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Concise History of Basketball - Sport History Series

Author: Allan Steback

Concise History of Basketball - Sport History Series

Book Series: Sport History Series

  1. Introduction

Basketball owes its dues to James Naismith, the physical education teacher who conceived the idea of the game in during the year of 1891. Born a Canadian, James Naismith would unknowingly create one of the most popular sports in America in an attempt to implement a new exercise routine.

Naismith first worked as a teacher at McGill University, but later moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and became the physical education teacher at Springfield College. At the time, Springfield College was known as the YMCA Training School.

In 1891, James Naismith created basketball as an indoor exercise regimen to keep the young athletes at the university fit during the winter months. He would also write the first set of rules for the game.

Basketball was originally played with a ball that resembled a soccer ball more than a modern basketball. Peach baskets were used in place of modern, metal hoops. The idea was the same: players would move the ball down the court and make a shot into the peach basket, scoring a point.

His class consisted of 18 students. They were divided into 2 separate teams of 9 and taught the 13 rules of Naismith's basketball.

The fruit baskets were nailed to the balcony, rather than a pole. Unfortunately, the ball would need to be retrieved manually after every point. The game would be paused and the janitor would come with a ladder to remove the ball from a basket.

Holes would later be drilled into the baskets. A stick could be poked through the hole to push the ball from the basket. The baskets were originally 10 feet above the ground.

The very first game of basketball was played on December 21st of that same year. The game revolved around his 13 rules, some of which are still used in the game today. 4 of his original rules have been disregarded.

The first game was a 9 versus 9 and took place in the Armory Street court. A soccer ball was used because it was all that was available at the time.

Rather than name the game “Naismith Game”, Naismith put two and two together and named the game basketball. A few of the first players from this game include George Day, Wilbert Carey, Frank Mahan, and William Chase.

William Chase was part of the winning team, which managed to snatch victory by a stunning 1 to 0. Chase himself scored the winning goal and won the game for his team.

  1. The YMCA

The YMCA was created in 1844. It began as an idea in the head of George Williams and later evolved into a local community with strong Christian values. From there, it has evolved into a national and world-wide organization that promotes healthy body, mind, and spirit.

It is the YMCA that is responsible for propelling the game of basketball shortly after its creation. Basketball was a huge success as an exercise regimen. Not only did it help athletes stay fit during the winter, but it was also a lot of fun.

By the 1890's, the YMCA was already an organization with a lot of influence and institutions throughout the world, including America. Basketball became a part of athletic winter training at many of this organizations locations almost overnight.

Basketball was used at athletic training camps in China, Canada, Europe, India, Japan, and Persia by 1893. It was Mel Rideout who helped lead the first basketball game played in Europe. It was held in Paris.

Oddly enough, the YMCA would eventually begin banning basketball from its institutions. They believed the game provoked rough behavior from students and it was stopped at all campuses. However, the game was already played by many colleges and schools outside of the YMCA by this time.

In 1906, the familiar peach baskets were finally replaced by metal hoops similar to those used today. Not only were hoops added, but backboards were introduced as well.

People sitting on the balcony near the location of the peach baskets would often interfere with a player's shot. The backboard was used to prevent this interference from the fans. It unknowingly created the possibility for the rebound shot.

  1. The Leagues

The Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) started in in 1888 to help create a set of standards throughout various amateur sports. The AAU helped represent the young United States on an international level via the international sports federations.

The AAU had an influence on many of the rules of basketball during the time. The National Basket Ball League, the first professional basketball league, began in 1898. The league was a huge step forward towards moving basketball into mainstream professionalism.

The National Basket Ball League (NBBL) was based in Philadelphia. The plan was to operate in Philadelphia and New York, but the league disbanded in 1904 and never saw the start of the New York district.

The first game of the first professional league was between Hancock Athletic Association and the Trenton Nationals. On December 1, 1898, the Trenton Nationals beat Hancock 21 to 19. There was a total of 900 attendants watching from the stands.

There was a total of six different teams represented in the first 1898 season. Three of the teams came from New Jersey and three of the teams were from Philadelphia. The first six teams were the Millville Glass Blowers, Clover Wheelmen, Trenton Nationals, Germantown Nationals, Camden Electrics, and the Hancock Athletic Association.

Only four teams made it to the end of the season. Two teams from Philadelphia withdrew from the season before New Year's Eve.

Trenton Nationals went on to win the first NBBL championship with a record of 18-2-1. Post season was spent planning and improving for the following season, which they did. Trenton won the following championship with all teams participating as planned. (One team did drop out, but was quickly replaced.)

The 1900 – 1901 season was improved further. Seven teams participated in the season and the schedule was enlarged to include a total of 32 games. Six of the seven teams had experience playing in the league before. The newest team was from Burlington, NJ and did not finish the entire season.

  1. The Basketball Association of America

The BAA (Basketball Association of America) was started in 1946. It would later become the NBA (National Basketball Association) after a merger with competing professional league, National Basketball League. The merger took place in 1949.

The BAA was founded on the idea of big games. There were unused hockey arenas throughout the country that weren't being used when there were no games to play. The BAA was founded in New York in hopes of playing big games in these big arenas.

The first president of the BAA was Maurice Podoloff, who already acted as president of the American Hockey League. He was the first person to be in charge of two separate professional sports leagues.

There were 11 teams originally in the BAA. The teams played 60 games during the regular season. Each season was followed by a playoff series, which was then followed by a finals series. The layout was very similar to the existing structure used in the MLB (Major League Baseball).

The BAA didn't start off as the dominant league in the sport. Their hopes were high, but they were having a hard time managing a consistent schedule and delivering good games to the fans.

