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Ah, basketball. One of the Big Four sports in the United States (American Football, Baseball and Ice Hockey are the others), basketball has a rich and interesting history.

Basketball was first created by James Naismith, a physical fitness professor in a Massachusetts school - he wanted to find a way to allow his students to exercise indoors during the cold New England winters. After coming up with a game that would involve throwing a ball into a raised goal, he looked for some boxes for goals, but could only find peach baskets to nail up.

Thus, basketball, at least in its earliest form, was born.

Basketball is played with five people on each team: the Point Guard, the Shooting Guard, the Center, the Small Forward, and the Power Forward.

There's a lot more to this than can be gone into depth - The Other Wiki has a long, detailed article on basketball's history.

Competitively, basketball is played worldwide. In the US, the National Basketball Association oversees the professional game. They've been around in some fashion since 1946. Seasons are usually 82 games in length, with some rare exceptions [1].

The NBA has 30 teams split into two conferences (Eastern and Western). Each 15-team conference has three five-team divisions. Each conference sends 8 teams to the playoffs, with the three division winners getting something among the top 4 seeds with another team getting the possibility of going as high as a 2 seed (confused yet?). All playoff games are best-of-seven series.

The 30 teams are as follows:

Eastern Conference:

  • The Atlanta Hawks have bounced around the NBL/NBA from Buffalo (as the Bisons for only 13 games) to the then-Tri-Cities of Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; and Davenport, Iowa (as the Blackhawks; Bettendorf, Iowa eventually joined in to make it the Quad Cities) to Milwaukee to St. Louis, but they landed in Atlanta in 1968 and have stayed there for a while - they really haven't done much of note, though they've been a playoff contender lately and they have won a championship back in St. Louis[2]. But in the '80s they were at least fun to watch, with two Slam Dunk Contest champions in Spud Webb and Dominique Wilkins. Owned by Ted Turner for many years, they had their games often on TBS, though they hardly attained the status that baseball's Braves did.
  • The Boston Celtics are one of the most storied teams in the history of the league; this was the team that ended up winning 17 championships, with eight straight in The Fifties and The Sixties behind superstar Bill Russell (contrary to belief, John Havlicek was around for only 6 of the championships won in The Sixties, but won two more in the The Seventies). In the Eastern Conference, they're known as the love-em-or-hate-em team in the East (or at least, they were until the Miami Trio came). They're also the team associated with Larry Bird during The Eighties. From the late '90s to the mid-'00s, the team declined heavily due to some mismanagement. However, thanks to a couple of brilliant trades, they rebounded and won the 2008 Finals on the backs of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen (Seattle), Kevin Garnett (Minnesota) and Rajon Rondo (Phoenix). They're easily the go-to Arch Enemy for the Lakers, due to classic matchups in the '60s and '80s, as well as the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Also only one of two franchises to start in the NBA in its beginnings back in the 1946-47 season and stay in their home city (the other team being the New York Knicks). For what it's worth, the team's name is pronounced "Seltics" rather than "Keltics".
  • The Charlotte Bobcats are the league's newest team (by terms of founding - Oklahoma City is newer, but they moved from Seattle). They are named for their owner, Bob Johnson, who was the founder of BET. They started play in 2004 and haven't done too much, other than having Michael Jordan being an owner as of the end of the 2009-10 season (on which they reached their first postseason) and just recently gaining the worst record of all-time with 7-59! Alternative names for the team besides the Bobcats would've included the Dragons and the Flight.
  • The Chicago Bulls are the former team of Michael Jordan, who led the team to six championships in the 90s. During that time, they enjoyed a surge of popularity, largely due to Jordan. Many of their games nationally televised on the Chicago "superstation", WGN (it's down to Saturday-only games now in the US, with a quirk where Canada gets the regular Chicago signal with more games). Began the trend of using the instrumental track "Sirius" (Alan Parsons Project) for pregame introductions. Before the days of MJ, however, they didn't really have that much notability, and that does include their involvement from preventing a fifth ABA team from entering the NBA (they had the rights to eventual Hall of Fame player Artis Gilmore, who was on the Kentucky Colonels and they objected the opportunity for Artis still playing there), and they started sucking after MJ's second retirement. Their current superstar MVP player is a point guard named Derrick Rose, who helped revive the franchise from mediocrity. In the 2012 season, they became something of a Handicapped Badass - Rose had a groin injury, so he had to sit out on 26 games. The Bulls won 19 of those games without him. Unfortunately, during the playoffs against the Sixers, the Bulls went through a Real Life example of a Decapitated Army; they lost Rose for good after tearing his ALC, and they lost their second leader in Noah after spraining his ankle. Chicago became the fifth 1st Seed to lose to an 8th Seed, following the same storyline as San Antonio did in 2011.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers are a team of many, many ups and downs, the Cavs were largely sagging until LeBron James was delivered unto them - when he was there, they were among the best teams in the league, though never won a championship. Now that he's gone, they're in a weird place between Butt Monkey and Woobie status, as they've gone roughly nowhere without their best player. In the 90's, coach Mike Fratello instituted an absolutely glacial slowdown offense which resulted in unusually low scores; while it worked for the team, he's largely blamed for the dropoff in scoring and more "boring" style of play league-wide that took hold later in the decade and the early 2000s. Currently best known for being betrayed by LeBron James on national and international TV, as he announced his free-agency decision with an ESPN special appropriately named "The Decision". They also had an abysmal season, having just set the record for the longest losing streak in the league (26 games long - which tied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the longest losing streak in the Big Four sports). After that season was over, luck smiled on them as they ended up having both picks #1 (Duke PG Kyrie Irving) and #4 (Texas PF Tristan Thompson) in the 2011 Draft. With Kyrie leading the way, the Cavaliers could very well enter the playoffs sooner rather than later as anticipated.
  • The Detroit Pistons were originally known as the Fort Wayne (Zollner[3]) Pistons, they moved to Detroit early in their history when it became clear that they would need money to survive.[4] One of the best teams in the late '80s, when the "Bad Boys" of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, and Rick Mahorn won back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. The Nineties then saw a massive Dork Age known as the "teal era" (after the color of the jerseys and logos), in which despite the presence of Grant Hill, the Pistons could never seem to get anywhere. The team then came back to form around 2000, and throughout the 2000s, they were fairly dominant, even winning it all in 2004 (which led to huge celebrations in the city of Detroit itself, which desperately needed to celebrate something). Since then, they've been known as the consistent team that couldn't quite win it all - in 2005 they lost in the 7th game of the Finals, and then from 2006-2008, they went to the Eastern Conference Championship three straight years but lost each time. Following that, as well as some questionable management decisions, the team has shown continuing decline, ending seasons towards the middle of the conference. Traditionally, they are known for strong, gritty defense [5] and good-enough offense. Also, they are the second-oldest NBA franchise around, with their roots going back to the 1941-42 season in the NBL, which was quite literally organized in team founder Fred Zollner's Fort Wayne kitchen. Amazing with how teams way back in the day formed, huh?
  • The Indiana Pacers are best known as the team of Reggie Miller, who joined them in 1987 and played with them for 18 years. Made it to the Finals in 2000, but weren't able to beat the Lakers to win it all. Most of their players (apart from Miller) were either traded or retired soon afterward. And then the somewhat mentally unstable (but defensively brilliant) Ron Artest (now known as "Metta World Peace") came, making the Pacers one of the league's elite teams for about a year or two before the infamous Pacers-Pistons-fans brawl that alarmed even people that don't care about basketball and forever changed environment and atmosphere at American professional sports. Reggie retired after the Pacers were eliminated from the playoffs, the fans turned on the team, forcing the Pacers to trade/release pretty much EVERYONE involved in the brawl, and the team has never been the same. Also one of four ABA teams (the others being the New Jersey Nets, the Denver Nuggets, and the San Antonio Spurs) to move to the NBA, although they weren't the original team planned to move to the NBA (the original was former ABA rival Kentucky Colonels). Used to be very regular playoff contenders who could never seal the deal, but spent most of the late 00s mired in mediocrity.
    • They've rebounded since then, acquiring Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Paul George, along with an impressive and effective bench in Dahntay Jones, Leandro Barbosa, Darren Collison, Louis Amundson and Tyler Hansbrough. In 2011, they returned to the playoffs and challenged the #1-seeded Bulls with a few surprisingly competitive games, before losing in five. Going into 2012, they almost knocked the Heat out of the second round, capitalizing on the fact that Miami lost Chris Bosh to injury. Coached by Frank Vogel and managed by Larry Bird, these Pacers possess a confident and fearless (no matter the opponent) trash-talking swagger (Granger in particular is rather confrontational). Viewed as a liter version of the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics, the Pacers provide a Foil to more star-focused teams like the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls. With a bright future and renewed playoff-level skill, people are looking to the Pacers as the most likely team to replace the void left by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference.
  • The Miami Heat, started in 1988, are one of the more stable teams in the NBA, gaining traction as a championship caliber team back at 2003/2004, and winning the 2006 finals on the backs of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. While hyped by a great amount, especially when Pat Riley was their coach, they were a mid-level team throughout their run at best, and it wasn't until LeBron James and Chris Bosh were drafted that the team really Took a Level in Badass; they dominated midway through the 2010/2011 season, toppling quite an array of teams (including the Chicago Bulls), until they lost in the final round against the Dallas Mavericks - a rematch of the 2006 finale. As a result, these black-clad juggernauts are often portrayed as the Big Bad of the NBA, even beating out the L.A. Lakers and Boston Celtics in that mark. Their other notables are Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Norris Cole and Ronny Turiaf. An Arch Enemy to Chicago (hometown to Wade) and New York (Riley's previous team), the Heat played against the Knicks 118 times, and the Bulls 111 times, more than any other team in franchise history. Both rivalries were particularly brutal - rough plays and hard fouls with the Bulls; game-determining suspensions with the Knicks. Their rivalry with the Knicks has softened considerably, with the recent struggles of the Knicks franchise and the turnover of the Miami Heat to a new crop of players, but it was recently rekindled in 2011-12 due to the emergence of the Knicks as something of a strong team again. There's actually some Foreshadowing in Wade James and Bosh coming together in 2012 - by the time of the 2003 draft, all where in their twenties, their draft positions 1, 4, and 5 adds up to 10, and their current jersey numbers, 6, 1, and 3 add up to 10.
    • Despite bearing the label of unpleasant, cocky cheaters by their critics, the Heat has made several notable Pet the Dog moments in the 2012 series: Bosh risking a missed game in favor of seeing the birth of his son; James appearing in a commercial ad advocating for students not to drop out; James taking the time to personally meet an eight-year old fan of his; the entire team paying tribute to a murdered teen; Haslem buying tickets for the aforementioned kids' parents to a game; everyone grimacing over Knicks' Baron Davis dislocating his patella; and James seeing the Granger Pacers as a Worthy Opponent.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks are basketball's version of So Okay It's Average. Owned by the state's older US Senator (and retail magnate) Herb Kohl they're not a particuarly bad team, as they do make the playoffs every so often, but they really haven't done anything of note since they had a little player by the name of Lew Alcindor (who you may know better as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Their first and only championship was in 1971, their third season of existence. Soon after, Alcindor/Abdul-Jabbar left because he considered Milwaukee culturally backwards. The team's been mediocre since then, with some good teams in the mid-80s. Two notes: they were originally a part of the Eastern Division for two years before moving to the Western Conference until 1980, where they permanently became an Eastern Conference team, and when they drafted Glenn Robinson in the 90s, his contract was so ludicrous that the league instigated a salary cap for rookies the very next year.
    • Since his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar has more/less admitted that much of what he said about Milwaukee had less to do with his actual feelings and more to do with his desire to play in Los Angeles or New York and putting pressure on the team management to trade him to one of those cities. He now speaks well of Milwaukee and its fans, which is probably helped by Milwaukee being much different now than it was in his day. Although it still hasn't saved the city from being a Butt Monkey to many current NBA players.
  • The New Jersey Nets were formerly known as the New Jersey Americans and the New York Nets and will soon be called the Brooklyn Nets. They were the league's running joke until the Jason Kidd era of the 2000s, when they reached the finals (and lost) two years in a row. In the 2009-10 season, they narrowly avoided becoming the worst team of all time. In the second-biggest trade of the 2010-11 season, they gained superstar point guard Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz, which helps their hopes for a future comeback. Unfortunately more in the spotlight lately for utility player Kris Humphries being married for 72 days to reality star Kim Kardashian. Also, like the Indiana Pacers, they're one of the four surviving ABA teams (back when they were still the New York Nets), and were also the team of Dr. J before the merger. Famous rapper Jay Z is also a partial owner of the team. Recently they were bought by an eccentric Russian billionare who eventually plans to move the team to Brooklyn (in 2010 they moved from the Meadowlands to Newark while they wait for their new arena to hopefully be opened one day; the plans have them moving in by the 2012-13 NBA season). If the move succeeds as planned, this would undoubtedly put an end to the question, "If the Nets (somehow) won a championship, where would they hold the parade?" (The Nets' New Jersey home is located in the middle of a mess of suburbs and decayed cities that lacks a natural center.)
  • The New York Knicks are the former team of Patrick Ewing. Ever since his retirement, the Knickerbockers have been in something of a downward spiral, mainly involving cable magnate/part-time blues rocker James Dolan's bumbling ownership of the team and former "Bad Boy Piston" Isiah Thomas' awful run as a coach and GM, both whom managed to field squads which would lose horribly to a team from a Rucker Park pick-up game. In Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Willis Reed hobbled out on an injured leg, scored four points, and supposedly inspired his team to win the game and the Championship. On another note, this is the preferred team of famed director Spike Lee, who wears the jersey of the current fan-favorite player of the team - right now, it is Landry Fields' number 6, but John Starks' 3 was the most famous. The shame of an otherwise proud sports city. Also, on one last note, they're one of only two franchises to start in the NBA in its beginnings back in the 1946-47 season and stay in their home city and were one of two teams to play the first ever NBA game (the other team was the Toronto Huskies, who lasted only that one season — the Knicks won the November 1st, 1946 game 68-66 at the Maple Leaf Gardens and anyone who was taller than 6'8" C George Nostrand (the tallest NBA player at the time) would enter for free [6]). In the biggest trade of the 2010-11 season, they acquired Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups from the Nuggets, and New York figured that they'd have enough help by adding Tyson Chandler and removing Chauncey Billups. The team got off to a rough start, but found itself unexpectedly galvanized by the previously unknown Jeremy Lin, the first Asian-American to start in the league. Their old rivalry with the Heat has been rekindled in 2011-12 as well, largely due to the hype surrounding Lin becoming far more badass than before - they went into a 7-game winning streak, defeating such teams as the Jazz, the Nets and the Mavericks, before losing to the Heat. The following 6-game losing streak forced their coach (D'Antoni) to resign, and they lost their star player in Lin (who suffered a meniscus tear in his knee; he'll need surgery to fix it). However, thanks to Mike Woodson, their interim coach, they've rebounded and made it to the playoffs, but they lost to the Heat, and are now facing large question marks on their future.
  • The Orlando Magic are one of the better teams playing today; they've had names like Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard. With Stan Van Gundy as their coach and Dwight Howard as their star player, the Magic quickly proved to be a playoff-level team that gave trouble to their divisional rival in the Miami Heat. They came within a few games of winning the 2009 Finals, but they lost to the Lakers. They were Shaquille O'Neal's original team, and it was with the Magic that Shaq became known for destroying some backboards. Infamously known for bad blood between Dwight Howard and coach Stan Van Gundy. It got bad enough that Van Gundy and Otis Smith (the general manager) were fired, but rumor has it that Howard still wants to leave Orlando. Things may change, but as it stands, it appears that the Magic is dead in the water as far as championship or even playoff aspirations go.
  • The Philadelphia 76ers were formerly known as the Syracuse Nationals, and are also known more just as the Sixers. They're honestly the oldest team to be made in the NBA, having independent years going back as far as 1939 with the Nationals (or "Nats") having a nickname as the "Reds", before being in the NBL in 1946 and merging with the NBA in 1949. In the 1972-73 season, they had a 9-win season. Yes, 9 wins out of 82. On some more positive notes, they were the team of prolific scorer Wilt Chamberlain, dunking genius Julius "Doctor J" Erving, and later Allen Iverson, who led the team to the Finals in 2001. They were also Charles Barkley's team in the 80s and early 90s, though both parties today don't care for each other very much. Also, they won one championship back in Syracuse and two in Philadelphia.
  • The Toronto Raptors started playing in 1995. They haven't made it past the conference championship yet, but they have won their division a few times. Market their status as the only Canadian team heavily (they started along with the Vancouver Grizzlies, which has since moved to Memphis), including changing their primary color from purple to red. Their choice of team name (announced when Jurassic Park was popular) caused a bit of consternation because their original NBA team that was around for only one season was the Toronto Huskies. Currently have the only roster with seven different countries represented (U.S.A., Spain, Italy, Brazil, France, Lithuania, and Nigeria).
    • Being based in Canada, former players have been known to lodge fairly strange complaints about the team, from Othella Harrington complaining that the cream in Oreos' isn't as tasty (no, really) to Antonio Davis complaining about his kids learning the metric system. Most recent addition to this list is Chris Bosh, who complained that he couldn't get "the good cable", or NBA League Pass, though apparently he could.
  • The Washington Wizards were formerly known by many names like the Chicago Packers, the Chicago Zephyrs, the Baltimore Bullets (who should not be confused with the Baltimore Bullets team who won the BAA/NBA Finals Championship in the 1947-48 season), the Capital Bullets (who actually played in the small D.C. suburb of Landover, Maryland for one year), and the Washington Bullets. Their name was changed from "Bullets" to "Wizards" because of the Unfortunate Implications of glorifying bullets in a city with an astronomical crime rate. Formerly the team of Gilbert "Agent Zero" Arenas, who decided which team to sign with by flipping a coin, sponsors professional video game teams, and is constantly in trouble with the league administration. However, Arenas' move to Orlando has paved the way for 2011 rookie John Wall to take the leadership role instead, which hasn't worked out so far. Also, Michael Jordan played for them very briefly while trying to groom #1 draft pick (and eventual bust) Kwame Brown.

