were unique to the region, and powerful animals to say the least. In 2001 the team relocated to Memphis and kept the name.
Denver Gold – Nuggets
In the mid-1800s Colorado was the place to be. Americans came from around the nation to get into the game of gold mining. It was known as the Colorado Gold Rush, and during the rush, gold mining became a tradition of Denver.
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So, when ABA franchise the Denver Rockets made a move to the NBA in 1974, they needed a new name. The clear choice when considering the city tradition was the Denver Nuggets.
Motor City – Pistons
In 1941, the humble town of Fort Wayne Indiana, A Piston Manufacturer by the Name of Fred Zollner started his basketball franchise, and he named the team after his own company; “The Zollner Pistons,” In 1957, the team moved to Detroit.
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Zollner had pride in the name and was not going to make any major changes. Also considering Detroit is known as the “Motor City” all he needed to do was drop the Zollner and keep the Pistons.
Welcome to the Nest – Hornets
During the Revolutionary War, the British would refer to the area around Charlotte as the “hornet’s nest of rebellion” seems a fitting name for a team in the city, right? Well, it was. In 1987 fans expressed to their dismay with franchise expansion name “Spirit” as it associated with an Evangelical Christian television program being investigated for shady fundraising activities.
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9,000 Ballots for a new name would be sent into owner George Shinn’s office, and the name Hornets won by a landslide.
In 2004 there was another unpopular expansion with the name changing to Bobcats, both fans and players did not like the name very much, but it stuck around until 2014 when the team reunited with its roots and brought back the Iconic Hornets logo.
Open the Gates! – The Pacers
This article seems to make it clear by now; the Midwest has a rich history and love for the motor industry, and in 1967 Indiana would be welcoming a new team to the NBA ranks. The group’s original investors were all race enthusiast, one of the many names discussed was the “pacers.”
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Indiana has a rich auto racing history, and the name would do it justice. The name held two references; The main “pacing gate” of harness races, and the pace cars used for auto races in championships such as the Indianapolis 500. Keep going if you want to learn some more in-depth history about the NBA and the history of Basketball
How Much is the NBA Worth?
As of the 2017-2018 season (according to Forbes) The average value of the NBA franchise stands at 1.65 Billion USD; a 22% increase from the previous years. The 30-team league produced 7.4 Billion dollars from the same season grossing an additional 25% increase of the prior year.
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When compared to any other Basketball League that is no less beloved by local fans, the NBA goes the extra mile, and towers of the rest. The NBA may be huge today, but where did all this rather quick success come from?
Where it All Began
Just for some context, the oldest sports in history still played today are wrestling, running, javelin throwing, and surprisingly hockey! Basketball was invented ages later in 1891 by a Canadian – American by the name of James Naismith when he was just 30 years old. Naismith needed a new game for his students in the Springfield YMCA.
The first basketball team, consisting of nine players and their coach on the steps of the Springfield College Gymnasium in 1891. Photo by Getty Images
The New England weather was too cold for any outdoor sports, and his students as a result of the boredom seemed to be very short-tempered. James was tasked by Head of Physical Education Dr. Luther Gulick to have a new game up for the ill-tempered youth. According to Gulick, the new game must be an “athletic distraction” It needed to be cardiovascularly challenging, it could not take up too much room, and there was a specific emphasis on safety and fairness. And what would be the biggest catch of all?
Short Deadline for A Big Game
He had only 14 days to make it happen! Read that again, and think about where we are today, the second biggest sport in history was made up under a strict deadline.
Dr. James Naismith. Photo by Picture now/ UIG via Getty Images
James Naismith went to the drawing board and thought up ideas based on the primary games that currently existed, coming up with conclusions like the ball having to be soft almost like a soccer ball, and the only form of moving with the ball would be to dribble it as to avoid any possibility of physical contact.
Keep it High
His last idea would be the benchmark of the sport. Put the goal high above the players head as to prevent any possibility of physical contact as there is no goal to protect. The new game would perform precisely as required of James, and by 1904 Naismith would live to see the new sport previewed at the 1904 Olympic games, it would become an official event at the Berlin games in 1936 and by 1939 Naismith was witness to the creation of the NCAA Tournament.
Two boys stand on the first basketball court in the gymnasium of the School for Christian Workers, Springfield, Massachusetts, the 1900s. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
For Basketball this would be just the beginning. Basketball may have spent its first 35 years hitting benchmark after benchmark, but good luck does not last forever. Much needed to happen before the birth of the NBA
A Rivalry with A Common Goal
It’s often said that it takes ten years for the average career to reach a satisfactory milestone. The creation of the NBA shows us that it’s not just careers that fall into the statistic but corporations as well.
Luther Halsey Gulick was an early advocate of physical education. While working for the YMCA, he invented the game of basketball with James Naismith. In 1910, he helped to found the Camp Fire Girls. Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VGC via Getty Images.
Shortly after the creation of the NCAA, James Naismith suffered a severe brain hemorrhage and passed away nine days later on November 28th, 1939. Good luck can’t last forever, and the next ten years of basketball would spell trials and tribulations for the sport as two leagues would compete for the hearts and minds of the American people; The NBL & BAA. The fight for supremacy between the two was volatile and could have spelled the end for the sport altogether.
American super sports, all have one major factor that they share in common; they begin with an investment from the most prominent corporations the country has to offer. For basketball, these corporations were General Electric, Firestone, and Goodyear.