The original 11 teams were divided into two separate divisions. On one side was the Eastern Division and on the other side was the Western Division. Each division would move their three best teams into the playoff series.

The first official game of the BAA featured the Toronto Huskies against the New York Knickerbockers. The first point was scored by the Knickerbockers player, Ossie Schectman. The final championship of the first year was won by the Philadelphia Warriors.

Average attendance during the first year was barely around 3,000 people per game. Teams would use tactics like dribbling the ball for long periods to stall the game and maintain their lead. Owners decided they should impose time limits or innings on games.

A few teams folded before the 47 season began. This left the BAA with only seven teams to start the 1947 – 1948 season. However, the Baltimore Bullets joined and were moved to the Western Division with the Washington Capitols. This helped even the field at four teams per league.

The Bullets won the finals in the 1948 season after defeating the Philadelphia Warriors.

The merger with the NBL occurred after August 3, 1949. The merger required the six teams in the NBL to join the newly formed NBA. This left the NBA with 17 teams to start the season after a couple of new teams joined and a couple folded.

The final event held using the BAA name was the 1949 College Draft. Following this, all transactions occurred using the new name, the National Basketball Association.

The NBA is still the leading professional basketball league for men. There are now 30 teams in the league, with 29 teams in the United States and 1 team in Canada.

  1. The National Basketball Association

Created from the merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League, the NBA would soon become the largest, most well-known league in professional basketball.

The first NBA game featured the New York Knickerbockers and the Toronto Huskies. Many teams folded after the first year and many new teams appeared during the years following. With funding came new teams and new expansions.

The majority of the 1960's in the NBA was dominated by the Boston Celtics. They were the team to beat and not many could do so. Coach Red Auerbach led the Celtics to win the championship from the years 1959 through 1966. This is the longest championship win streak the NBA has ever seen.

The NBA was successful partially because they were able to manage teams well and move them when necessary. Many teams moved to locations that would benefit the NBA more, such as the Lakers move to Los Angeles.

The NBA was finally ready for its first expansion team in 1961. The Chicago Packers were the result. Today, the Packers are known as the Washington Wizards.

Later in the 60's, from 66 through 68, the NBA saw more expansion teams. The new teams included the San Diego Rockets, Phoenix Suns, and the Chicago Bulls.

Only one league managed to pose a significant threat to the NBA and that was the American Basketball Association. The two leagues would battle one another in the form of bidding for college basketball players.

It was the NBA that was able to land the most important star college player of the year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The number one scorer unexpectedly left the NBA and joined the ABA.

The NBA doubled in size between the years of 1966 and 1974. There were 18 teams total in the 1974 – 1975 season schedule. It expanded again to 22 teams after the end of the 1976 season. The Dallas Mavericks were added to the lineup during the beginning of the 80's.

A few of the newest teams included the Denver Nuggets, New York Nets, and San Antonio Spurs. The most notable players from the time were Julius Erving, Walt Frazier, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The NBA would actually adopt a rule from the ABA, the three-point field goal. This helped increase the scoring potential and popularity of the game.

The same year the three-point was introduced, rookies Magic Johnson and Larry Bird joined the NBA. Both players helped earn the sport significant recognition with new fans.

These two star players would play against each other in the 1984 NBA Finals. This would mark the first of many times the two rivals would meet on the court.

Magic Johnson helped the Lakers win five titles during his reign and Larry Bird helped the Celtics win three during his time on the team. Larry Bird also won the very first three-point shooting contest.

Another great player named Michael Jordan joined the NBA in 1984. Michael Jordan played with the Chicago Bulls and is perhaps one of the most iconic players of all time.

Michael Jordan's popularity caused more cities in the country to want their own basketball team. Four more cities were added to the schedule because of this. The four new teams were the Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, and Orlando Magic.

In 1992, during the Olympics, the Dream Team chose to use current NBA players as their stars. The players on the team included Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley. Eleven of the players who played on the Dream Team are now in the Hall of Fame.

Two new teams were added in 1995, the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. The Grizzlies, however, moved to Memphis. The Toronto Raptors are now the only Canadian basketball team in the league.

The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers have managed to dominate the modern age of basketball much like the Celtics were able to dominate the game decades ago. The two teams combined have won nine titles in as little as fourteen years.

The NBA has remained pretty consistent since the beginning of the 21st century. Aside from the occasional lockout, the number of teams has remained the same. The Charlotte Bobcats were the last expansion team to join the NBA in 2004.

  1. History of the Teams

The real history of basketball lies in the history of the teams. The teams and clubs who became charters for the league. Some of these teams are still favorites to this day. Teams like the Lakers, Knicks, and the Boston Celtics helped take basketball into the mainstream.

The New York Knicks.

The Knicks were at first just an idea in the head of Max Kase, a sportswriter in New York during 1946. Kase met with Walter Brown to discuss his ideas regarding an organized basketball team for students that have graduated college.

Kase and Brown both realized the potential for profit in the sport, but only if handled properly. Brown owned a hockey team at the time and was eager to find a new source of income when the team wasn't playing.

Nineteen people gathered on June 6, 1946 to discuss the new franchise. Among these nineteen was Max Kase, Walter Brown, and Ned Irish, who was president of Madison Square Garden at the time, and various owners. The meeting took place in the Commodore Hotel.

The original intention of the meeting was to pitch the idea of the new franchise to the people at the meeting and earn the right to lease Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately, rules stated that the Garden was required to own any teams playing in their arena.

Kase stuck with his gut and made the proposal to the various owners in the room. Kase was denied, but the franchise was still very much alive. The panel instead passed the franchise to Ned Irish.