Western Conference

  • The Dallas Mavericks started playing in 1980, and were so named because Maverick star James Garner was a part of the founding ownership. Throughout most of the '80s, the Mavs were generally pretty good - though they entered a bit of a Dork Age in the 1990s. Early in their history they were about to unseat the then-mighty Lakers in the playoffs until their point guard lost track of the score in a critical game. However, when dot-com bubble billionaire Mark Cuban bought the team, and brought in Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash got into the area during the late 90's and early 2000's, they started getting good again - good enough to make the playoffs pretty much year in and year out, even making it all the way to the Finals in 2006, and winning the championship in 2011. Lamar Odom, a.k.a. Kim Kardashian's brother-in-law, now plays here due to a trade fiasco involving the Lakers, and can be seen on the Kardashian family picture.
  • The Denver Nuggets are one of the better teams playing today. The former team of Carmelo Anthony, who was the real runner-up to LeBron James the year he was drafted. Allen Iverson played here too, but was traded to Detroit for Chauncey Billups in the 08-09 season. Carmelo recently gained controversy involving the trade rumors, to the point where people wanted him to get on with it already [7]. They've recently traded one of their star players to Washington in order to allow Wilson Chandler back onto the team. While they've been pretty consistenly good for a while, they're yet another team with that "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" vibe about them. Also, like the Indiana Pacers, the New Jersey Nets, and the San Antonio Spurs, they're one of the four surviving ABA teams (with the original name for this team for most of the ABA being the Denver Rockets). Their name's basically a homage/an artifact of the original Denver Nuggets team that was in the NBL/NBA for only two seasons and for good reason.
    • During The Eighties, they were a famously high-scoring team whose coach, Doug Moe, literally did not believe in defense, once pulling the team to the sidelines late in the game while the other team scored at will as a protest. That style of play ended up getting the highest-scoring game in NBA history with the Pistons winning over the Nuggets 186-184.
  • The Golden State Warriors are a team with its best days far behind it; located in Oakland with a name designed to not peeve either San Francisco, Oakland or the Bay Area in general. Some past notices include being the first team to ever win the NBA Finals and being the original team of famed scorer Wilt Chamberlain. The only thing they've really done lately of note was stun the then-top-seeded Mavericks in the 2007 Playoffs, and in 2010 they brought back the classic uniforms featuring an image of one of the famous bridges of the area (formerly the Golden Gate, now the Oakland-San Francisco). Were originally from Philadelphia and, later on, San Francisco.
  • The Houston Rockets won two championships in the '90s with the mighty Hakeem Olajuwon - 1st pick in Michael Jordan's draft, but when he retired, the Rockets' GM said that he will never regret his choice[8]. Since then, they've been largely in the same boat as teams like Memphis and Denver - always a bridesmaid, never a bride. On the other hand, they drafted Yao Ming a few years back, which started a trend of Chinese players entering the league. Unfortunately, Yao Ming ended up retiring after a few years of having bad injuries destroying his career, so now they're sort of left without a center. They were originally from San Diego for four years before moving to Houston, and their first arena has been converted to the most mega of any mega-church, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church.
  • The Los Angeles Clippers are ridiculed as being the worst franchise in all American major sports[9]. Born as the Buffalo Braves and later on, the San Diego Clippers, they're historically known as one of the league's joke teams. They don't have any divisional, conference, or league championships to their names. Also, they have possibly the most reviled team owner in sports, Donald Sterling, a local slumlord widely known as a vicious racist. He also heckles his own players and his Executive Meddling is a big factor in the Clippers' perennial mediocrity. Have something of a brighter future though, thanks to rookie phenom Blake Griffin who after three months in the league is already a superstar and a fan-favorite (even getting into the Rookie-Sophmore game and the All-Star game in the same year) and the recent Chris Paul trade here. Currently has something of a big-name fan in Bill Simmons, who adopted the Clippers after his move to L.A. and mentions them frequently. Much of their infamy is due to the unfortunate distinction of sharing a city and an arena with...
  • The Los Angeles Lakers are easily the Arch Enemy of the Boston Celtics and the West's designated love-or-hate team. They've got 16 championships to their name, just one away from tying it with the Celtics, and they're the first team to win 3,000 regular-season games. Their historical rosters read like a Criterion Collection of NBA history - Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant have all at some point called this place home - all six have between them 12 MVP awards (Chamberlain alone has four!). They almost gained former New Orleans Hornets player Chris Paul as well, but the NBA actually interfered with their trade due to "basketball reasons". Now Lakers fans are hoping that Dwight Howard will be traded to the Lakers. Jerry West's image forms the iconic NBA logo. Also the team of George Mikan, who we blame for the fact that you need a pituitary disorder to play basketball today. Currently the only team to achieve a three-peat after the Jordan years, they're led by Kobe Bryant (the heir to Jordan), Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest (or Metta World Peace), Steve Blake and Jordan Hill. This generation faced the Paul Pierce Celtics twice - losing in 2008 and winning in 2010. Criticized for having a lousy bench and inconsistent performances by Gasol/Bynum, their era with Kobe is slowly coming to an end, symbolized by their performances against the Thunder in the 2012 playoffs.
    • Here's two fun facts for you: they were originally called the Detroit Gems for one season and the Lakers are the only team to win a championship from the NBL, the BAA, and the NBA. The name is an artifact from their early days in Minneapolis. Minnesota has ten thousand lakes; Los Angeles has five. This began the tradition of NBA teams keeping their name on changing cities, no matter how incongruous. Speaking of which...
  • The Memphis Grizzlies started play in 1995. They've done very little of note. And by that, we mean very, very little. They've shown some improvement in recent years, but remain far from contenders. Grizzly bears are notoriously hard to find around swampy, humid Memphis; the team was originally based in Vancouver, Canada. Basically, the only things that are known about them was the very one-sided trade to the L.A. Lakers that made the Grizzlies lose their best player (Pau Gasol) and recently becoming the second 8-seeded team in the NBA playoffs to defeat a 1-seed in a 7-game series (and the fourth to do so overall), beating the San Antonio Spurs in the 2011 playoffs, and taking the Thunder to 7 games in the next round, without their best player on the court for either.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves can also be called the Minnesota Wolves or the T-Wolves. The former team of Kevin Garnett, who was known as a great player without a ring - and who was subsequently traded to the Boston Celtics where he immediately won a ring. They're now the team of surprise star player Kevin Love and Spanish superstar Ricky Rubio. Fun fact: they got their name as a result of a "name that team" contest.
  • The New Orleans Hornets were formerly the Charlotte Hornets[10]. They've been fairly consistent in their 20 years - occasionally very bad, occasionally very good, but mostly in the middle of the pack. Point Guard Chris Paul led the team to their first divisional title in 2008, but they've slipped back into mediocrity since then, and they'll be stuck there due to them trading Chris Paul. However, they did gain a new owner recently due to the current owner of the New Orleans Saints gaining interest, and he does plan on making some changes around town, starting with their name! Due to Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans in 2005, the Hornets played home games in Oklahoma City for two years, where they became the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. The Seattle (Super)Sonics' owner took note of the team's strong reception there, leading us to...
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder were formerly known as the Seattle (Super)Sonics. As of 2011, the Thunder have existed for only three seasons. They are now a good NBA example of Ensemble Darkhorse. They were pretty bad when they first moved to OKC - then Kevin Durant started getting really good (becoming the youngest best scorer of the league with almost 30 points per game). In 2010, they made their first playoffs as the Thunder, losing to the Lakers in 6 games. They followed that up with the 2011 playoffs, where they defeated the Denver Nuggets, the Memphis Grizzlies in a Crack Pairing that was considered incredibly dramatic and went to 7 games, then losing to eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. Many consider them a legit candidate for winning the 2011-12 NBA Finals, with their top players being Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ikaba, Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher. Seattle's glory days were in the late 70's, when they won a championship, and the mid 90's, when they were the favored team of several noted Seattle bands. The (Super)Sonics' final playoff appearance was in 2005. In the 2012 playoffs, after defeating the Mavericks, the Lakers and the Spurs, OKC beat the champions of 10 of the last 13 years, all of whom represented the west; a changing of the guard, especially since their coach was the pupil of the Spurs' coach.
  • The Phoenix Suns are one of many teams without a championship. They've been pretty solid in the '00s - they've got Steve Nash and some other solid names to their credit. Historically, they are one of the better franchises in the NBA. Ex-Suns coach Mike D'Antoni instituted a system that's successful called "Seven Seconds Or Less". That style of play was not only fun, but other teams started to copy that system during the late 2000s (such as the Golden State Warriors). A former well-known Suns player is now the mayor of a city of one of their Pacific Division rivals. They're also noted for "The Shot Heard Around the World" made by Garfield Heard back in the 1976 NBA Finals.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers are sometimes known as the Portland Blazers. Another team whose best years are behind them. In the early to mid-'00s, they were known as the Jail Blazers for the number of players in trouble with the law. Now known as the black cats of the league, because their players seem to always be injured. Also (in)famous for their horrid luck when it comes to drafting players. Their first notice of bad luck came in 1972 when they decided to draft a guy named LaRue Martin over Hall of Fame players like Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo. LaRue would only play about 4 seasons with 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game before retiring, which places him as one of the biggest busts of all time. Their more (in)famous notice, however, comes from Sam Bowie, who was one slot ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. Bowie's knees gave out immediately and Jordan went on to be one of the most successful athletes in American history. Lightning struck again when they drafted Greg Oden, whose knees gave out immediately, one slot before Kevin Durant, one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. They recently learned that their best player, Brandon Roy, was suffering from an incurable knee disease that forced him into a really early retirement. This has resulted in Portland basically blowing up their current roster for some pretty mediocre players, as well as waiving Greg Oden too.
  • The Sacramento Kings last won a championship in 1951. Bounced around from the NBL to the NBA from Rochester (as the Royals) to Cincinnati (also as the Royals) to Kansas City-Omaha to just Kansas City before settling in Sacramento in 1985. Sacramento's only major league sports team, their fanbase has been among the strongest in the league even during the franchise's lean years. This franchise is the third-oldest franchise in the NBA, behind only the Detroit Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers, respectively. Their roots began in the 1945-46 season — one year after the BAA/NBA began. There's been recent concerns of the Kings being moved to Anaheim, CA. The mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson (a former NBA player) rallyed supporters and there is now an agreement by the city to build a new stadium that's keeping the Kings in Sacramento for over 30 years!
