The NBA is the most popular and premier professional basketball league in the world. It is the home of the best and highest-paid basketball players. Current NBA superstars include LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The league also boasts of international stars like Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki and brothers Marc and Pau Gasol.
The NBA season begins with the annual Rookie Draft in June to be followed by the Summer League and Preseason. The regular season usually begins in late October and ends in April. The playoffs will then commence and culminates with the NBA Finals in June where the Eastern Conference and Western Conference champions face off for the prestigious Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The championship series along with the annual NBA All-Star Game are among the most-watched sporting events in the world.
Current Teams and Format
A total of 30 teams (29 from the US and 1 from Canada) are taking part in the 71st season of the premier professional basketball league. The teams are split into two conferences with 15 teams each. The Eastern Conference is made of the Atlantic, Central and Southeast division while the Western Conference is composed of the Northwest, Pacific and Southwest divisions.
Competing in the Atlantic Division are the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors while the teams in the Central Division are the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks. In the Southeast Division are the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards.
The Northwest Division is made up of Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz while the Pacific Division is composed of the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings. In the Southwest Division are the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs.
Each team will play a total of 82 games in the regular season where 41 will be played at home and other 41 on the road. Teams in the same conference will play each other three or four times during the season and will play teams from the other conference twice.
The top eight teams in each conference will proceed to the playoffs.
The No. 1 seed in each conference will play the No. 8 seed, No. 2 versus No. 7, No. 3 versus No. 6 and No. 4 against No. 5. The three division winners along with the next best-ranked team will given the top four seeds in the playoffs. However, a lower team with a better record will still get a homecourt advantage.
All playoff games from the first round all the way to the finals will be a best-of-seven series. The Eastern Conference champions and Western Conference champions will face off in the championship series.
Established in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America (BAA), the top-tier professional basketball league became the NBA in 1949 after the BAA merged with rival National Basketball League. The Philadelphia Warriors won the league's first ever championship after beating the Chicago Stags 4-1 in the best-of-seven finals.
The Minneapolis Lakers starring George Mikan dominated the league's early years, winning four of five championships following the merger. The Boston Celtics then dominated the league in the late 1950s to the 1960s. The Celtics won a total of 11 titles during this period including eight consecutive crowns between 1959 to 1966.
It was also during this era that fans saw the rivalry between big men Bill Russell of the Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors and later with the Los Angeles Lakers. Other greats in the era include Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
There was no dominant team in the 1970s with several teams hoisting the championship trophy. The league also expanded during this decade and welcomed four additional teams from the American Basketball Association. This era also saw legendary names like Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Rick Barry and Julius Erving.
The Celtics and Lakers renewed their rivalry in the 1980s this time starring Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson. The two teams played each other thrice in the finals with the Lakers winning twice. Overall, the "Showtime" Lakers won five titles in this decade while the Celtics brought home three.
The 1990s kicked off with the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons winning back-to-back titles before Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won three in a row. Hakeem Olajuwon led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 before Jordan came out of retirement and led the Bulls to three more titles.
The Lakers regained their dominance in the early 2000s with the partnership between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal producing three championships. O'Neal eventually left but Bryant managed to lead the franchise to two more championships. The San Antonio Spurs were also a dominant force during this era, winning titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The present decade is about LeBron James guiding the Miami Heat to back-to-back titles and four straight finals appearances. He eventually returned to Cleveland whom he led to back-to-back championship appearances against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Golden State won their first duel in 2015 to end a 40-year title drought but the Cavaliers triumphed in their rematch last season to win their maiden crown.
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