Irish would later gather various staff members of his own. Everyone was to cast their vote for the franchise's name by writing the name on a piece of paper and putting it in a hat. Knickerbockers received the most votes.

The Knickerbockers is a name that is heard several times throughout the history of New York. It was first mentioned in a book written by Washington Irving. It was later adopted as the name for New York's first baseball club.

The first head coach for the New York Knickerbockers was to be Joe Lapchick. However, he requested one more year with his current team. Irish accepted and chose to hire Neil Cohalan as the first head coach for the first year.

There was no form of college draft during these early years of professional basketball. Unfortunately, this meant that no professional team was guaranteed to survive for long. Coaches needed to find talent and it often came from the local colleges.

The very first training camp for the New York Knicks was held at the Nevele Country Club. A total of 25 different players were invited and it lasted three weeks. Most of the players instantly connected with one another. This chemistry would eventually help them on the court.

The first game for the Knicks was against the Toronto Huskies. It was played on November 1, 1946 at the Maple Leaf Gardens. This was also the very first game in NBA history. At the time, the NBA was known as the Basketball Association of America.

The first point in the game was scored by the Knicks. 7,090 people watched the Knicks beat the huskies with a score of 68 to 66. The Knicks were led by Leo Gottlieb, who scored 14 points total throughout the game.

The Madison Square Garden was a busy place. During the first few years, many of the games played at home by the Knicks were actually played at the 69th Regiment Armory. Their first season ended with a record of 33 victories and 27 losses.

Unfortunately, the Knicks did not win the league's championship series during their first season. They made it as far as the semifinals, but were eventually swept aside by the Philadelphia Warriors.

The team was eager to see some new changes. Everyone was glad to have Lapchick on board as the head coach the following season in 1947. Lapchick was well-known for his fast paced coaching style that focused on ball movement.

The 1947 season also saw six new players some to the team. One of the players was Wataru Misaka. Misaka was a Japanese American and also the first non-white basketball player in the history of the professional sport. Lapchick would lead the team into the playoffs for nine seasons in a row.

The star of the team was undoubtedly the guard, Carl Braun. Braun averaged a total of 14.3 points per game. When combined with fellow teammates Bud Palmer and Dick Holub, the team was nearly unstoppable in terms of offense.

The team would make it to the playoffs again in 1947, but lose the series against the Baltimore Bullets 2 to 1.

1948 marked the second year of the NBA Draft. The Knicks were lucky enough to select two star players who would eventually make their way into the hall of fame: Harry Gallatin and Dolph Schayes. The team again lost in the playoffs. They lost their series 1 game to 2 against the Washington Capitols.

After the 1948 season ended, the Basketball Association of America joined with the National Basketball League to create the National Basketball Association. The NBA would contain all of the BAA teams and 6 teams from the NBL.

Lapchick continued to coach the Knicks in the Eastern Division and they remained dominant throughout the season. They won a total of 40 games during the 1949 series, but lost in the division finals against the Nationals.

Not only did the Knicks sign the first non-Caucasian basketball player, but they also signed the first African American player for the 1950 season. Sweetwater Clifton was the first professional African American basketball player.

The Knicks maintained a healthy record of 36 and 30 during the 1950 season and made their way to the playoffs with Sweetwater. The team once again fell short of winning the championship after losing their series to the Rochester Royals. The Knicks would make it to the finals again the following two years, but lose both times to the Minneapolis Lakers.

It wasn't until the late 60's that the Knicks began seeing a chance at clenching a championship victory. They had reached the playoffs many times prior to their first championship, but had yet to take home the series after winning the finals.

It was the late 60's that brought together new team members and leaders, such as Red Holzman, Walt Frazier, and Phil Jackson.

It wasn't until the 1969 – 1970 season that the Knicks would win their first championship. The season started off great and ended great. The Knicks won 18 straight games and set a new season record with 60 wins and only 22 losses.

That year's Eastern Division title series was against the Milwaukee Bucks. The series was tied at 2-2 by game 5 and the pressure was on for the Knicks. Unfortunately, Willis Reed would tear a muscle in his leg during the fifth game. New York still managed to win the game without Reed, but would lose game 6, leaving it tied 3 to 3 for the final game.

This was the closest the Knicks had ever been to the championship and Reed wanted to help his team secure victory. Despite his injury, Willis limped on to the field and played with his team. Reed scored the first two points of the game, but none afterwards.

Even without playing at his best, Reed did manage to inspire the rest of the team. Everyone rallied together and the game ended with a score of 113 to 99 in favor of the Knicks. Reed became the first player to win the All-Star MVP, League MVP, and the MVP of the Finals.

The Knicks would lose in the finals the following year to the Bullets and the next year to the Lakers. However, three years after their first championship victory the Knicks would win a second championship against the Lakers.

The Knicks lost in the finals the next year (the 1973 season). After this final loss, Willis Reed would retire from the sport. Reed's retirement meant a steady decline for the Knick's team.

The team’s first losing record (40 – 42) in eight years came during the 74 – 75 season. Even with this disappointing record, the team was able to qualify for a spot in the playoffs. The first round was lost to the Houston Rockets and the team was out before it really began.

Coaching would be passed to Willis Reed a few years later. The team would do well, but then Reed angered the owner of Madison Square Garden and Holzman once again became the coach. The next coach of the Knicks was Hubie Brown, who helped improve the team's record and push his team to the second round of the playoffs.

The next great move for the Knicks was winning the first Draft Lottery for the NBA following the 85 season. The team won the first round draft pick and chose Patrick Ewing. Patrick Ewing was a center from Georgetown University.