  • The San Antonio Spurs were one of the more dominant teams of the 2000s, as they've won the championship 4 times and have more division titles than any other team. Also the team of Tim Duncan, who is One of Us and whom The Onion really likes to make fun of. Like the Indiana Pacers, the New Jersey Nets, and the Denver Nuggets, they're one of four ABA teams to move to the NBA. Started out in the ABA as the Dallas Chaparrals and in one season, the Texas Chaparrals. One of the most consistent teams in the NBA, almost never missing the playoffs (and holding the NBA record for most consecutive 50+ win seasons as of 2011-12 with 13), the George Gervin and David Robinson eras were both sans-championship until Duncan and Robinson were paired together as the "Twin Towers". Known for their numerous "steals" [11] during the annual drafts: George Gervin at 40th pick, Tony Parker at 28th, and even Manu Ginobili at 57th[12]. Notably, four coaches (Corbin, D'Antoni, Del Negro and Rivers) all played for the Spurs. After getting riddled with injuries and having the Grizzlies knock them out of the 2011 playoffs in the first round, the Spurs came back with a vengeance through the 2012 season, finding their way into a 20-game winning streak (their last loss was at home against LA in April 11) that headed into the playoffs. The younger guns were shaping up to be fine players, Popovich deservedly won the Coach of the Year award, Ginobili came back from an injury, Duncan improved his play after losing weight, and Parker was establishing himself as a premier point guard. As the playoffs started, the Spurs swept their first two opponents, the Jazz and the Clippers, and took the first two games at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With their old school, meticulously-executed fundamental basketball and excellent sharpshooting, the Spurs were the clear favorites to come out of the Western Conference... before losing the next three games, two on the road and one at home, to the Thunder, who switched from their isolation-style playing into a more team-oriented offense/defense. The Spurs are one loss away from getting knocked out of the playoffs, and the next game is at Oklahoma City, where the Thunder are undefeated in the 2012 postseason.
  • The Utah Jazz are best known as the team of assist king John Stockton and "The Mailman" Karl Malone. In the more distant past, "Pistol" Pete Maravich (Disney made a movie about his childhood hoop exploits) played for them. However, despite their dominance, they have no championships to show for it. Recent shock has been gained by them when Jerry Sloan (the head coach of the Utah Jazz for 23 years) decided to resign from coaching after signing another one-year contract during the 2010-11 season, as well the Jazz trading away their superstar point guard Deron Williams to New Jersey almost one week later. If you're wondering what Mormon Utah has to do with jazz, this is yet another team with an Artifact Title. The franchise was originally from New Orleans and moved to Salt Lake City in 1979. The team's then-owner didn't change the name because he thought the move would be temporary. As you've guessed, it wasn't. But after thirty years, very few people even find it strange anymore, and it's become something of a quirky Utah tradition to append one or two Z's to the end of a professional team name or have a Z somewhere (the WNBA and women's soccer's "Starzz", the minor league "Orem Owlz", the "Blitzz" of a long forgotten soccer league, the minor league hockey Grizzlies).

Additionally, there were 15 teams back in the 1940's and 1950's that no longer exist, even if some of their names ended up being revived altogether. Some teams' stories are more interesting than others, but they're all still dead. These are their stories.

Former Teams

  • The Anderson Packers (sometimes known as the Anderson Duffy Packers or even the Chief Anderson Meat Packers; 1946-1951) were the last champion team for the NBL, which was a big chunk for the early NBA. In their one season with the NBA (1949-50), they ended up defeating their division rivals in the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and the Indianapolis Olympians before being bested by the eventual champion Minneapolis Lakers. After their failure in the NBA, they decided to move on to the failing NPBL[13] before folding.
  • The Baltimore Bullets (1944-1954) are currently the only dead NBA team to end up winning an NBA Finals championship. Baltimore began as an ABL[14] team that once won a championship there against the Philadelphia Sphas (who are now known as the Washington Generals) before moving to the BAA in 1947-48, where they had their best success as a team. They are also the only ABL team to move to the NBA. Afterwards, the team had unfortunate luck, making it to the playoffs twice before folding after 14 games[15] into the 1954-55 season. Also, they shouldn't be confused with the Baltimore Bullets team that are now the Washington Wizards.
  • The Chicago Stags (1946-1950) was Chicago's first attempt at having an NBA team before they settled with the Chicago Bulls. The Stags had a good opportunity with being the first of two teams to enter the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the success they had was short-lived, as while they did make it to the playoffs in all the other years, they just didn't have the luck, cash, or talent needed to help keep the team around, despite the aquisition rights to eventual Boston Celtic Bob Cousy and having a leading scorer in Max Zaslofsky. They do hold some remembrance, as the Stags' old jerseys were worn in a few NBA games back in the 2005-06 season. They are also one of the original 11 NBA teams in their first ever NBA season.
  • The Cleveland Rebels (1946-47) was Cleveland's first attempt at an NBA team before getting the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were also an original 11 NBA team. In their one year with the BAA/NBA, they ended up grabbing an average record, and ended up losing to the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. After that, they just went out of business.
  • The Denver Nuggets (1948-1950) was Denver's first ever professional team. Unfortunately, they were probably the worst team they had. In their two years with the NBL/NBA, they ended up getting two losing records, the second of which being the worst. On the plus side, they were a great un-named Denver amateur team back in 1938-48, and they put the city on the map in terms of sports. Just like Baltimore, they shouldn't be confused with the current Denver NBA team of the same name, albeit that Denver Nuggets weren't originally named the Nuggets to begin with.
  • The Detroit Falcons (1946-47) was Detroit's first NBA team before they acquired the Detroit Pistons, as well as an original 11 NBA team. Their team was a bad one, with their only star, Stan Miasak, making it on their first ever All-BAA/NBA First Team. Combine that with the Detroit of the past, and it's no wonder why they didn't work out.
  • The Indianapolis Kautskys (1937-1949) was the first chance Indiana had for a professional basketball team. The Kautskys weren't really one of the best NBL teams around, even going around and temporarily suspending operations for the 1940-41 season and from 1942-45, which was most likely due to World War II happening. Along with the Lakers, the (Zollner) Pistons, and the Rochester Royals, the Kautskys ended up moving from the NBL to the BAA in their 1948-49 season, and rebranded themselves as the Indianapolis Jets. Unfortunately for them, they still ended up having a losing record, and they folded after one season with the NBA. However, not all hope would be lost for Indiana...
  • Because they ended up gaining another NBA team! The Indianapolis Olympians (1949-1953) were Indiana's second chance for a professional basketball team after the failed Kautskys/Jets experiment. Unlike the first Indianapolis team, the Olympians were led by some players who were on the U.S. Olympic team in 1948. They even ended up gaining a winning record in their first year, and even ended up making it to the playoffs for every season they played. Unfortunately, when the NBA discovered that two key components admitted to point shaving during their college careers in Kentucky in 1951, they were banned from the NBA for life and the Olympians were never the same, despite having a winning record again after that year. When they had a horrid losing record that still made it to the playoffs and your first opponent would be the eventual champion Lakers, you might as well consider yourself dead afterwards. On a plus side, they were the winners of a six-overtime game against the Rochester Royals in 1951. Despite that long amount of time, the score on that game was rather small, since it ended with the score of 75-73! Eventually, Indiana finally found a NBA team to truly call their team... with a former ABA team entering the NBA.
  • The Pittsburgh Ironmen (1946-47) was the NBA's only attempt to venture out to the land of Pittsburgh, but it wouldn't be the end of their ventures in Pennsylvania. They were also an original 11 NBA team. In their one year around, they were the worst team with a 15-45 record. On a trivia note, the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers were temporarily renamed the Pittsburgh Iron Men back in 1941.
  • The Providence Steamrollers (1946-49) was the last professional team in general to ever play in the state of Rhode Island, as well as an original 11 NBA team. The Steamrollers were simply put, a horrible team, with one season giving them only 6 wins! (They still aren't the worst team, percentage-wise. That dubious "honor" now goes to the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats.) They also played the oldest NBA player ever in a guy named "Nat Hickey", who decided to play while still being a head coach for the team as an early birthday gift. He only scored two points via free throws, thus making him the oldest NBA player ever at 45 years, 363 days old!
  • The Sheboygan Red Skins (1938-1952) from the Wisconsin lakeshore city are a team with a somewhat tragic end. They began as a few successful small teams like the Ballhorns, the Art Imig's, and the Enzo Jels (all local businesses which still exist today) before being renamed as the Sheboygan Red Skins in the NBL, which they admitted in due to their performance against Hall of Fame teams in the New York Renaissance and even the Harlem Globetrotters! After a bad first NBL season, they revamped themselves with a new coach, and later a new arena to help them not only enter the finals, but even win a championship in 1943. After that, they ended up entering a finals a few more times and even joined the playoffs for a few more years afterwards, but they never could replicate the success found in that year. They were the second-longest team to ever play in the NBL and the team with the second-most NBL championship appearances, being only behind the Oshkosh All-Stars in each experiment. Unfortunately, they didn't fare so well despite starting out so well in the 1949-1950 NBA season. With the Red Skins playing in the smallest market and arena in professional basketball history (a 3,500 all-bleacher seat building meant more as an armory), it wouldn't really help Sheboygan's cause. After giving the Olympians a scare in the playoffs despite having a losing record, they withdrew to the aforementioned NPBL, where they posted the best NPBL record there (29-16). After that experiment, the Red Skins had one last chance in saving them, and two other former NBA teams by creating a new ten-team league[16], but they realized how big the NBA was, and they ended up being an independant team for one year before folding altogether due to sparse crowds and the team losing to College All-Stars.
  • The St. Louis Bombers (1946-1950) were the NBA's first attempt at having a team in St. Louis, as well as an original 11 NBA team. When the NBA was the BAA, they did pretty good, with the team always entering the playoffs, but losing in either the quarterfinals or the semifinals. When the BAA changed into the NBA, however, they never were the same, as the Bombers suffered a losing record that resulted in the team folding afterwards, despite them having star guys in Grady Lewis and Ed Macauley. They also sort of hold an Unfortunate Implications team name.
  • The Toronto Huskies (1946-47) were the NBA's first attempt at bringing in a Canadian basketball team, as well as being an original 11 NBA team. They were the losing team of the first ever NBA game, they played at the Maple Leaf Gardens, and they ended up holding four different coaches in their only season, one of which didn't win a game at all. They also had a famous promotion gimmick in the first game ever played by giving anyone who was taller than the Huskies' tallest player (6' 8" C George Nostrand) free admission. With a lack of organization, a lack of talented players, and odd promotions found (i.e., free stockings for all women in attendance), the franchise ended up folding after their only season. Despite the flaws, they're still remembered just like the Chicago Stags by having the Toronto Raptors wear the Huskies' old jerseys for 6 games in the 2009-2010 season. However, unlike the Stags, the Huskies have a movement where loyal Huskies fans want to see the Raptors abolished and replaced with the old Huskies name, and they apparently made a bit of a mark with the Raptors keeping the retro jerseys beyond that season, the Raptors' official website holding a Toronto Huskies banner, and one game even had the team referred to as the Huskies instead of the Raptors.
  • The Washington Capitols (1946-1951) were the NBA's first attempt at having a team in the U.S.A.'s capital. They're also not only an original 11 NBA team, but they also were the former head coaching team of famous head coach Red Auerbach[17], and it does show since they were one of two former NBA teams to lose in the NBA Finals. After the Capitols lost Red as their head coach, they never were the same, as they kept losing and losing until the Capitols ended up folding with a record of 10-25. Also, they shouldn't be confused with the current NHL team that spells their name as "Capitals", nor should they be confused with the ABA team that abbreviated their name as "Caps".
  • The Waterloo Hawks (1948-1951) were the only sports franchise to ever hold a permanent home somewhere in Iowa[18]. The original Hawks team started out as a more-or-less average team when they were in the NBL. When they transfered to the NBA, however, they did a horrible job there. When the Hawks finally made it to the NPBL, they actually were a good team, setting out a 32-24 record. Unfortunately for the Hawks (as well as the Packers and the Red Skins), the NPBL failed without a champion truly being awarded, and the Hawks soon folded afterwards.