Gerald Tucker, coach of the Phillips 66ers, accepts the trophy emblematic of Phillips’ championship from Harold Meyer, N.I.B.L. president. Photo by Denver Post via Getty Images
In 1937 the three elite companies would begin a sponsorship considered by many as information for a sport that was still so young. But they were not afraid to take the chance, and out of the Midwest sprang a 13-team basketball association known as the NBL. Each team would be required only ten games including road games, and in 1940 after the three-year pilot began.
The league appointed its first president; Chicago news sports editor Leo Fischer. Fischer knew that if the sport was going to survive, it needed to go the extra mile. More games, more players, more teams. That seemed to be the mantra that would take things to the next level.
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This would help create a culture of basketball in America and not just the existence of another fun game. The competitive atmosphere of the NBL was contagious among youth and produced a long future of merciless B-ball players that would fight to the teeth with the dream of joining the NBL. If James Naismith was the birth of the sport than Leo Fischer was its Bar Mitzvah!
Ahh Capitalism; it’s not a perfect system of governance and commerce, but a dog-eat-dog atmosphere that forges enormous growth. A competitive industry always turns a good idea from successful to ultra-lucrative.
Ed Macauley, Bob Cousy, and Max Zaslofsky. Photo by The Boston Globe via Getty Images
That does not go without saying; no one likes it when you pry into their business, and in 1946 the inevitable happened. The jet stream of the new sport caught the wind in the east coast, and the need for an east coast basketball league resulted in the creation of the BAA.
Bigger and Better
The BAA is new that to be better than their senior competition (the NBL), they needed to fill more seats, invest more money, and pay higher salaries to its players. The NBL may have leaped faith to get the game going, but the BAA decided to begin with a rapid ascent. This created turmoil as the NBL was ill-prepared to adequately emulate their newfound rivals in the east. Big names were created overnight.
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The then Minneapolis Lakers, Philadelphia Warriors, and the Baltimore Bullets enticed the best B-ball athletes in the country to choose the high salaries, major arenas, and tremendous abundance of east coast fans and ignored the Midwest organization altogether. The NBL was left with three options. Keep fighting the monster in the East, forfeit the game, or as they say; “If you can’t beat them join em.” The NBL chose the ladder and basketball would never be the same again.
The Day That Made History
There is an iconic scene from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather called the meeting of the five families. Don Corleone invites all his past rivals and allies for a tense reunion. His reasoning was to end years of war and rivalry for the greater good and create a unionized crime syndicate that can work together and corners the underworld market.
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The Godfather was released in 1972, 23 years earlier a meeting of the same caliber was held to decide the future of Basketball.
Day One for the Empire
On August 3rd, 1949 representatives from the NBL flew to the NY office of the BAA in the Empire State Building. Maurice Podoloff was basketballs own Don Corleone. The head of the BAA since its inception would be elected to head the new league.
Maurice Podoloff, the outgoing president of the NBA shakes hands with his successor, J. Walter Kennedy. Photo by William N. Jacobellis/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images
Effectively ending a long and expensive rivalry, and combining forces. August 3rd, 1949 makes its mark in history as the first day of the NBA. The merge proved a useful milestone in the sport, but there would still be many struggles in the business of basketball before it would become business as usual.
Some More Healthy Competition
The NBA did not create a monopoly that could be ignored forever; and just like the NBL, they would find themselves having to deal with a new foe, and in 1967 while the NBA was still shaking off early challenges of its inception, and after only holding 21 seasons, the ABA was created.
Boston Celtics coach ‘Red’ Auerbach hugs his ace player, Bob Cousy. Photo by Getty Images
The new league followed the BAA playbook to a T, but maybe they went a bit too hard. Tons of money was poured into the new league very early on.
The attempts to entice players from the NBA maybe would have worked, had the ABA not messed with the already solidified culture of basketball. Some weird changes were made in the ABA. The ball was a very colorful red, white, and blue, the play clock was extended to 30 seconds instead of 24.
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Money was spent on refs, players, and gimmicks. Nothing was left for advertising or broadcasting. The attempt to beat the NBA at their own game was short-lived, and in 1976 the league was swallowed in a merger with the monstrous NBA. The effort to change the sport was a funny one, so amusing that Hollywood celeb Will Ferrell starred in a movie about the league called “Semi-Pro” seen here.
Early Struggles For the NBA
On day one the NBA consisted of 17 teams, representing small towns, as well as large cities across the nation. Despite the optimism that must have come with the NY merger, the league struggled greatly through the early 1950s with team counts, and fans support dwindling.
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The NBA needed a miracle as the team count only four years later would diminish down to just eight teams.
The Simple Solution Big Difference
The NBA needed something to bring more excitement back to the sport. They came up with the 24-second clock. It made the gameplay faster and proved among fans to much more fun to watch! Funds started flowing back into NBA, and the association was able to expand the game to the world.
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Today there are 30 teams in the NBA. All the teams with their unique names, sometimes having nothing to do with the city they represent. We’ll also look into the recent team losses of the NBA.
The True American Pastime
Basketball indeed is a disruption in the world of sports. The game created from scratch, under a tight deadline, all with the goal of keeping the peace among growing youth still does just that world over. Since the beginning of the sport, it naturally made its way to some of the toughest neighborhoods in America, pulling young underprivileged youth away from the streets, and on to the B-ball court to settle scores replacing fists and kicks, with dunks, layups, and let’s be honest maybe little elbows too!
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The NBA Franchise names all share the same goal, give the fans a name that sticks, and honors the history of the great nation we live in. A game that’s fare respectful and inclusive from even its humble beginnings, basketball should be known as the true American pastime. Do you think it is?