Ewing proved to be everything the team hoped he would be. He led the league's rookies in scoring with an astounding 20 PPG (Points per Game). Even with Ewing on their team, the team finished with a losing record of 23 to 59.

Rick Pitino came on as head coach in 1987 after another losing season. Rick Pitino wasn't the only new addition to the team. Mark Jackson also joined the Knicks. The team would make it to the playoffs, but lose in their first series against the Celtics.

Pitino would leave the Knicks before the start of the 89 – 90 season. The replacement was Stu Jackson. Jackson was the youngest head coach for the Knicks and the 14th coach in the team's history.

Jackson led the team to the playoffs with a winning record of 45 – 37 during his first year. The Knicks defeated the Celtics in round one of the playoffs, but lost in the next series to the Detroit Pistons. Jackson was eventually replaced by John MacLeod.

The next time the team reached the NBA Finals wouldn't come until the 93 – 94 season after Michael Jordan retired for the first time. The Knicks new lineup featured stars like Derek Harper. The team's record was 57 – 25 for the season.

The playoffs would prove to be challenging for the Knicks. They played a total of 25 games in the playoff, which was a record at the time. Only the Celtics have surpassed this record since with a total of 26 games played in the playoffs.

They won the first round of the playoffs in a series against the New Jersey Nets. Afterwards they would pass the Bulls. The Eastern Conference Finals was a tough game against the Indiana Pacers. At one point, the series was at 3 – 2 in favor of the Pacers.

The Pacers had star player Reggie Miller who helped the team dominate the final quarter of game five. However, even Reggie Miller couldn't help the team win games 6 and 7, which both went to the Knicks.

The NBA Finals concluded with a series of seven games between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets. With the series tied at 3 – 3, the two teams battled it out for game seven. The Knicks would lose the game with a score of 90 – 84.

The 1998 season was known as a Cinderella run. It was only the second time an 8th seed team (the Knicks) defeated the 1st seed team in the NBA playoffs. Their hard-earned victories were enough to earn them a spot in the NBA championship, but not enough to defeat the Spurs in the finals.

The Knicks have continued to go through a series of coaches, roster changes, and offensive strategies. They hope to one day reclaim the NBA championship series that has managed to elude them for so long. Recent changes in the roster may be the key to their success.

Los Angeles Lakers

The next great team in NBA history, and perhaps one of the greatest ever, is the Los Angeles Lakers. The team originally began in Minneapolis as the Minneapolis Lakers. The team featured players from the Detroit Gems, a team recently purchased from the NBL by Ben Berger.

The Lakers cost a total of $15,000 to purchase at the time. A certain sportswriter by the name of Sid Hartman helped arrange much of the deal. Their name comes from an old nickname for Minnesota, “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”.

The first head coach for the Lakers was John Kundla. The starting roster for the Lakers was very powerful. It included Herm Schaefer and Jim Pollard, both of whom were respected players at the time. They dominated their league during the first season with a record of 43 and 17.

The Lakers would move from the NBL the following year and join the BAA, which would later become the NBA. Their star player, George Mikan, set a new BAA record with 28.3 PPG. The Lakers would win the BAA Finals the same year against the Washington Capitols.

The team only continued to improve through the following year. Their second season record in the BAA was 51 – 17 and they once again won the BAA championship. They would even host what became the lowest scoring game in NBA history against the Fort Wayne Pistons at 19 to 18.

The Lakers won the championship again in the 1951 – 1952 after winning in the final series against the New York Knicks. The Lakers would repeat this again the following year by defeating the Fort Wayne Pistons in the Finals to win the championship for the second year in a row.

The 1954 off season meant the retirement of their star player, Mikan. The Lakers would struggle over the next few years, yet still manage to clinch playoff positions time and time again. Mikan made a very brief return during 1955 – 56 and then left the game for good afterwards.

In 1957, the team had one of their worst seasons in history. Their record featured only 19 wins, which was a record low for the league at the time. Mikan was the team's general manager and eventually coach, but was fired after the team went for 9 victories and 30 losses.

1958 was a good year for the Lakers because they earned the year's number one draft pick. This draft pick was used to select Elgin Baylor, who became the NBA Rookie of the Year and averaged 24.9 Points per Game.

The team returned to the finals that year after defeating the Hawks. Unfortunately, the Celtics won the Finals and one of the oldest rivalries in basketball was born.

The Lakers had a disappointing record of 25 – 50 their final year in Minneapolis. It was during the 1960 off season that the owner of the Lakers, Bob Short, chose to move the team to California to become the first NBA team on the West Coast.

Elgin Baylor led the NBA during the Lakers' first year on the West Coast with an astounding 34.8 points per game. He also set a new scoring record for the NBA with 71 points in a game against the New York Knicks.

He managed to grab a total of 25 rebounds that game. This helped him beat his own previous record of 64 points in a game. The team made the playoffs even though they finished their season with a losing record.

Unfortunately, Baylor wasn't able to carry the team to the NBA Finals and they lost in their second round versus St. Louis.

The Lakers would make the finals the next year, partially thanks to Baylor and West. Baylor led with 38.3 PPG and West followed behind with 30.8 PPG. Their final record was 54 – 26 and they were able to make it to the finals.

Baylor managed to set yet another record with 61 points in an NBA Finals games. His record for points during a finals game still stands today. The team still lost the Finals that year against the Celtics.

The 62 – 63 season was looking bright for the Lakers. Baylor led the team to 53 victories with 34 Points per Game. The team reached the finals, but once again lost to the Celtics. This would happen again in the 1964 – 1965 season after the team defeated the Bullets, but lost to the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Los Angeles faced the Boston Celtics again in 1966, but lost the series in game seven. They managed to keep the score close, but lost by two points. The Lakers didn't make it to the finals during the 1967 season, but did so during 1968, where they lost to the Celtics yet again.