Additionally, the BAA had planned on creating some new Buffalo and Indianapolis teams for the BAA only. However, due to the NBL-BAA merger, those plans were permanently scrapped.[19]

NBA Finals champions by year

In the NBA, there have been many different champions and there have been many different rules in the NBA over the years. However, over half of the championships were won by either the Boston Celtics or the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers. Furthermore, of the last 30+ seasons, only nine teams have won championships, as compared to 16 and 17 in the NFL and MLB, denoting greater trends in dominance in this league.

While the NBA doesn't consider the championships that were won in the NBL or the ABA as "real" championships, we do. Here's what had happened over the years in the NBA.

The NBL & BAA Years (Note: bolded years represent the NBL; italic years represent the BAA.)

  • 1937-38: Akron Goodyear Wingfoots won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 2-1.
  • 1938-39: Akron Firestone Non-Skids won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-2.
  • 1939-1940: Akron Firestone Non-Skids won over the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-2.
  • 1940-41: The Oshkosh All-Stars swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
  • 1941-42: The Oshkosh All-Stars won over the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2-1.
  • 1942-43: Sheboygan Red Skins won over the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons 2-1.
  • 1943-44: Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
  • 1944-45: Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons won over the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-2.
  • 1945-46: Rochester Royals swept the Sheboygan Red Skins 3-0.
  • 1946-47: Chicago American Gears won over the Rochester Royals 3-2.
  • 1946-47: Philadelphia Warriors won over the Chicago Stags 4-1.
  • 1947-48: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Rochester Royals 3-1.
  • 1947-48: Baltimore Bullets won over the Philadelphia Warriors 4-2.
  • 1948-49: Anderson Packers swept the Oshkosh All-Stars 3-0.
  • 1948-49: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Washington Capitols 4-2.

After the BAA-NBL Merger: Minneapolis Domination

  • 1949-1950: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Syracuse Nationals 4-2.
  • 1950-51: Rochester Royals won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
  • 1951-52: Minneapolis Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
  • 1952-53: Minneapolis Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-1.
  • 1953-54: Minneapolis Lakers won over the Syracuse Nationals 4-3.

The Shot-Clock Years: Boston Domination (Note, during the end of this era, the NBA had a rival with the ABA. Ergo, all the ABA years will also be bolded. Teams that were from the ABA that later on went to the NBA are italicized.)

  • 1954-55: Syracuse Nationals won over the Fort Wayne Pistons 4-3.
  • 1955-56: Philadelphia Warriors won over the Fort Wayne Pistons 4-1.
  • 1956-57: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-3.
  • 1957-58: St. Louis Hawks won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
  • 1958-59: Boston Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers 4-0.
  • 1959-1960: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-3.
  • 1960-61: Boston Celtics won over the St. Louis Hawks 4-1.
  • 1961-62: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1962-63: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
  • 1963-64: Boston Celtics won over the San Francisco Warriors 4-1
  • 1964-65: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
  • 1965-66: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1966-67: Philadelphia 76ers won over the San Francisco Warriors 4-2.
  • 1967-68: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
  • 1967-68: Pittsburgh Pipers won over the New Orleans Buccaneers 4-3.
  • 1968-69: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1968-69: Oakland Oaks won over the Indiana Pacers 4-1.
  • 1969-1970: New York Knicks won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1969-1970: Indiana Pacers won over the Los Angeles Stars 4-2.
  • 1970-71: Milwaukee Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets 4-0.
  • 1970-71: Utah Stars won over the Kentucky Colonels 4-3.
  • 1971-72: Los Angeles Lakers won over the New York Knicks 4-1.
  • 1971-72: Indiana Pacers won over the New York Nets 4-2.
  • 1972-73: New York Knicks won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
  • 1972-73: Indiana Pacers won over the Kentucky Colonels 4-3.
  • 1973-74: Boston Celtics won over the Milwaukee Bucks 4-3.
  • 1973-74: New York Nets won over the Utah Stars 4-1.
  • 1974-75: Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets 4-0
  • 1974-75: Kentucky Colonels won over the Indiana Pacers 4-1.
  • 1975-76: Boston Celtics won over the Phoenix Suns 4-2.
  • 1975-76: New York Nets won over the Denver Nuggets 4-2.

Post-NBA-ABA Merger: The Three-Point Line Years

  • 1976-77: Portland Trail Blazers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2.
  • 1977-78: Washington Bullets won over the Seattle SuperSonics 4-3.
  • 1978-79: Seattle SuperSonics won over the Washington Bullets 4-1.
  • 1979-1980: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2.
  • 1980-81: Boston Celtics won over the Houston Rockets 4-2.
  • 1981-82: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2.
  • 1982-83: Philadelphia 76ers swept the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0.
  • 1983-84: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3.
  • 1984-85: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
  • 1985-86: Boston Celtics won over the Houston Rockets 4-2.
  • 1986-87: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-2.
  • 1987-88: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Detroit Pistons 4-3.
  • 1988-89: Detroit Pistons swept the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0.
  • 1989-1990: Detroit Pistons won over the Portland Trail Blazers 4-1.

Arrival of Michael Jordan: Chicago Dominance

  • 1990-91: Chicago Bulls won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
  • 1991-92: Chicago Bulls won over the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2.
  • 1992-93: Chicago Bulls won over the Phoenix Suns 4-2.
  • 1993-94: Houston Rockets won over the New York Knicks 4-3.
  • 1994-95: Houston Rockets swept the Orlando Magic 4-0.
  • 1995-96: Chicago Bulls won over the Seattle SuperSonics 4-2.
  • 1996-97: Chicago Bulls won over the Utah Jazz 4-2.
  • 1997-98: Chicago Bulls won over the Utah Jazz 4-2.

The Modern Years: Western Dominance

  • (1998-)99: San Antonio Spurs won over the New York Knicks 4-1. (This was the lock-out season during/after which many things changed.)
  • 1999-2000: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Indiana Pacers 4-2.
  • 2000-01: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Philadelphia 76ers 4-1.
  • 2001-02: Los Angeles Lakers swept the New Jersey Nets 4-0.
  • 2002-03: San Antonio Spurs won over the New Jersey Nets 4-2.
  • 2003-04: Detroit Pistons won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.
  • 2004-05: San Antonio Spurs won over the Detroit Pistons 4-3.
  • 2005-06: Miami Heat won over the Dallas Mavericks 4-2.
  • 2006-07: San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0.
  • 2007-08: Boston Celtics won over the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
  • 2008-09: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Orlando Magic 4-1.
  • 2009-2010: Los Angeles Lakers won over the Boston Celtics 4-3.
  • 2010-11: Dallas Mavericks won over the Miami Heat 4-2.

