The NBA Is 75 Years Old

The league had an interesting beginning.

August 3rd, 1949 is the official birthdate of the National Basketball Association although the league does point out that the NBA began as the Basketball Association of America in 1946 which means the league will be celebrating its 75th birthday this year. The National part of the name comes from a league with Midwest American roots, the National Basketball League that started in 1937. There are five NBA teams that were in the NBL, the Atlanta Hawks, the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Sacramento Kings, all of those franchises were in different cities in the NBL. The NBL was an industrial league set up with players working for companies and playing for company teams. The NBL was also very progressive as Negro players were on rosters in 1942.

The Basketball Association of America began operations in 1946 when east coast arena owners decided to schedule open dates in their buildings with basketball games. The BAA franchise owners also put up a color barrier. In 1947, the BAA enticed the American Basketball League’s powerhouse Baltimore Bullets to jump leagues. The BAA poached the NBL for teams in 1948 because the league wanted George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers who was the major star of the day. The BAA also took Rochester, a loaded team and Fort Wayne, whose owner Fred Zollner had a lot of money. The 1949 NBA had 17 teams. But the league would shed many teams. Six would not return for 1950 and just eight remained by 1953. The color barrier existed during the first four years of the BAA-NBA existence. The league did have a Japanese-American player Wat Misaka in 1947 not long after American Japanese internment camps closed. Negro players joined the league in 1950. The 1946 BAA bears no resemblance to today’s league.

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The Milwaukee Bucks celebrate with the championship trophy after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The Bucks won 105-98. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)