The Lakers traded Jerry Chambers, Darrell Imhoff, and Archie Clark for star player, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia 76ers. Wilt immediately led the team with 21.1 rebounds per game. The team's other star players, West and Baylor, both averaged just above 20 rebounds per game.

The Lakers and Celtics met once again in the NBA Finals the first year with Wilt on the team. The Lakers seemed to have the advantage for most of the series, but the Celtics managed to win yet again.

West was named the Finals MVP. This is the only time in the history of the NBA that a player from the losing team has won the Finals MVP. He was also the very first Finals MVP.

1972 was the year of the Lakers. The Lakers would win 69 games, which was an NBA league record at the time. Chamberlain's 19.2 rebounds per game led the league and West's 9.7 assists also led the league.

The Lakers would make it into the NBA Finals where they played a five game series against the New York Knicks. The Lakers won the series with a record of 4 – 1. Wilt Chamberlain was awarded the NBA Finals MVP Award.

New player, Magic Johnson, helped lead the Lakers to another NBA Finals victory in 1980. Magic Johnson was also awarded the Finals MVP award for his performance in the game. He scored a total of 42 points with 15 rebounds.

The Boston Celtics

Most people would agree that the Boston Celtics are the best team in the history of the NBA. They're likely the best team in the history of any and all sports franchises. The Celtics play as part of the Eastern Conference in the Atlantic Division.

The Celtics are one of eight teams to have been established and live through the first ten years of the BAA. Celtics home games are played at the TD Garden.

In their long and victorious history, the Celtics have claimed 17 NBA Finals championships. They have won more championships than any other team. Total, they have more than 1 out of every four championships.

Walter Brown of the Boston Garden-Arena Corporation started the Boston Celtics in 1946. The team was originally part of the BAA and later became part of the NBA. The Celtics were the first team to draft an African America player in 1950.

The first few years were tough for the Celtics. It wasn't until they hired Red Auerbach that things began to turn around in the team's favor.

Red was a unique coach. He alone did the scouting, ran practices, and managed the schedules. Red didn't rely on any scouts or assistants to do the work for him. This may be one of the reasons he became so successful.

Red's first great draft pick was Bob Cousy. Once the 55 – 56 season came to an end, Auerbach would trade Ed Macauley for second round draft picks. The team used the pick to draft Bill Russell from the University of San Francisco. They also drafted Tommy Heinsohn from Holy Cross.

Bill Russell helped the Celtics reach the NBA Finals for the first time. They would play the St. Louis Hawks in the finals for a total of seven games before winning the series. This was only the first of their 17 total championship victories, 11 of which would come with Bill Russell on the team.

The Celtics reached the 1958 NBA Finals, but lost the series to the St. Louis Hawks. The Celtics responded by acquiring K.C. Jones, who helped perfect the team and begin the reign of the Celtics over the NBA.

Starting in 1959, the Celtics would continue to win 8 championship series in a row. The first game, in 1959, resulted in a final series against Minneapolis Lakers where the Celtics were victorious. Five of the eight games would be played against the Lakers and the Celtics would win each game.

The Celtics were also the first NBA team to feature a starting line-up made up of all African Americans in 1964. Their line-up became the most feared line-up in NBA history from the mid 1950's throughout the 1960's.

The first African American coach of any professional sport was Bill Russell, who took over for Red Auerbach after the end of the 1965 – 1966 season. Even with Russell as coach, Auerbach remained the team's General Manager until the 1980's.

The first year without Auerbach as coach resulted in a loss of the championship series and the end of the Celtics winning streak. The 76ers defeated the Celtics in the finals of the Eastern Conference. However, the Celtics were able to take home the 1968 and the 1969 NBA championship. Both years were victories against the Lakers in the finals.

Russell finally retired after the 1969 season ended. With his retirement, the Celtics winning era came to an end. In the 13 seasons prior, the Celtics won a total of 11 NBA Finals. 8 titles were won consecutively and still stands as the longest championship streak in any U.S. professional sports.

The 1970 season was not a great time for the Celtics. It was their first losing season in 20 years. It didn't take long for the Celtics to draft some new powerhouse players and begin dominating the sports again.

The 1972 and 73 seasons were both losses for the Celtics, with them coming closer to the finals both years, but never quite making it all of the way.

The team won the NBA Championship yet again the following year after upsetting the Milwaukee Bucks during a seven game series. This was the first time the Celtics had won the NBA title in five years.

The Celtics won for the 13th time in 1976 after defeating the Phoenix Suns in only 6 games. Unfortunately, another period of losses and changes on the team followed this championship victory. The 1977 – 1978 season featured another losing record of 32 wins and 50 losses.

The Celtics chose Larry Bird during the 1978 NBA Draft. Larry would need to finish another year in college, but their draft pick would remain in effect until then. It was a risky move, but Auerbach was sure that it would pay off in the end.

Bird signed with the Celtics immediately after finishing his college career. Bird had just finished leading his college team to the NCAA Championship game.

Bird finally began playing for the Celtics during the season of 1979 – 1980. The Celtics now had a new owner and many new players due to a previous arrangement with the Braves owner.

The Celtics didn't win the NBA Championship again until the 1981 series. This was thanks largely in part to the newly formed “Big 3”, which consisted of Keven McHale, Robert Parish, and Larry Bird. In 1981, the Celtics won the NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets.

The Celtics returned to the NBA Finals again during the 1983 – 1984 season. The team had a new coach, K. C. Jones. Jones led the team to a winning season record of 62 – 20. The Celtics began the finals with a 2 -1 record against the Lakers, but would come back to win their 15th NBA championship.