Notable Players

Like some other leagues, there have been a number of famous players to put on basketball jerseys throughout the years. They are catalogued here:

Former Players:

  • George Mikan was the man responsible for making basketball a sport for big men, due to his rebounding, shot blocking, and creating the "Mikan Drill" which is still used by many high school & college teams today. This ended up resulting in some new rules that are still around to this day (i.e., the shot clock). He was considered the original "best ever" and a founding father for the sport, even earning the nickname "Mr. Basketball". In his entire career, he won two championships with the NBL (one of which was from his original team the Chicago American Gears, a team who would've been forgotten in the halls of time otherwise), one for the BAA, and four with the NBA, an All-Star MVP, three scoring titles, and was a part of the first four NBA All-Star games and the last All-BAA and first five All-NBA Teams. After his days of playing were over, he ended up coaching the Minneapolis Lakers, creating the ABA, a league that gave the NBA a scare for their money; and was vital for creating the Minnesota Timberwolves, which is especially notable since a statue of him is found near their home arena.
  • Wilt Chamberlain was nicknamed "The Stilt", which he thought sounded lame. He's a serious entrant into the "best ever" debate. Among his accolades: the only player to average more than 40 or 50 points a game in a season, and he has the only 100-point NBA game to his credit. He has four MVP trophies. He's also infamous for the claim that he slept with over 20,000 women.
  • "Pistol" Pete Maravich played during the seventies, mostly for the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans/Utah Jazz. He still holds the record for college scoring (and will likely continue to, given that top players almost never stay in college for four years anymore) with 3,667 points. (And note that this does not include 741 points he scored as a junior-varsity freshman, and that there was no three-point-line at the time. Maravich was an exceptional outside shooter, and someone eventually calculated that, had there been a three-point line, his scoring average would have risen from 44 to 57 points a game.) Sadly, his other claim to fame was his early death at the age of forty. When the 50 greatest players were selected in 1996, he was the only one who was deceased, despite being born decades later than some of the others. His two sons attended the ceremony in his place.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is another one of the players in serious contention for "best ever". He has six MVP awards, six championships, and is currently the league's all-time leading scorer. He was born Lew Alcindor, but changed his name when he converted to Islam. Best known for the "sky hook" shot and being nigh-unto-unstoppable.
  • Julius "Dr. J" Erving was the dominant player in the ABA before the merger (giving the league much of its legitimacy) and went on to become one of the most dominant players in the NBA during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Erving averaged 24.2 points per game throughout his career, and had nine 40-point or better games. Famous for the 'Rock That Baby' dunk over the head of Laker Michael Cooper in 1983 (one of the greatest dunks of all time) and the Baseline Move, a behind-the-board reverse layup executed against Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the 1980 NBA Finals. Remained active in basketball after retirement, joining the front office of the Orlando Magic in 1997. Notably, Erving (a longtime NASCAR fan) held an ownership stake in the first all-minority-owned NASCAR racing team.
  • Bill Russell is perhaps the greatest defensive player ever and another major contender in the "best ever" debates. He led the Boston Celtics to eleven world champions and his on-court wars with Wilt Chamberlain were legendary. He also became the first black coach in NBA history, succeeding Red Auerbach after Auerbach retired from active coaching and moved up to the Celtics front office.
  • Larry Bird is one of the more popular figures in Boston sports history. He has 3 MVP trophies and 3 championships to his credit. He was The Rival to Magic Johnson when the two matched up. Also a current owner of the Indiana Pacers.
  • Magic Johnson was The Rival and a Friendly Enemy to Larry Bird. Played for the Lakers - it's largely his rivalry with Bird that caused them to be notched as rivals with the Celtics. He has 3 MVP awards and 5 championships. He's also the only person to win the Rookie of the Year award and the NBA Finals MVP in the same year! He retired in the early '90s when he revealed he was HIV positive at a time when many thought such a diagnosis was a death sentence. After his retirement, he played on the 1992 All Star Game and the famed Dream Team, as well as coach for the Lakers for a few games back in 1994 and play one more year for the Lakers in 1996 before officially calling it quits.
    • Magic is, incidentally, the reason that Michigan State University--his alma mater--is very much a basketball school. He still shows up at important MSU games, which is considered by Spartans to be something of a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming--not just in the fact that he remembers them, but that he's still alive to remember them. Also, his rivalry with Bird dates from his time at MSU, back when Bird was at Indiana State.
  • Michael Jordan is probably the most recent player to have a legitimate claim to the title of "best ever," and arguably the best athlete in American Sports, period. He played in the '80s and '90s for the Chicago Bulls, and was largely known for being unstoppable - so much so that other teams would often just let him do his thing and just try to stop the other four guys. He was one of the most heavily marketed and merchandised athletes in any sport ever. He retired at the height of his career to attempt a career in baseball - rumors abound as to why this happened. He returned a couple of years later with his skills no less diminished. He then retired again. Some people may try to tell you that he came out of retirement a second time to play for the Wizards, but they're clearly confused. He's currently president of the Charlotte Bobcats.
    • He's so famous that at one point, he was the only NBA player to have a TV Tropes article on him! He's now no longer alone, as Wilt Chamberlain recently joined him.
  • Scottie Pippen was The Lancer to Michael Jordan during his golden years, their second-leading scorer and led the team through the two seasons of Jordan's first retirement. He appeared in the postseason in 16 of his 17 years in the league. In one infamous incident during the Jordanless years, he refused to come off the bench and play when Phil Jackson (then coach of the Bulls) was running the offense through Toni Kukoc near the end of a playoff game.
  • Dave Bing is a former member of the Detroit Pistons. Admittedly, he's not as notable a career as the others listed here, although he is in the Hall of Fame and is even considered one of the 50 Greatest Players of the NBA back in 1996. He is, however, noteworthy because 1) after retirement, he became a successful businessman in Detroit — a town not known for much business success at the time — and 2) he is now mayor of Detroit, perhaps the most thankless task in America. For all the millionaire jock doofuses who spout platitudes about "giving back to the community", here's a guy who actually rolled up his sleeves and did it. May his mayoral career be as successful as his business career.
  • Charles Barkley, often called "Sir Charles" and "The Round Mound of Rebound" (for being more than a bit chubby for a basketball player and his rebound skills) is a very outspoken Hall of Fame player who played for Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Houston. He's way up there on a lot of the career lists for several categories and is a Hall of Famer, but is probably best known for a commercial that he made back when he was in Phoenix, in which he claimed he was not a role model. This created a ton of debate as to whether athletes should be considered role models. He now mostly does basketball analysis/commentary, generally NBA On TNT, in which he is very often the Butt Monkey; on that show, he also has something of a Sitcom Arch Nemesis in Shaquille O'Neal.
  • Robert Horry was a solid but otherwise unremarkable player who is best known for having 7 championship rings - the only player not of the '60s Celtics to have that honor - and for playing in more playoff games than any other player. Was fairly athletic early in his career, but as he got older he became well-known for being invisible for most of a game and then hitting a big three-pointer in the final seconds to win the game or force overtime. For this he got the nickname Big Shot Bob.
  • John Stockton & Karl Malone are the most famous duo in the NBA history - they played 1,412 games together with the Jazz. The former, a little white point guard, is the best ever for the number of assists in his career with 15,806. The latter, a huge black power forward, has the second-highest scoring record in league history, being only beaten by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (see above) - with 36,928. Both were also quite vicious, and almost never injured. Members of the first Dream Team. They won an MVP trophy at the All-Star Game together.
  • Reggie Miller and Gary Payton were two very good players of the nineties (for the Pacers and ex-Sonics-now-Thunder respectively), known for being (along with Charles Barkley described above) the bigger mouths of the league. Payton was virtually always speaking on the ground, often to mock his direct opponent (which he almost always beat), and Miller — among the greatest three-point scorers in the history of the league — had some interesting dialogues with Spike Lee.
  • Dennis Rodman: A small forward who was famous for his daily hair color changes, non-conformist persona and controversial off-the-court antics. Despite his antics, he is among the greatest defensive players in league history and constantly led the league in rebounding. He's perhaps most famous for playing for the Chicago Bulls during the second Michael Jordan era, although Detroiters and serious basketball fans remember him from the days that his grinding defensive skills were put to good use in the Pistons' "Bad Boys" era.
  • Shaquille O'Neal is a formerly dominant center, most famously playing for the Orlando Magic to start his career, then signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the late '90s, where he won 3 titles alongside Kobe Bryant. He bounced around from team to team after that, but aside from a fourth championship with the Miami Heat, a growing weight problem and the natural deterioration of players his size reduced his effectiveness. He played in 15 All-Star games, and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996 (which some at the time felt was premature, though there's little doubt he's earned the title since). He's also done some acting and released a couple of rap albums (many of which actually went gold). He retired after the 2010-11 season, after playing a single injury-plagued season with the Boston Celtics. Currently, he's trying his hand out at being an announcer for the NBA On TNT (where he has developed a comical-to-other-people rivalry with Charles Barkley), as well as being a host for Cartoon Network's attempt at an award show for professional sports players.
  • Yao Ming was drafted first in the 2002 Draft due to his championship winning performance with the CBA's Shanghai Sharks, and he played rather well for a few years until various leg injuries sidelined him for the second half of his career, ultimately causing his retirement in 2011 due to a game-breaking, career-ending foot injury. However, his mere presence in the NBA dramatically increased basketball's popularity in his native China dramatically (with many Chinese people being fans of the Houston Rockets for obvious reasons), and has done massive amounts of charity work after major Chinese disasters. Most star centers in the league have been 6'9" to 7'1" - the 7'6" Yao might have actually been too tall to be truly great at basketball, as despite being much more mobile and less awkward than any previous players in his height range, his feet and leg joints just didn't seem to be able to take all the stress resulting from his size. These physical problems have been used to criticizes China's sport-academy system (for more, see below). He retired in 2011; because of his extensive humanitarian work, he may qualify for entry into the NBA Hall of Fame before the usual 5-years-after-retirement cutoff date.

Current Players:

