American professional basketball

October 5, 2022

Professional racing first grew in the mid-Atlantic and New England states. Trenton (New Jersey) and the New York Rangers were the first great professional clubs, followed by the Buffalo (New York) Germans, who started in 1895 as 14-year-old members of the Buffalo YMCA. With occasional new members, it lasted 44 years and won 792 of 878 games.


A group of basketball stylists who never got the credit they deserved (because in their heyday, they played for towns and cities) included Edward and Lew Wachter, Jimmy Williamson, Jack Inglis, and Bill Hardman. They introduced bounce and long passes as offensive weapons and embraced the rule (adopted in 1923-24) that allowed each player to take their free throw if fouled.


Another influential group was the New York Revival (Rens), organized by Robert Douglas in 1923 and considered the most potent all-black team. During the 1925-1926 season, they played a six-game series against the Original Celtics.


In the 1932-1933 season, Lens won 88 straight games. In 1939, they won against the Harlem Globetrotters and Oshkosh All-Stars in the World Championship Pro Championship in Chicago. Great professional clubs include Wisconsin’s Fundulac and Ohio’s East Liverpool teams, the New York Nationals, Paterson (NJ) Crescent, and South Philadelphia Hebrew All-Stars, better known as It’s Sphas.


The first league was the National Basketball League (NBL), founded in 1898. Its games differ from college games because barbed wire cages surround the field, separating players from the usually hostile fans. (Basketball players have long been known as cages.) Barbed wire was quickly replaced by rope nets, from which players bounced like professional boxers in the ring. The cage also prevents the ball from going out of bounds, which speeds up the game’s tempo. Players can also resume dribbling after a timeout in these early days. Despite the buzz, the NBL and other early leagues have a short lifespan, primarily due to the frequent turnover of players who sell their services per game. With players playing for multiple cities or clubs in the same season, the league has suffered from games of unreliable quality and many financially unstable teams.


The Great Depression of the 1930s hurt US professional basketball, and a new NBL was organized in and around the Upper Midwest in 1937. In 1946, under the direction of Boston Garden President Walter A. Brown, professional basketball attained major league status under the new Basketball Association of America (BAA) organization. Brown believes that professional basketball can only have enough financial support to keep the league going in the early days of a recession, if the game emphasizes skill rather than a brawl, and if all players are limited to contracts. There are protections for each team from attack. Reserve rules, then professional basketball will succeed. By another club. After two years of costly feuding, the BAA and NBL merged in 1949 to form the National Basketball Association (NBA).


To balance the strength of the team, the NBA created the annual college draft, allowing each club to select a senior in the reverse order of the final ranking of the previous year’s game, allowing lower-ranked clubs to choose the more talented college students. Additionally, during the 1954-55 season, the game changed through three fundamental rule changes:


Teams must shoot within 24 seconds of possession of the ball.
Players are awarded free throws whenever the opposing team commits more than 6 (5, now 4) personal fouls in a quarter/more than two personal fouls in overtime. Any backcourt foul is awarded twice.


After a struggle for survival, including substantial financial losses and a few short-lived franchises, the NBA became the major professional basketball league in the United States. The 11-team American Basketball Association (ABA) was formed in 1967-68, with George Mikan serving as a commissioner, each season fraught with the NBA for top college talent. The ABA disbanded in 1976, and four teams entered the NBA.


The NBA became increasingly popular in the 1980s. During that decade, most franchises broke attendance records. A growth pattern spurred at least in part by increased cable coverage. There are (30) thirty teams in the NBA, divided into East and West and six divisions. In the Eastern Conference, the Atlantic Division consists of the following:


  • Boston Celtics
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • New York Knicks
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • and Toronto Raptors;

The Central Division consists of:

  • The Chicago Bulls
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Indiana Pacers
  • and Milwaukee Bucks

Southeast Division consists of:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Miami Heat
  • Orlando Magic
  • and Washington Wizards.

In the Western Conference, the Southwest Division includes: the Dallas Mavericks

  • Houston Rockets
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • and New Orleans Pelicans in Texas

The Northwest Division consists of:

  • The Denver Nuggets
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Oklahoma City Homer City Thunder
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • and Utah Jazz

Pacific Division includes:

  • Phoenix Suns
  • And California-based Golden State Warriors
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • And Sacramento Kings.


The play-offs follow a traditional 82-game schedule involving 16 teams, starting in late April. As the best game in a seven-game series, the final pairing continues into late June.


Although basketball is usually a winter game, the US NBA still fills its arenas and draws national television audiences in late spring and early summer. As the league grew in popularity, player salaries rose to more than $5 million a year by the mid-2000s, with some superstars earning more than $20 million a year. The NBA has a salary cap limit (at least in theory, since loopholes allow many teams to exceed the salary cap) on the total amount a team can spend on salary in any given season.


The National Basketball Association (NBA) launched the National Basketball Development League (NBDL) in 2012. The league is a kind of “farm system” of the NBA. For its first 50 years, the NBA didn’t have a formal player development system or an existing minor league system to develop young and inexperienced players like Major League Baseball. College basketball has been the field where the NBA does the vast majority of hiring. By 2000, that started to change, as players began getting drafted directly out of high school with increasing frequency. In 2005 the NBA instituted a rule that required domestic players to be at least 19 years old and a year high school graduate to be eligible for the draft, effectively requiring players to go at least one year in university or an international professional team before coming to the NBA.

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