The 16th championship title came in 1986 after winning 67 games in the season. The team held a record of 40 – 1 at their home stadium in Boston Garden. The Celtics won the finals against the Houston Rockets with 4 games to 2.

The 17th NBA title wouldn't come until the 21st century. A new team, with a new coach, and a new star player helped the team win the NBA Finals in 2008. It was also the first time the team had faced the Lakers in the finals since 1987.

The Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are another great NBA team that has helped build the history and reputation of the league. The team was originally known as the Fort Wayne Pistons and they were part of the National Basketball League.

The Pistons didn't move to Detroit until the 1957 season. They aren't a team decorated with countless championship victories, like the Celtics, but they have worked hard to build a team of solid players that has carried them through the championship three times thus far.

The team's championship victories came in 1989, again in 1990, and once more in 2004. Their home games are now played in The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan. Originally, the team played at the North Side High School gym in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The original team was started in 1941. The original team owners owned a separate business that manufactured pistons for vehicle engines. The owners were persuaded to create a professional basketball team (in addition to their existing softball team).

The Pistons were champions of the National Basketball League in both 1944 and 1945. The team also won the World Professional Basketball Tournament three years in a row from 1944 through 1946.

The Zollner Pistons changed their name to the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1948 and joined the Basketball Association of America. The early years were filled with lots of rumors and speculations concerning gambling and throwing games.

Many people even believe the team intentionally lost the 1955 NBA championship series played against the Syracuse Nationals.

Fort Wayne was a small city, which increased the difficulty of funding a successful NBA team. The hard times were only made worse as other teams in similarly sized cities started dropping from the NBA or relocating to larger cities.

Zollner finally decided that Fort Wayne just wasn't large enough to fund a successful NBA team. After much time spent deliberating, Zollner chose to move the Pistons to Detroit. Detroit was the fifth largest city in the country and hadn't had a professional team in 10 years.

The last team in Detroit was the Detroit Gems. The Gems broke apart in 1947 and most of their players went on to become the Lakers. The rest of the Gems became of the Detroit Falcons, but that team soon folded.

The name remained the same as the Pistons moved to Detroit. Detroit was known as the automobile capitol of the country, so the Pistons seemed to fit well. The new home stadium was the Olympia Stadium where the local Detroit Red Wings played their hockey games.

The team remained at the stadium for a total of four years before relocating to the Cobo Arena. Unfortunately, the Pistons never managed to take off and secure a championship victory as they had always hoped. The new location wasn't helping their success on the court.

Despite performing poorly as a whole, the Pistons managed to sign a lot of successful, well-known players. Even with great players, the team only managed to maintain three winning seasons in a total of 27 years.

Superstars, such as Jimmy Walker and Dave DeBusschere weren't enough to pull the team from its declining slump.

The start of the 80's was an equally disappointing time for the Detroit Pistons. The 1979 – 1980 season was finished with a losing record of 16 – 66. The following year was also a losing season with a record of 21- 61. The team held the NBA record for longest losing streak at 21 games.

It wasn't until 1981 that the team drafted new point guard Isiah Thomas from Indiana. The Pistons then acquired Bill Laimbeer in an early-year trade with the Cavaliers. Finally, they traded for Vinnie Johnson from the Supersonics. These three players made the new core of the Pistons.

A rivalry with the Celtics began in the 1985 playoffs. The Celtics would defeat the Pistons, but only after playing six very difficult games.

The Pistons drafted Joe Dumars during the 1985 NBA Draft. A later trade also moved Rick Mahorn onto the struggling team. The team would continue trading and acquiring new players in an attempt to rework their failing offensive strategy.

In 1987, the Detroit Pistons reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1961. They were to play against the Boston Celtics. The Pistons managed to win game six, but lost the series in game seven.

The 87 season was enough to get the Pistons pumped for a new season. They managed to improve their record and set the bar with a total of 54 victories the following year. In 1988, the Detroit Pistons reached the NBA Finals for the first time since their move to Detroit.

Their first finals game as the Detroit Pistons was against the Lost Angeles Lakers, who had star players like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Unfortunately, the Pistons lost the final game of the series with a score of 108 – 105.

The 1989 NBA Finals would be the first championship victory for the Detroit Pistons. Before the season began, the Pistons moved to The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills. Mark Aguirre was added to the team and they would go on to win 63 games in the regular season.

That year's finals boiled down to a series between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers yet again. The Detroit Pistons won the series with a four game sweep, not allowing the Lakers a chance to take the victory again. This was the first time the Pistons would win the NBA title.

In 1990, the Pistons reached the finals again. This time they played the Blazers in the finals, only after defeating the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. The series with the Blazers lasted for seven games before the Pistons won with a score of 92 – 90.

The most recent Pistons victory in the NBA Finals was against the Lakers in 2004. Many believed it would be an easy victory for the Lakers because the Lakers had won 3 of the last 4 NBA championships. The Pistons were able to hold the Lakers well below their average scoring range.

The Atlanta Hawks

Always the underdog, the Atlanta Hawks is a professional NBA team from Atlanta Georgia. The Hawks are a key part of the Southeast Division within the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

It is believed the Hawks started as the Buffalo Bisons. The Bisons were formed in 1946 and based in Buffalo, New York. Their coach was Deangelo King.

Shortly after the team started its first season, it moved headquarters to Moline, Illinois. There, the team name was changed to the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. This was to reference the Black Hawk War that was fought primarily in Illinois.

The Blackhawks were one of the 17 original teams in the NBA. The team even managed to make their way to the first NBA playoffs. At the time, they were led by coach Red Auerbach, who would later go to lead the Celtics to NBA dominance.