  • Dwyane Wade, easily The Hero to the Miami Heat, was an all-star rookie in the early 2000s, selected as fifth overall (behind LeBron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh) in the 2003 NBA draft and propelling his own team into the playoffs, but he was overshadowed by Anthony and James. Unlike James and Anthony, however, Wade brought his team to the NBA finals and took a championship in 2006. Since then, he's one of their best scorers and players, due to his Lightning Bruiser demeanor. Recognized as one of the premier veterans of the NBA, Wade is often seen as the leader to the Heat (being its official captain certainly doesn't hurt), despite currently qualifying as The Lancer to James. His tendency to receive injuries is a constant concern, however, and the looming threat of old age (he's 30 right now) is creeping along his way, but he's still one of the best players currently in the NBA. He's also one of the few sports players that detailed his Dark and Troubled Past. One particular Fatal Flaw of his, which is also his greatest strength, is his status as The Determinator. Sometimes, he pulls through, and in others, he doesn't, which leads to him having a pretty chippy shoulder as frustration boils over.
  • Paul Pierce is the captain of the Boston Celtics, noted for his late-game heroics and versatile Lightning Bruiser credentials. He took the Celtics to a championship against Kobe's Lakers in 2008; a rematch was made in 2010, where Kobe won instead. He's also rather cocky - after winning in a 2012 playoff game against the Hawks, Pierce briefly celebrated by Tebowing on the court. Moreover, he once said "I'm the best player. There's a line that separates having confidence and being conceited. I don't cross that line, but I have a lot of confidence in myself". At a late night dance club in Boston's theatre district, Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck and back, and had a bottle smashed over his head; eyewitnesses claim that he was attempting to separate the fighters when he was stabbed. Tony Battie, Pierce's teammate at the time, along with Battie’s brother, saved him by rushing him to a nearby hospital after the near-fatal stabbing. He had to undergo lung surgery to repair the damage. Nevertheless, Pierce was the only Celtic to start all 82 games in the 2000–01 season. One particular Crowning Moment of Funny involves a teammate trying to hug him as he runs along the court like a fairy.
    • Incidentally, Pierce is the closest thing to an actual rival for LeBron James. This dated all the way back to their first meeting in the Eastern Semifinals - it was a seven game series, the last of which had James scoring 45 to Pierce's 41. Pierce went on to defeat James' Cavaliers and won his first ring. Failing to defeat Pierce was part of what ultimately prompted James to leave Cleveland as a free agent and join the Miami Heat (partly due to Wade convincing him to do so). It was bad enough that James almost exclusively referred to the Celtics as "that team". Pierce and James went against one another in the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals, where the Heat defeat the Celtics in five games (you can see James triumphantly head-banging at the end). They've met once again the following year, in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Rajon Rondo is a point guard for the Celtics, seen as one of the best of this generation. While Pierce, Allen and Garnett were touted as Boston's Big 3, it was Rondo that regularly coordinated their plays during games. His first major drive into stardom, media coverage and fan recognition was when he kept playing Game 3 against the Heat in 2011 (which was ultimately won by the Celtics), even when his arm was dislocated. As Pierce, Allen (one of the best three-point and free throw shooters) and Garnett (a trash-talking power forward famous for a huge contract in his younger years) reach their twilight years as NBA players, Rondo's quickly become their trump card and The Lancer for Pierce. On a more personal note, Rondo is noted for his weird on-court antics and his relative Hair-Trigger Temper.
  • Kobe Bryant is a very skilled guard playing for the Lakers. He has five rings, all with the Lakers. When he was a rookie, Kobe had a very strained relationship with Shaq, but they managed to achieve three consecutive championships, the first in modern years since Michael Jordan. During the short time where he had to lead the team on his own, he ended up scoring the second-largest amount of points for an NBA player with 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. Now, nicknamed the Black Mamba, Kobe's become the leader and the face of the Lakers, with Andrew Bynum (a very dirty player) and Pau Gasol splitting the role of The Lancer to him. Kobe owned a lot of the league's "youngest-to" records, until a young man came to town. Speaking of that...
  • LeBron James was one of the most heavily-sought players in the year he was drafted. OK, so a lot of guys can make that claim. What sets LeBron apart is that he was still in high school when he was getting this press. He had appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and had a pending shoe deal while still a student (you may recall your high school experience and begin weeping now). Went first overall to his hometown Cleveland in 2003 and almost immediately turned the team from a has-been into a serious contender. As for his clout as a player, he won Rookie of the Year his first year, has 2 repeating MVP trophies, and he's been to six All-Star games. In the highest-profile free agent signing of the 2010 offseason, he joined the Miami Heat along with Dwayne Wade (who re-signed with the team he won the 2006 championship with) and the Raptors' Chris Bosh. Was heavily criticized for this decision by pretty much everyone who's not a Heat fan. In fact, some people believe that he won't ever be in the same status as Michael Jordan because of him going to Dwayne Wade's team. Reportedly, James went through a Villainous Breakdown after losing the 2011 Finals, but he's apparently undergoing a convincing case of Character Development.
  • Carmelo Anthony is largely seen as The Rival to LeBron James, and not just for their frequent, physical on-court duels during game. They parallel one another rather eerily - both were drafted (among the top three) in the same year; both were the go-to All-Star rookies of their time; both garnered controversy regarding trade deals; and both propelled their rookie-year mediocre teams into playoff contenders, short of actually winning championships. However, Melo's far from a carbon copy of LeBron - they differ in their style of play, the time of their inception to the NBA, the fallout of their trades (Denver just wanted him to make a decision already; LeBron was portrayed as the proponent of a Face Heel Turn), and the overall perception of their characters by the NBA, with Melo as basically a more rambunctious LeBron off the court.
    • His habit of not winning an NBA championship is especially notable. After taking the 2003 college basketball championship in 2003 (and leaving for the draft after that), Carmelo consistently brought the otherwise-mediocre Nuggets into the playoffs, only to get knocked off in the first round for five consecutive years ('04 - '08), along with a sixth in 2010. Denver finally managed to make it to the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers in 2009, but they were eliminated once again, on his birthday, no less. Eventually, Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks, serving as their current top scorer and player, but he's in danger of getting knocked out of the first round again.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is a German-born player who has spent his entire career with the Mavericks (unlike former teammate and best friend Steve Nash). His claim of fame in the NBA is his unorthodox style of playing (he is one of the few power forwards who scores better in the distance rather than by driving the paint) and his unblockable fadeaway jumpshot - with a height of 7 foot flat and a high jump of 13 inches - anybody guarding Nowitzki can only pray that he misses the shot. His incredible career (multiple All-Star appearances, an MVP award, a Championship ring and so forth) spawned a great deal of interest in other European-born players.
  • Tony Parker is one of the dual-captains of the San Antonio Spurs, alongside Tim Duncan. Originally more into soccer, Parker grew an interest in basketball after seeing Michael Jordan in action (sensing a pattern here). Moreover, Parker's two younger brothers, T.J. and Pierre, would go on to play basketball at college and professional levels. When he first joined the Spurs, he trained with ex-player Lance Blanks, but he was overwhelmed by Blanks' tough physical defense that coach Gregg Popovich almost gave up on him - the only thing that kept him from cutting him was by seeing a highlight reel of Parker's best plays. Deciding that Parker was worth the gamble, the Spurs drafted Parker as the 28th overall; his relative no-name kept him from being mentioned that much in pre-draft predictions, allowing the Spurs to take him under the radar. Since then, Parker's grown into one of the most skilled players currently in the league, slowly replacing Duncan as The Hero for the Spurs. He's also one of the few European NBA players - he was born in Belgium, but he was raised in France; his father was African-American, and his mother was a Dutch model.
  • Steve Nash is an extremely skilled veteran point guard out of Canada [20] best known for his astounding "no look" passes, his 50-40-90 status (has made 50% of his shooting, 40% from the three-point line, and 90% from the free throw line more times than Larry Bird, the former leader) and ability to carry the entirety of the Phoenix Suns through matches, as shown by his 2 MVP awards. Although drafted by and has played the majority of his career with the Suns, it was at Dallas where his ball handling skills were discovered - he was paired with Dirk Nowitzki in a Malone-Stockton fashion. Is sometimes critized for a lack of talent on the defensive end of the floor, but has remained one half perhaps of the top scoring+passing duo threats in the league (with Nowitzki; with Amar'e Stoudemire (and Shaq)) even at the age when most players would be showing strong signs of decline, which places him as a legit comparison to John Stockton. Hell, he doesn't even need the other half to win an assist title! (Although the same probably can't be said for success in the playoffs...)
  • Jason Kidd is a veteran point guard who played for four different teams throughout his career. Drafted by the Dallas Mavericks on 1994, he was given Rookie of the Year honors along with then-Detroit Piston Grant Hill and played there for three seasons until he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, where his point guard skills was widely acknowledged (with Steve Nash, another brilliant point guard, as his backup). But it was with the New Jersey Nets where Kidd established himself as a future NBA legend, turning the once woeful Nets to playoff contenders every season, even reaching the Finals twice in a row, only to lose to the Lakers and Spurs respectively. He returned to the Mavs in 2008 and won his first ring with them in 2011 after 17 years of trying.
  • Tim Duncan is a veteran for the San Antonio Spurs: many-time All-Star, two-time MVP, four-time champion and three-time Finals MVP. Although perhaps now past his prime, Duncan has been said by many to be the greatest power forward in NBA history and is a shoo-in for the NBA Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the Spurs in 1997, a season in which Duncan not only won the Rookie of the Year award, but also teamed up with Hall-of-Famer David Robinson to create a legendary basketball duo - the so-called 'twin towers.' Duncan currently leads the Spurs in pursuit of his fifth ring; he has carved his niche into NBA history by lifting his team into one of the Western elites. Because of his calm and unassuming style of basketball - even in his younger years when he was quicker and stronger than most other players, he was as likely to dominate with footwork and intelligence as with his natural talent and he rarely showboated or let his emotions show while playing - Shaquille O'Neal nicknamed Duncan "The Big Fundamental." Also because his personality off the court is also quiet and unassuming, he's a frequent target of The Onion. Wanted to be a pro swimmer as a child, but the hurricane Hugo destoyed the only Olympic-sized swimming pool of the Virgin Islands. He could have continued to swim in the sea, but was afraid of sharks. So he began playing basketball at age fourteen. One of Us at times, as he's a D&D fan.
  • Kevin Durant is the heir apparent to LeBron and Kobe. Playing for the then-Seattle SuperSonics-now-Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant is the youngest PPG leader in a season in the NBA's history. He's one of the main reasons that the Thunder took a major leap forward in their development along with Russell Westbrook, and he's the current best player on Team U.S.A. Throughout his time as a Thunder player, Durant and Westbrook are largely seen as a Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic, with Durant as Blue and Westbrook as Red.
  • Russell Westbrook is The Lancer to Durant, with a cockier flair. While Durant and Westbrook are very close friends, Westbrook's reportedly not happy considering himself as the second best in the Thunder, leading to Westbrook becoming a ball-hog. In fact, when Durant let him try to lead the scoring, they ended up losing to the Mavericks in the 2011 playoffs, leading to heated arguments between Durant, Westbrook and the rest of the team. However, he's started growing out of both traits by the time of the 2012 playoffs.
  • Kevin Love is a power forward from the Minnesota Timberwolves that gained big notice when he ended up getting 30 points and 30 rebounds in a single game, which hasn't occured (in the NBA) ever since The Eighties. This kind of play resulted in Love being the shining beacon of hope in an otherwise gloom and doom team. With Love riding off the momentum of the 2010-11 season (where he won the Most Improved Player award), it'll be hard to envision any negatives coming off on him in time.
  • John Wall, selected first in the 2010 draft, is an excellent point guard for the Washington Wizards, gaining national recognition when he became the second rookie to record a triple-double with six steals in his first six games. The first? Magic Johnson. He was named 2011 Rookie Game MVP during the 2011 All-Star Weekend, as well as the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, from January–April. Furthermore, he finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting behind unanimous selection Blake Griffin and he was named to the NBA All-Rookie 1st Team. Unfortunately, the Wizards finished near the bottom of the standings in Wall's first two years in the league; some fans are getting worried he may be getting ready to bolt to a winning franchise when he hits the free market agency in 2014.
    • When he was with the Kentucky Wildcats, despite some controversy regarding his eligibility and recruitment, Wall made his college debut by hitting a game-winning jumper as time expired to take home his first victory. From then on, he would blossom into a college superstar, leading Kentucky to a 35-3 record and an SEC regular season and tournament championship. He was one of the nation's top point guards, averaging 6.5 dimes per contest, and he led the Wildcats to the NCAA Elite Eight. As a testament to his character, he admits that he's haunted about not winning a title at Kentucky ("I will think about it until I am off this earth"). Moreover, just before he joined the NBA, the future #1 overall pick in the NBA draft, the future millionaire, and the superstar of college basketball... went to class and earned a 3.5 GPA in his final semester.
  • JaVale McGee is the NBA's version of a Butt Monkey. A member of the Washington Wizards traded to the Denver Nuggets, he's known for bone-headed plays like these.
  • Blake Griffin was the first pick of the 2009 draft, but a knee injury kept him out of the ground for a whole season. But then came his first game. And his first dunk. And many other after that, which singlehandedly turning his Los Angeles Clippers from the league's Butt Monkey into a team that actually fills the arena every game. By far the most spectacular player of the NBA, he will be a All-Star for his first season in the league — even LeBron wasn't one for his rookie season. In his second year, he ended up being a starter along with another Clippers teammate, which certainly shows how far he's already come for this team. If Durant could be considered Kobe's heir, Griffin is believed by some to be Shaq's. It helps that he now has Chris Paul around at point guard.
  • Dwight Howard - 6'11" center for the Orlando Magic and heir apparent to Shaquille O'Neal (other than Blake Griffin). After all, Dwight and Shaq has a lot in common - they are both tall, prominent centers who dominates the paint at will, started their careers with the Orlando Magic, are large goofballs off the court, and had this peculiar knack of bricking free throws. But perhaps the most profound common characteristic between the two is their association with the moniker of being the NBA's Man of Steel. Howard capitalized on the association during the 2008 and 2009 All-Star slam dunk contest when he donned a Superman costume, but Shaq did not take it too lightly, accusing Howard of "stealing" his nickname and identity. Although there were arguments whether the league has enough room for two Supermen, it isn't much of an issue anymore nowadays, as Shaq is already retired. Was the talk of many possible trades for the 2011-12 NBA season (and was criticized for his constant flip-flopping on the issue), but he decided to stay in Orlando for at least one more season.
    • Unfortunately, Orlando seemed to have shot themselves in the foot there, what with Howard acting unsportsmanlike (sitting out on a huddle during a game despite being the captain), Howard sustaining an injury that needed back surgery (e.g. he missed out on the playoffs), Howard once again feeling that he should leave Orlando, and a feud peaking between himself and his coach, Stan Van Gundy. According to Van Gundy, someone in the management told him that Howard wanted the management to fire him, which Van Gundy himself told to the media (that's three betrayals in a row). Right as Van Gundy told that to the reporters, Howard suddenly showed up in the press conference, friendly put his arm around his coach and talking business (i.e. beating the Knicks in a game) as if nothing happened. After Van Gundy left the press conference, the reporters asked Howard for clarification about him wanting the management to fire Van Gundy - he denied having such an intent. Nevertheless, Van Gundy was fired, general manager Otis Smith was fired, and it seems like Howard himself is set on leaving Orlando to another team.
  • Derrick Rose - Point guard for the Chicago Bulls, Rose was picked first overall in the 2008 draft and was widely touted to be the next great point after Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. Like LeBron, Rose is also a hometown hero; born, grew up, and played in Chicago on his high school days, although he played for Memphis in college. He didn't disappoint - he became Rookie of the Year in 2008, became the first rookie to win the All-Star Skills Challenge, and the youngest player and one of the only two Chicago Bulls to win the Season MVP Award, the other being Michael Jordan himself. Throughout the 2012 regular season, Rose was plagued with various inuries on his turf toe, his back, his groin, his foot and his ankle. Nevertheless, Rose managed to play a few games while recovering, but he was notably rustier, and he missed the most games from his groin injury. Furthermore, his team managed to play well without him throughout the regular season, but when the playoffs started, Rose suffered a torn ACL in his knee during Game 1 against the 76ers; he missed the rest of the playoffs, and the Bulls weren't able to last long without him.
    • A fun fact to note: Michael Jordan was his childhood hero. In honor of Jordan, Rose (like LeBron) wore the number 23 through his high school and college career, until he was drafted by the Bulls. Because he cannot wear 23 again (It's retired for Jordan), Rose chose number 1 as his jersey number, which he shares with the team's mascot Benny the Bull.
  • Jeremy Lin - A rising star of Chinese/Taiwanese descent, Lin is the point guard for the New York Knicks and the fourth American-born Asian player. Cut from two NBA teams (one of which he didn't even play for during the regular season), Lin went undrafted in 2010, after graduating from Harvard University (with a degree in economics); he's the first Harvard graduate to play in the NBA in 60 years. After bouncing from team to team, Lin was picked up by the Knicks. Once injuries to Knicks starters allowed him to play, Lin unexpectedly dominated in offense, scoring 25 (plus five rebounds and seven assists) against the New Jersey Nets, 28 (plus eight assists) against the Utah Jazz, and 23 (plus 10 assists) against the Washington Wizards; all three games were won by the Knicks, with the credit largely going on his shoulders. Furthermore, on February 10, 2012, Lin scored a new career-high 38 points (and another seven assists), leading the Knicks in their victory over the Los Angeles Lakers with a score of 92–85. In total, Lin scored 89 points in his first three career starts, the most by any player since the merger between the ABA and the NBA in 1976–77. His emergence sparked off a huge cultural phenomenon known as "Linsanity," in which he became the focus of most of the U.S.'s sports media. Because of that, he's been gaining comparisons to another surprise player in Tim Tebow. Unfortunately, Lin suffered a small meniscus tear in his left knee, and the resulting surgery would force him to miss out on the rest of the regular season.

