NBA Basketball Game

NBA – American Basketball

The NBA has distinct eras. It’s not a young sport. Founded in 1949, the roots of the sport are closing in on 80 years old. There’s a serious history to unravel and revel in. However, there’s always a sense of newness in the NBA – an energy vital and relentless to a sport that produces players, coaches, and environments that break the sport in profound ways. In response, the league fights back. It regulates these advancements so that the league is always in careful balance.

But it’s a league of dreams. It – along with the NFL and the MLB – is simply known as The League. It’s a destination. The League is not a utopia. Each and every player sacrifices a great deal to be drafted, and they sacrifice even more to play minutes and earn the next contract. That’s part of its glory, though. The sacrifice. It’s an American way to live and dream, and The League knows it’s a very American source of inspiration to the rest of the world. 

From Wataru Misaka to Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Larry Bird, Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing to John Stockton, Kobe Bryant to Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James to Dwayne Wade, Kevin Garnett to Dirk Nowitzki, Steph Curry to Kyrie Irving to Kevin Durant and on and on and on. These are the headliners. The League is stacked with narratives to reflect on, to dwell on, to take forwards as the NBA continues to break new ground.

NBA 101:

  •   The NBA is not just the pinnacle of the American basketball system; it’s often seen as the pinnacle of global basketball. Unlike football, there is no promotion or relegation from the league. As such, speaking of ‘tiers’ makes no sense. Instead, there are simply other leagues: the NBA G League, for instance. NCAA basketball is also an essential league to know. While these leagues don’t have teams that can participate in the NBA, the players can, could, and do via trades, drafts, and affiliate Two-Way agreements.
  •   30 franchises make up the NBA. They are split into two conferences – Eastern and Western, with 15 in each. They are further divided again within their conferences into 6 divisions, making a total of 3 divisions in each conference.
  •   29 American franchises and 1 Canadian franchise play in the NBA.
  •   Each franchise plays 82 games in the regular season, which begins in October and ends April. After the regular season, the Playoffs begin. The NBA Finals is the culmination of the season, in which the Eastern Conference champion and Western Conference champion face off.
  •   A salary cap is enforced by the NBA to control costs and encourage a degree of equality across all franchises. The NBA has what’s known as a soft cap, though, which means that teams can go above their cap, but they will face privilege reductions during free agency. There’s additionally a Luxury Tax which teams have to pay should they exceed their cap.

The Restless History of the NBA

The NBA was founded in 1949 after a merger between two rival leagues: the NBL and the BAA. Officially, teams from the NBL started to join the BAA in 1946, leading to what many ascribed as the first official ‘NBA’ game taking place between the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knickerbockers. The BAA was a more appealing league as they organised their games in stadiums, whereas the NBL hosted games in small gymnasiums. By 1949, all NBL teams joined the BAA, forming the NBA officially. 

17 franchises in 1949 became 11 in 1950 and finally became 8 for the 1954/1955 season. During this period of consolidating franchises, the Minneapolis Lakers became The League’s first dynasty, winning 4 of the first 5 NBA titles. George Mikan led the team and the NBA itself to new heights. He defined the league’s style of play in general as one that favoured ‘big men’, who could, through sheer physical presence, shoot over defenders, block shots, and rebound quite freely. George Mikan was called ‘Mr. Basketball’ because of his influence. The NBA changed the rules because he broke the game: the increased the width of the three-second lane – a space under the rim in which an offensive player can only spend three seconds without the ball – so it was a little more difficult for him to put up huge points totals.

After the Lakers came Bill Russell and the Celtics. From 1956/1957 to 1968/1969, they won 11 NBA Championships, including a streak of 8 consecutive titles. Today, it remains the longest streak in NBA history. The defence-first ethos of Red Auerbach’s Celtics during these years were typified by Russell’s incredible defensive acumen – particularly when it came to rebounding – and significant threat in offence. The future Hall of Famer’s period of great success denied Wilt Chamberlain – arguably a more dominant player than Bill Russell – a title until 1966/1967, when he and his 76ers ended the Celtics 8-title streak. 

By the end of the Celtics’ dynasty (the end of the 60s), the NBA had expanded to 17 teams. The Celtics and their rivals the Los Angeles Lakers (relocated from Minneapolis) vied for titles during the 70s and 80s, winning a lion’s share of the available titles. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson cemented this rivalry as the impressive college stars joined the Celtics and the Lakers respectively, going on to be essential components of the NBA’s growing profile, as well as their franchise’s title success. 

Michael Jordan entered the league in 1984, a pivotal point in the NBA’s history when David Stern was seeking to propel the NBA to a new level of global recognition. The 1980s ended as the 1990s began, with the Detroit Pistons winning an NBA Championship. And then came Jordan and his Chicago Bulls, led by the irrepressible Phil Jackson, supported by Scottie Pippen. They claimed their first three-peat (back-to-back-to-back titles) from 1990/1991 to 1992/1993. And then Jordan retired, following the murder of his father in 1993

The Houston Rockets claimed the 1994 title. Jordan would simply tell the world he was ‘back’ during the 1995 season, when he re-joined the Bulls. The Rockets would win the 1995 title too. Back in full form with a line-up featuring Pippen and Dennis Rodman, with an incredible bench to utilise, the Bulls would win a second three-peat from 1995/1996 to 1997/1998

Jordan’s presence catapulted the league to the level David Stern had envisioned. The Bulls become culturally embedded around the world, as did the 1992 Dream Team.