They were unable to reach playoff success the following season. A disappointing loss of Bob Cousy lingered over the team throughout the season. Unfortunately, the area known as the Tri-Cities was proving to be too small to fund a profitable NBA team.

The franchise decided it was time to relocate once again to a larger city. The Blackhawks packed their bags and moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, the team once again changed their name to the Milwaukee Hawks.

The 1954 season started with an all-star draft pick of Bob Petit. Petit would later become an MVP in the NBA. However, even with this star player, the Hawks were still one of the lowest ranked teams in all of the NBA.

Once again, the team decided to move locations. This time, in 1955, the Hawks moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis, Missouri and became the Missouri Hawks. Milwaukee and Missouri already had a long-standing rivalry from the beer industry.

The Hawks would make it to the NBA Finals during the year of 1957. The final game went into double overtime, but the Hawks did eventually lose to the Boston Celtics.

The following year the Hawks advanced to the finals again and repeated their series against the Celtics. However, the series would end differently this year. The Hawks upset the Celtics with a series of 4 wins and 2 losses.

This was the Hawks first NBA Championship and the only championship they have ever won. During this series, Bob Petit would score 50 points in the final game.

Following their championship victory, the Hawks emerged as one of the dominant teams in the NBA during the next several years. The team would make it to the finals in 1960 thanks to the help of head coach, Ed Macauley. The Hawks would lose to the Celtics in game seven again.

This cycle with the Celtics repeated itself the next year as well. The Hawks reached the finals, but lost after only five games. Each year the Hawks would push harder and harder, often advancing far in the playoffs, but never taking home the championship. The Celtics remained the top team during these years.

The Hawks would move one more time in 1968 to Atlanta. Kerner was eager to find a new location for the Hawks. He wanted a larger arena that was maintained over the years. He eventually sold the Hawks to Tom Cousins and Carl Sanders, who was formerly the governor of Georgia.

A new arena was constructed for the new team, but until then the team played most of its games at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Atlanta Hawks won the 1969 – 1970 season Division Title. Their record for the year was 48 wins and 34 losses.

The Omni Coliseum was finished in 1972. It was designed to seat a total of 16.5 thousand fans. It was also home to the Atlanta hockey team, the Atlanta Flames. The Hawks adopted a new color scheme and logo during that same year.

A few memorable players started for the Hawks during the next few years. Lou Hudson, who is now inducted in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, was one of those players.

Marvin Webster and David Thompson were both chosen as draft picks during the 1975 NBA Draft. However, both players eventually signed with the Denver Nuggets and never joined the Hawks.

Ted Turner, who already owned the Atlanta Braves, eventually purchased the Atlanta Hawks in 1977. His first choice as head coach was Hubie Brown. The Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Braves were the only baseball and basketball teams in the Southeastern region for several years.

The Hawks won their second Division Title during the 1979 – 1980 season. Their winning record for the year was 50 – 32. It was the second title for Atlanta, but the first in the Central Division.

Mike Fratello became the head coach in 1983, one year after the team acquired new star Dominique Wilkins. The Hawks played 12 games in Louisiana during the 84 – 85 season because of poor attendance at home. The Hawks won 6 of the 12 games.

The last five years of the 1980s were good to the Atlanta Hawks. They won at least 50 games each season. They also managed to win another division title during the 86 – 87 season.

Despite their winning records, the Hawks could not make it to the NBA finals any of these years. The team drafted Stacey Augmon during the 1991 NBA Draft, but he would only make it through half of the season before suffering a serious injury.

Mookie Blaylock moved from the New Jersey Nets to the Hawks during the 1992 season. He helped lead the Hawks in three point field goals. In 1994 he earned himself a spot on the All-Star team.

Lenny Wilkens became the next head coach in 1993. They managed to win 57 games that year and tie their currently standing record. They won another division title that year, but never managed to make it through the playoffs.

The following years for the Hawks were filled with plenty of victories, but similar disappointments during the post-season. They certainly haven't won as many titles as some of the other basketball legacies. However, that only means their best times are still ahead.

  1. A History of Basketball Players

The history of basketball is just as much the history of the players as it is the teams. Few players stuck with a single team throughout their entire career. It was this moving, drafting, and trading of players that moved the teams either forward or backwards in their season.

It only took one serious injury to ruin a team's winning season. During the early years, when funding was short, star players were more crucial than ever. It was often the team that could afford the most high profile players that would make it to the playoffs.

The following players are a few of the most iconic names in basketball and have all played a part in the larger history of the sport. Without their contributions, who knows what might have happened to their franchises at the time.

Whether they carried the team to championships, broke racial barriers, or set new records in the league: they are all worth remembering.

Wilt Chamberlain.

Wilt Chamberlain was born August 21, 1936. He is most known for his time spent playing with the Los Angeles Lakers, but also played for the Philadelphia Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and even the Harlem Globetrotters at one point.

Chamberlain weighed 250 pounds and stood at 7 foot and 1 inch, a rather imposing figure on the court. By the time he was traded to the Lakers, Chamberlain had put on more than 50 pounds and tipped the scales above 300 pounds.

Wilt Chamberlain is regarded as one of the best centers to ever play the game of basketball. He holds many NBA records in rebounding and scoring. Wilt Chamberlain is the only player to have ever scored 100 points in a single game.

He also averaged more than 50 points a game in most seasons. There was even a time that he led the league in assists, but that record has since been surpassed.

Wilt Chamberlain is the only basketball player to ever average at least 20 rebounds and 30 points a game throughout an entire season. Not only did he accomplish it once, but he did so nine different times.