Basketball in the world

NBA is so powerful that even in some other countries, fans tend to forget that there are other basketball leagues. Here is a list of other famous basketball places.

  • Lithuania: A former Soviet Republic where basketball seems to be the only sport practiced. Some famous NBA players were born here, including LeBron's buddy Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and the legendary Arvydas Sabonis (7'3), who could have been the best player ever if he hadn't often been injured [21]. Other Lithuanian players play in major European teams.
  • Spain: Won the latest World Championship and the European Championship, and lost against U.S.A. in Olympic Games Finals. Country of Pau Gasol, ex-forward of the Memphis Grizzlies and current power-forward of the Los Angeles Lakers, his brother Marc Gasol, ex-forward of the Los Angeles Lakers and current power-forward of the Memphis Grizzlies, and Ricky Rubio, who may very well be the star of the future for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
  • Greece: Another major country. Two major teams (Panathinaikos and Olympiakos) fight every year for the conquest of the local title. Greek supporters really are hot. Treated former Atlanta Hawks and current Phoenix Suns player Josh Childress as a God when he went to Greece to play for the Olympiakos.
  • Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia: Formerly known altogether as Yugoslavia. Always have a tough national team, are able to beat almost anybody, even after the collapse of the original country. Home to players like Darko Milicic and Peja Stojakovic, known for their tenacity and accuracy beyond the three point line.
    • While they were still Yugoslavia, their team was dominated by close friends Vlade Divac (a Serb) and Dražen Petrović (a Croat) who were later both signed to the NBA, but after the split of Yugoslava and Divac throwing a Croatian flag[22], the two stopped talking and Divac was never able to patch up his relationship with Petrović before Petrović died in a car accident in Germany.
  • Italy & France: Countries with ups and downs. Italy was the silver medal winner in the 2004 Olympics, losing to Argentina in the Gold Medal game. France is currently the second nationality represented in NBA (after the U.S.A. itself). Tony Parker is also famous for his wife ex-wife.
  • Russia/Soviet Union: As often in sport. The most famous Russian player, Andrei Kirilenko, plays in the Utah Jazz, and loves puns: he chooses number 47 because of his initials.
  • Angola: Angola is the dominant country in African basketball, as is...
  • Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico being dominant in Central-American basketball. Their greatest feat was in 2004 Olympics where they soundly beat seemingly unbeatable Team USA in the group stage.
  • Argentina: Dominates the sport in South America. Was the first world champion, and grabbed the Olympic gold in Athens 2004. Were FIBA's #1 after the Beijing Olympics, but now are #3. Better known for Manu Ginóbili from San Antonio Spurs, who made it into the World Tournament team twice, in 2002 and 2006.
    • Before Argentina, there was Brazil: A potency in the 1950s and 1960s, with two World Championships and two Olympic bronzes (plus a third in 1948). In the 80s and 90s, it was the team of Oscar Schmidt, who holds the world record for points scored with 49,702[23]. But the team has struggled since Schmidt's retirement in 1996, specially because volleyball started to take basketball's popularity in Brazil. However, the country brought out some good NBA players in Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejão, Tiago Splitter, and current Wizards star Nenê and they have qualified for the 2012 Olympics after three non-appearances.
  • Germany: "Discovered" basketball with Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki (though there was Detlef Schrempf before him, Nowitzki managed to overshadow his notability); now are a regular team.
  • Turkey: They may have only three notable teams found in this country (Anadolu Efes Pilsen and Fenerbahçe Ülker usually being the big two, with Beşiktaş Milangaz gaining some recent notice due to them grabbing big-name NBA players like Allen Iverson and Deron Williams), but they also have some good players that came from there like Hedo Türkoğlu, Mehmet Okur, Ersan İlyasova, Ömer Aşık, Semih Erden, and recent Turk Enes Kanter. Basically, they gained interest in basketball starting in 2001 when they got a silver medal in the European Tournament and will more likely than not gain more interest with another silver medal while being the hosts for the 2010 FIBA World Championships.
  • Israel: Or, should we say, Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Historically the best team on the Israeli league by far (with 48 state championships!), Maccabi has 5 European championships, a highly devoted fanbase, and a reputation as "the country's team" (of course, it helps them that the Israeli national team kinda sucks). Naturally, the other teams don't like Maccabi. The first Israeli player to play the NBA is Omri Casspi, who played for Sacramento before a last-minute (er, last-pre-lockout-day) trade forced him to move to Cleveland.
  • China: They have a few different professional leagues found, but the best possible one is the Chinese Basketball Association[24]. They had a few players from China's CBA playing in the NBA, such as the first Chinese NBA player Wang Zhizhi (of Bayi), first Chinese NBA starter and NBA Finals champion Mengke Bateer[25], and current Dallas Maverick Yi Jianlian (from Guangdong), but the best one to come out of there was Yao Ming, a former player and current owner of the CBA's Shanghai Sharks. The NBA gained many Chinese fans from Yao Ming playing in Houston, but when Yao announced his retirement in 2011, some of those same fans no longer bothered with that league. The best two teams from their CBA are the Bayi (Army Shanglu) Rockets and the Guangdong (Winnerway Hongyuan) Southern Tigers, the latter of which always makes it to the playoffs. Aside from the two years when Yao Ming's Sharks or Stephon Marbury's Ducks won it all, it's always either Bayi or the Southern Tigers that end up winning it all in that league. You could say that those two teams are like the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers of China. It gained recent notice when former NBA All-Star and polarizing player Stephon Marbury went to the CBA, as well as when some players went to the CBA during the lockout. Since China knew about their situation, they installed a new rule where any NBA player who enters the CBA will stay there for the rest of their season — sometime in February or March, depending on where teams place. China's considered the best basketball country in Asia, but when the Chinese end up coming together for some FIBA World or Olympic challenges... let's just say they don't stack up all that well when compared to other countries.
    • A key note is that in China's state-directed sports system, athletes are chosen from a very young age and sent to sports academies--for instance, Yao Ming was selected at age nine. With very few exceptions, only the graduates of the sports academies are allowed to go into professional sports in the PRC. One of the main problems with this vis-a-vis basketball is that the Chinese academies seem to think that "tall=good at basketball", meaning that many talented players never get a chance to play simply because they aren't flat-out giants. Jeremy Lin, at 6'3", would never have been considered if he had been born in, say, Zhejiang (where his maternal grandmother was born) rather than Los Angeles.[26] On the flipside, some people get picked for the academies who just aren't cut out to play pro basketball; even some who would be qualified can't handle the pressure of the academy system and burn out before they hit the big time. Between these two factors, Chinese basketball suffers greatly.
  • Australia: Basketball gained considerable popularity in the early 90s, with Michael Jordan being named as young Australians' favourite sportsman (to the alarm of some people who didn't like the fact that an American got top spot) and the local National Basketball League airing on prime-time TV. After Jordan's retirement, it declined in popularity, with several NBL teams merging or folding, including the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets, which left the league without teams in two of the contry's three largest cities (although the Kings eventually made a comeback). It remains popular at grass-roots level, though. Notable Australian basketballers include Luc Longley, Andrew Bogut and Andrew Gaze.

The dominant national championships are located in Spain, with the 2014 World Championships being held there and the 2012 Olympics being held in London.

College basketball

Like American football, basketball took shape in colleges and universities. Other similarities: the college game was once the biggest draw until the pro game took over, and the college game still has a unique appeal.

From the huge arena to the small gymnasium, fans cheer for their teams, the school bands play music, and mascots do their thing. Experience may vary.

Games are divided into two 20-minute halves, the shot clock is 35 seconds (hence the relative low scoring), each team has five timeouts in a game, and the three-point line is different from the ones found in the NBA and in international games. The style of play and the overall feeling of watching a game are refreshingly different.

Most American players in the NBA, along with some foreigners, played in college before going pro. In the late '90s and early '00s, however, there was a trend for many players to declare for the draft right after high school. To prevent this, the NBA made a rule in 2005 that players must be one year out of high school before entering the draft. It's debatable whether this is for better or for worse.

More than 300 schools' teams make up Division I of the NCAA, and most of them play in one of 31 conferences. After each team has played somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 games, each conference (with one exception - the Ivy League grants its automatic bid to the team with the best record[27]) has its own tournament, and the champions of each conference are assured a place in the NCAA tournament.

Prominent programs in the NCAA historically include, but are not limited to, these teams. These are the five who have won at least four NCAA tournaments; the Connecticut Huskies and Kansas Jayhawks are the only other teams to win at least three.

Duke Blue Devils - UNC's hated rivals, they have been coached since 1981 by Mike Krzyzewski ("kshr-shev-skee"), often referred to as Coach K. With just four Final Four appearances before Coach K came to Durham, they made it 11 times in the last 29 years, including four national championships. Duke players (Christian Laettner of the Dream Team, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Jason Williams, J.J. Redick) aren't superstars in the NBA, though.

Indiana Hoosiers - Five-time national champions, they are famous for having been coached from 1972 to 2000 by Bobby Knight, who coached them to three of those titles. Knight is as well-known for getting his charges through school as well as his Hair-Trigger Temper. Indiana's trophy winners at the college level included Scott May and Calbert Cheaney.

Kentucky Wildcats - Coached by the great Adolph Rupp from 1931 to 1972. Won seven NCAA tournaments, including four under Rupp. They were the program that lost the 1966 final to the considerably less prestigious Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso, or UTEP), and that's the story in the movie Glory Road. They are the all-time winningest team in college basketball, and have won more SEC conference titles than any of the other teams...combined.

North Carolina Tar Heels - First and foremost, famous for being Michael Jordan's alma mater. The Tar Heels are five-time NCAA tournament winners, and Dean Smith, their coach from 1962 to 1997, coached them to two of those.

U.C.L.A. Bruins - In their prime, Lew Alcindor or Bill Walton was playing. The late, great John Wooden coached this team from 1949 to 1975. The Bruins hold the record for longest winning streak: 88 games from 1971 to 1974, with Walton among them. They had a couple of long winning streaks in the future Kareem's time there, too. But more importantly, they have eleven NCAA championships, ten of which were won in Wooden's last twelve seasons as coach.