In the new millennium, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers – led by Phil Jackson – and Greg Popovich’s ever evolving Spurs team would play a combined 13 finals of the next 16, stretching from 1999 to 1014

Lebron James’s GOAT status earnt its support throughout the 2000s and into the early 2010s, winning titles with Wade and O’Neal on the Miami Heat roster. It was often he alone that dragged the Cleveland Cavaliers to contest four consecutive finals with the Golden State Warriors, consisting of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, led by Phil Jackson’s pupil Steve Kerr. The Warriors’ dynasty and forming of the NBA’s first Super Team (featuring the aforementioned three players with the addition of Kevin Durant) defined this era. However, James’s GOAT status was cemented, as he was a significant threat and competition, on his own, to this super team.

Now, though, with an ageing Warriors roster and Lebron James’s career dwindling, a new era of stars is coming through. Ja Morant’s aggression and highlight-reel players earn him much admiration. Trae Young’s grit dragged his Atlanta Hawks to a surprisingly deep run in the 2020/2021 season, suggesting he has the capacity to inspire unlikely teams to success. Jordan Poole’s continuing Steph Curry’s legacy for the Warriors. Luka Dončić looks heir-apparent to the Michael Jordan and Lebron James throne. Nikola Jokic, another European leading the league in this new era, continues to claim MVP titles on a Nuggets’ team who will inevitably contest Championships.

The league moves and progresses. The best keep up as new prospects take the league in new directions. The NBA will take everyone along for the ride.

NBA Timeline

  •     1949: the NBA is officially launched. The Minneapolis Lakers are inaugural champions – the first of four during the opening five years of NBA history.
  •     1955-1961: the NBA stabilises as an 8-franchise league.
  •     1957: Red Auerbach and Bill Russell combine to clinch the Boston Celtics’ first NBA championship. They would go on to win 9 titles together in 10 seasons. Russell would win a further two as a player-coach to finish the 1960s.
  •     Late 1960s to early 1980: the league balloons from a 10-franchise league to a 22-franchise league.
  •     1979: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are drafted by the Celtics and Lakers, beginning an incredible period of rivalry between two historic franchises.
  •     1984: Michael Jordan is drafted by the Chicago Bulls.
  •     1990/1991 to 1992/1993: Jordan and the Bulls secure their first three-peat, before Jordan retires from basketball for the first time before the 1993/1994 season.
  •     1995/1996 to 1997/1998: Jordan returns to the league and leads the Bulls to a second three-peat.
  •     1996: Kobe Bryant is drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. 
  •     1999/2000 to 2001/2002: Bryant and O’Neal lead the Lakers to a three-peat, with Phil Jackson as coach. This is Jackson’s third three-peat, following his success with Jordan and the Bulls.
  •     2003: an historic NBA draft happens. 15 drafted players would win 26 championships across their career. Lebron James is the Number One Pick, going to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
  •     2004: the league’s most recent expansion happens as the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) enter. 30 franchises are playing in the NBA. While another expansion has happened since, numerous new cities have shown interest in developing a new franchise. 2004 will likely not be the last expansion the NBA sees.
  •     2011: Kawhi Leonard is traded to the San Antonio Spurs following his draft by the Indiana Pacers. ‘The Claw’ would join Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobli and lift the 2014 NBA Championship.
  •     2016: Kevin Durant signs with the Warriors to much criticism, forming the NBA’s first super team. He’d win two titles with the Warriors before departing for the Brooklyn Nets.
  •     2022: Greg Popovich, the legendary NBA coach whose whole career has been spent with the San Antonio Spurs, has his 1336th regular season victory, putting him first and finally ahead of Don Nelson in the all-time ranking, doing it 370 fewer games.

A Fresh Season: NBA 23/24

The 2023/2024 season will begin in October 2023, with the Denver Nuggets as defending champions. Despite legends like Jokic, Murray and Gordon likely to keep their place on the team, there has been a bit of doubt about whether they could do it again. Instead, the Boston Celtics have become hot favourites after trading for Kirstaps Porzingis, and with 16 wins already under their belt, there’s no saying they can’t do it again. 

Having said that, the Nuggets did impress during their victory over the Miami Heat in June, and signings – even very good ones – do not always play in a team’s favour, especially if a new player struggles to integrate their game into a new culture and setup. The Boston Celtics will have to do everything they can to make Porzingis work, and utilise him as their biggest weapon against Miami Heat – who brutally ended their 2022/23 season earlier this year.

Other teams that could put up a decent fight for the title include Milwaukee Bucks, who made history in July 2023 with the signing of Chris Livingstone, and the Phoenix Suns, who are looking particularly on-form as they make their final tune-up before the Summer League run. But, as always, we won’t know exactly who has the best chance of taking the title until the first two teams step out onto the court. One thing is for sure, however, it’s going to be another classic season, with everything to play for. Game on!

The NBA: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

Here is our mini pop quiz to help build your knowledge on the NBA, so the next time you watch it you can know your facts:

Who has won the most MVP titles?

With 6 titles, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the record for most MVP titles in NBA history. He won 3 with the Milwaukee Bucks and 3 with the Los Angeles Lakers. His career can be split into two halves. During the 1970s when he won the majority of his MVP titles, he won 1 NBA Championship. In the 1980s, he was part of the great Magic Johnson Laker years, before Jordan – who won 5 MVP titles – entered the league.

Who has made the most three-point shots in NBA history?

Steph Curry, one half of the Splash Bros, helped to create the modern-day NBA game which revolves around shooting 3s. Yes, he has won titles and MVP crowns. Nonetheless, he has a lasting imprint on the fabric of the game. With his record 3272 made threes – done in hundreds less games than Ray Allen, the previous title holder – Steph Curry remade basketball.

Which franchise has the most NBA championships?

Despite having only won a single title since 1986, the Boston Celtics are tied with the Lost Angeles Lakers for most NBA Championships, with 17 each. The Golden State Warriors are third with 7. The Celtics and the Lakers are the quintessential NBA teams. The New York Knicks, another culturally important NBA team, only have 2 titles – go figure.