Chamberlain won a total of two different NBA championships and earned the regular season MVP four times in his career. He also won the Rookie of the Year award and the NBA Finals MVP award.

He is less known for his short lived career in volleyball. After retiring from basketball, Chamberlain began playing volleyball in the International Volleyball Association. He even wrote several books and appeared in one movie before his death in 1999.

Chamberlain was paid $250,000 in 1968 to join the Los Angeles Lakers. The previously highest paid member of the Lakers was only paid $100,000 for his contract. Chamberlain would play alongside Elgin Baylor and Jerry West.

Whether it was the Lakers, the 76ers, or the Warriors, Chamberlain would lead any team that he played with. His fellow players always respected him and his moments were always remembered. Most of the records he set during his prime remain to this day. Basketball certainly wouldn't have been the same without him.

George Mikan.

Mikan is considered one of the earliest pioneers and first superstars of basketball. Mikan was so influential in the sport, even rules were created because of him, such as the widening of the foul lane.

Mikan intimidated his opponents with his 6 foot 10 inch stature and amazing ambidextrous shot. He could easily navigate around or shoot over smaller defenders.

George Mikan would win seven NBA, BAA, and NBL championships. He also won one All-Star MVP trophy. Mikan took place in the first NBA All-Star game. He continued to partake in the following three as well.

His first role on a professional team was with the Chicago American Gears in the NBL. Mikan continued to play with the Gears for 25 games and scored an average of 16.5 PPG. He even helped the Gears with the World Basketball Tournament.

The Chicago Gears were eventually removed from the league. Mikan ended up playing for head coach John Kundla with the Minneapolis Lakers.

Mikan scored just five points short of 2,000 during his first season with the Lakers. He is also the only player to score more than 1,000 points in any NBL season. This earned him league MVP after he helped the Lakers win the NBL championship.

The next year, the Lakers moved leagues and joined the Basketball Association of America. He was just as dominant in the new league. His team won the 1949 BAA Finals during their first year in the league.

The NBA formed from the merging of the NBL and BAA during 1949. He led the Lakers to the first NBA Finals against the Syracuse Nationals. The Lakers would eventually win in game six with Mikan scoring 31.3 points on average per game.

Mikan participated in the 1952 NBA All-Star Game and scored 26 points with 15 rebounds. He played with the Lakers in the NBA Finals that very same year. The Lakers barely managed to beat the Knicks in the 7th game with a 4 – 3 record.

He scored 14.4 rebounds per game the following year and set a new career high record. He once again led his team to the NBA Finals against the Knicks and won the championship in 5 games with a record of 4 – 1.

In 1959, Mikan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Associated Press labeled him as the greatest basketball player of the first half of the century.

Larry Bird.

It's impossible to discuss the history of great basketball players without mentioning Larry Bird. Bird joined the Boston Celtics as the sixth pick in the 1978 NBA Draft. He was chosen by Red Auerbach, one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport.

Before joining the Celtics, Bird remained at college and played his final year. His contract was $3.25 million, which was the highest any rookie in the league had ever been paid.

The Celtics record improved by 32 wins the season Bird joined the team. The Celtics finished first in the conference. Bird averaged 21.3 points per game throughout the season.

Robert Parish and Kevin McHale eventually joined the Celtics. Together, with Larry Bird, they were known as “the Big 3”.

With Larry Bird on the team, the Celtics had more NBA championship victories to come. Many of these championship series were played against their longtime rival, the Lakers.

Larry Bird went on to win three NBA championship titles and two separate NBA Finals MVP awards.

  1. A Summation of the History of Basketball

The history of basketball is vast. It certainly isn't as old as some other sports, but it's rapidly increased in popularity. Players are some the highest paid athletes in the world and millions of people root for their favorite teams every year.

In its infancy, basketball was merely a winter training regimen meant to keep athletes fit while staying indoors. No one could have ever predicted that this YMCA exercise game would ever become a billion dollar industry.

Many of the original rules of basketball remain in the sport today. Teams were originally composed of nine people. This was because Naismith, the educator who created basketball, had a class of 18 students that he needed to divided into two teams.

The first basketball hoops weren't hoops at all, but rather peach baskets. Soccer balls were often used until real basketballs were designed in the 1950's. Metal hoops replaced baskets during the early 1900's. Backboards were added around the same time.

Colleges adopted basketball as a way to stay fit after the YMCA eventually banned the game. Most colleges had formed basketball teams among their students who wanted to stay active, but often played other sports.

The NCAA came to be in 1910 as a way for colleges to govern their various sports. This was in response to the increasing number of injuries from college sports observed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Basketball was already played professionally throughout the country by the 1920's. Most players would move from team to team whenever they pleased. Various leagues attempted to control the sport, but with little success.

Of course, throughout the years, it was the players and teams that helped make basketball what it was. Teams like the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics have remained with the sport for a long time when many other teams have folded.

Eventually, there were so many good players and teams that a basketball Hall of Fame was started in 1959. Those inducted into the Hall of Fame have made serious contributions to the sport and history of basketball.

It wasn't until the Basketball Association of America that the sport saw a league that would stay around. The BAA was the dominant professional basketball league and competed only with the National Basketball League.

The BAA would eventually merge with the NBL and create the NBA. The following year the league started with a roster of 17 teams, the largest it had ever been. That list has continued to increase and today there are 30 teams in the NBA.

A few great names in basketball that will never be forgotten include Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, Michael Jordan, and Julius Erving, but those are only a few of the many great players to have graced the court.

Many people credit Michael Jordan and Larry Bird with boosting basketball to the level of popularity it is at today. New stars, such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant carry on the legacies of those before them.