One of the little known facts about professional basketball in America is that it grew out of the already established sport of ice hockey. The owners of the ice hockey rinks came up with the idea of having a professional basketball league to occupy their facilities and produce revenue during the ice hockey off-season.
This led to semi-organized basketball teams and leagues all around the country in the 1930’s and 40’s, and there were even a couple of earlier attempts at establishing professional basketball leagues. However, nothing like what they eventually called the Basketball Association of America, or the BAA, which eventually grew to become today’s NBA.
Basketball Gets Going In Canada
There must have been winter time basketball played, as well, back in those days, because the game that the NBA today calls the ‘first game in NBA history’ took place on November 1, 1946 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, when the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Basketball Association of America, which became the NBA, garnered success when they began playing in the larger venues and arenas and drawing crowds large enough to make the game of basketball a financial success and a viable business proposition.
The LA Lakers recently won their 17th NBA Championship Title, but another Lakers team won what was among the first Basketball Championships ever recorded back in 1948 and 1949. However, they were known back then as the Minneapolis Lakers and were led by one of pro basketball’s original heroes, George Mikan. They won five back-to-back championships and remain one of the original franchises which lives on to this day.
The NBA Takes A Step Backward
The early NBA had as many as 17 teams at times, but by 1955 that number was reduced to just eight teams, where it would remain until 1961 when the Chicago Packers and the Chicago Bulls both joined, with the Bulls actually holding the first ‘expansion draft’ to attract talented college players to the league. The Packers became today’s Washington Wizards, and the Bulls went on to basketball immortality 20 years later with a guy named Michael Jordan.
To encourage more action on the court and discourage stalling with the ball, the new league introduced the 24-second shot clock in 1954. Then, in 1957, along came an exceptional player by the name of Bill Russell to play center for a Boston Celtics team that already boasted guard Bob Cousy and which was led by legendary coach Red Auerbach.
The Celtics went to make professional basketball history winning the league championship 11 out of the next 13 seasons. The Boston Celtics were recently tied by the Lakers, each a great franchise now with 17 NBA Championships.
Believe it or not, the Harlem Globetrotters were already established and famous when the NBA was born. They have consistently provided displays of amazing basketball skills in a highly entertaining format that has helped introduce generations of fans to the sport of basketball.
The NBA has now grown into a multimillion dollar, multifaceted enterprise which consists of 21 teams, employs thousands of people and entertains millions more each year