Honorable mention goes to the University of Kansas Jayhawks and the Michigan State University Spartans, which, with the aforementioned Blue Devils, are in the midst of the three longest March Madness (for which see below) appearance streaks in history (at 23 years for the Jayhawks, 17 for the Blue Devils, and 15 for the Spartans). A special honorable mention goes to the 1965-66 Texas Western University team, for being the only college team to ever get into the Naismath Basketball Hall of Fame (mainly due to the fact they were the first ever all-black starting team to ever win the NCAA Tournament).

The biggest part of college basketball is the special feeling that sweeps the nation for the NCAA tournament, a feeling known as March Madness. It's almost as much an occasion to party as the Super Bowl. As is the case with other sports postseasons, this is when teams get by far the most attention they will get all year.

After 68 teams are chosen to play and the announcement of the field is made one Sunday in mid-March on CBS, it's time for people from across America from all walks of life--up to and including our current president[28]--to pick the teams they think will win each game by "filling out the bracket." This is done for fun, but some play betting games and hold office pools, which the NCAA looks down on. The study of the bracket is often referred to as "bracketology."

Since 1979, the base of the tournament structure has involved 64 teams divided into four groups and seeded within each group. Number 1 plays number 16, 2 plays 15, and so on. The tournament added a play-in game, in which two small schools play for a 16th seed, in 2001. For 2011, there is a new series of four games, the First Four, determining which four teams play in a #11 or #12 seed. Confused yet here? (The VCU Rams made history in the very first year of the First Four's existence, going all the way from the First Four to the Final Four).

The first two rounds (or second and third rounds, as they've been called since 2011) are hosted by eight different cities, including some with NBA teams. Four more cities host the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight, and one more hosts the Final Four, wich consists of the semifinals and the championship game. From 1946 to 1981, there was also a third-place game.

There is another tournament, the National Invitation Tournament, whose semifinals and championship game are always played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The NIT is one year older than the NCAA tournament and was once its equal, but now it's a tournament for teams that don't make the Big Dance.

Then there's the women's game. Naturally, it's less prestigious than the men's game, and before the WNBA, it was the premier showcase of female hoopsters outside the Olympics. The women's game really started to emerge in the '70s, and in 1982, the NCAA-- hey, where are you going? Get back here! This could be useful someday!

Basic differences between the men's game and the women's game, besides the sex of the players, include a smaller ball and (at some levels) a closer three-point arc. On the college level, teams will often have Lady appended to the team name, sometimes to the point of absurdity (ahem, Lady Gamecocks) or a feminine form of the team name (Cowgirls instead of Cowboys).

Women's college basketball

Women's college basketball is played with a 30-second shot clock, compared to the 35-second clock the men have. It's only been sanctioned by the NCAA since the early '80s; before that, it was sanctioned by the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, or the AIAW. Conference affiliations match those of men's college basketball described above.

Notable teams have included:

Immaculata College: The Mighty Macs were the first of the great college teams, who reigned in the '70s. Notable for producing three players who in turn became Hall of Fame coaches: Theresa Grentz, Rene Portland, and Marianne Stanley. They stepped down in class when the NCAA took over women's sports, and are now a historical footnote.

Old Dominion: The Lady Monarchs were a dynasty of the early '80s, coached by the aforementioned Marianne Stanley. Its stars included Anne Donovan and Nancy Lieberman. When power schools were forced to pay more attention to women's sports, their star faded, though they are still a force in their conference.

University of Southern California: USC, or the Women of Troy. At their peak in the mid-80s, their stars included the McGee twins, Pamela and Paula, Cheryl Miller (you might recognize her little brother Reggie), and Cynthia Cooper. They had a renaissance in the mid-90s, then faded out.

Tennessee: The Lady Vols have been a consistent powerhouse in women's basketball for thirty years and counting. Longtime head coach Pat Summitt has racked up over a thousand wins, including eight titles, since taking over as a grad student in 1972. Known for her Death Glare. The 'Lady' is a bit of a requirement, or Summitt will glare at you. Things may get interesting here with Summitt's recent diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's.

Connecticut: The U-Conn Huskies hit the national scene like a freight train in 1995 with an undefeated season- the first of three, including a 90-game winning streak that encompassed parts of three seasons. They've won seven titles. Coach Geno Auriemma is basically Philadelphia distilled into a short first-generation Italian-American. Calling them Lady Huskies is pure Flame Bait. They have a web page dedicated to their history of churning out WNBA stars.

Stanford: The Cardinal (yes, Cardinal, the color, not the bird) has been the lone representative of high-quality women's basketball on the West Coast for a loooong time. Two-time national champions and several more times bridesmaid, they're coached by Tara Vanderveer. Their current Crowning Moment of Awesome is ending U Conn's record winning streak. You might not want to mention Harvard around them. [29]

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are best known for stifling defense, unwatchable offense, coach C. Vivian Stringer's Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, and that incident with Don Imus that left Imus fired and the governor of New Jersey in a car accident.

UConn and Tennessee are fiercely opposed to each other. The rivalry became an annual series, until Summitt ended it in 2007, accusing Connecticut of improper recruiting. Attempts have been made to reconcile the two sides, or at least have them meet in the NCAA tournament. So far, no dice. Nor is either particularly fond of Rutgers.

The women's NCAA tournament has 64 teams, much as the men did before the play-in game was added in 2001. If you want to stump your friends, ask them the only time a #16 seed has ever beaten a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. When they look at you and say "Never", tell them you didn't specify gender and Harvard beat Stanford in 1998. (If you're unfortunate enough to have a Stanford fan in the group who will haughtily inform you that Harvard had the nation's leading scorer and Stanford had lost their two top players to knee injuries in the two weeks before the tournament... run.)

Professional women's basketball

The WNBA started up in 1997. There were leagues before, but none of them lasted long (the longest was the WBL, which had three seasons in the late '70s/early '80s).

Differences to note: the ball is striped oatmeal and orange, the three-point arc is closer, quarters are ten minutes each.

Many teams have names similar to their NBA counterparts, as the league started with all teams owned by NBA franchises. There have been exceptions, and teams not owned by NBA owners have more independent names, even if they're in NBA cities.

Eastern Conference

Atlanta Dream: Founded in 2008, named for the "I Have a Dream" speech. As of 2011, two time Eastern Conference Champions.

Chicago Sky: Founded in 2006, notable for being the first franchise to be founded without NBA ties. Named for the Chicago skyline. They made an especially strong run in 2011, but still have yet to make a playoff appearance.

Connecticut Sun: Founded in 1999 as the Orlando Miracle (tied to the Orlando Magic), moved to Connecticut in 2003 to become the Sun (named for the Mohegan Sun casino where they play). Called USunn for the plethora of Connecticut alumnae on the roster (five out of eleven players). The Sun is the only profitable team, as of 2010.

Indiana Fever: Founded in 2000, named for Indiana's basketball obsession. Saved from potential folding with a run to the 2009 Finals.

New York Liberty: The last inaugural franchise left in the East, founded in 1997 and named for the big green statue in the harbor. This is the team that has gone the longest without a WNBA title. Currently exiled to Newark while Madison Square Garden is renovated. All the stuff above about the Knicks' ownership? Yeah, it applies here too. Dubbed the Libs, and in recent years the Libbies, as well as the Libkids for their young roster. The team's popularity swelled upon the accquisition of Cappie Pondexter, though it waned again after the news of said exile, and, to a lesser extent, the suspension of Janel McCarville.

Washington Mystics: Founded in 1998, named for the Washington Wizards. The Fan Nickname Mystakes has come up for their incredible knack for screwing things up. Despite this, they have a pretty strong attendance record (several "Attendance Championship" banners were once raised on their arena's rafters). Home of a very Broken Base.

Western Conference

Los Angeles Sparks: Designated Antagonist for many fans. One of the inaugural franchises, founded in 1997. The only one with a Non-Indicative Name of any kind, as their name comes from a secretary watching a welder (and the lack of a feminine equivalent to Lakers). Sometimes called Sporks or Sharks by opposing fans. Two-time champions. This team was captained by basketball legend Lisa Leslie, who made WNBA history in 2011 by becoming the first alumnae to be named part owner of a team.

Minnesota Lynx: Founded in 1999, named as a counterpart to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Survived several bouts of It Got Worse to stockpile approximately a metric crapton of young talent that is as of 2011 paying dividends. Once they picked up collegiate superstar Maya Moore and hometown hero Lindsay Whalen, momentum immediately began to shift in their direction. Finally won a title on 10/7/2011.

Phoenix Mercury: Founded in 1997, named as a counterpart to the Phoenix Suns... and they play like them too. Sometimes called the Merc, while multiple players at once are Mercs. Two-time champions.

San Antonio Silver Stars Founded in 1997 as the Utah Starzz (named for their Spear Counterpart, the Utah Jazz, and the Jazz's precursor, the ABA's Utah Stars), moved to San Antonio in 2003 and brought into the fold of the San Antonio Spurs. Started off lousy, but they got better in San Antonio.

Seattle Storm: Founded in 2000, named for Seattle's weather. Two time WNBA champions. Lots of star power, and now Seattle's main basketball team because of the loss of the Sonics.

Tulsa Shock: Founded in 1998 as the Detroit Shock (so it's the car part, to better reflect the Detroit Pistons), moved to Tulsa in 2010. Tulsa has been the league's Butt Monkey ever since. In 2011, They set a new league record for futility in 2011 with a 3-31 skid.

Former teams

Charlotte Sting: Founded in 1997, folded in 2007. Originally tied to the Charlotte Hornets, later tied to the Charlotte Bobcats; the shift in ownership after the Hornets moved to New Orleans signaled the beginning of the end for this once proud franchise.

Cleveland Rockers: Founded in 1997, folded in 2004. Named for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Left a LOT of bitterness behind, due to the perception of former owner (and Cavaliers owner at the time) Gordon Gund blocking alternate ownership, which resulted in a Harsher in Hindsight moment when Gund recorded a macular degeneration PSA with the tagline "How would you feel if you couldn't see your favorite team?" ("Like a Rockers fan, asshole.")

Houston Comets: The league's first dynasty, winning its first four championships. Their name kept up the space Theme Naming for many of Houston's sports teams. If you're referring to the Big Three in a women's basketball context, you're referring to Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, and Tina Thompson, or you have just made a lot of people very angry. Founded in 1997, folded in 2008.

Miami Sol: Founded in 2000, folded in 2003. WMG suggests that this was the team meant to move to Connecticut, as the Sun's original color scheme closely matched the Sol's, and, well.

Portland Fire: Founded in 2000, folded in 2003. Their name is a play off Blazers. One of only two franchises never to make the playoffs in their history (if you count Tulsa as holding Detroit's history).

Sacramento Monarchs: Founded in 1997, folded in 2009. 2005 champions. Though their name was related to the Sacramento Kings, they also played with the Monarch butterfly theme.

The case of the Shock is unique in that Tulsa claims the history of the Detroit Shock, including Detroit's three championship banners... but with Tulsa's Butt Monkey status, most fans are uncomfortable with giving them Detroit's Magnificent Bastard status.

WNBA Finals champions by year

Note: The first year of the WNBA had only one championship game, where winner takes all. After that, the WNBA had a best of three series until 2005, where the championship is won in a best of five series. Also, keep in mind that the WNBA begins their season in the middle of the year.

  • 1997: The Houston Comets won over the New York Liberty with the final score of 65-61.
  • 1998: The Houston Comets won over the Phoenix Mercury 2-1.
  • 1999: The Houston Comets won over the New York Liberty 2-1.
  • 2000: The Houston Comets swept the New York Liberty 2-0.
  • 2001: The Los Angeles Sparks swept the Charlotte Sting 2-0.
  • 2002: The Los Angeles Sparks swept the New York Liberty 2-0.
  • 2003: The Detroit Shock won over the Los Angeles Sparks 2-1.
  • 2004: The Seattle Storm won over the Connecticut Sun 2-1.
  • 2005: The Sacramento Monarchs won over the Connecticut Sun 3-1.
  • 2006: The Detroit Shock won over the Sacramento Monarchs 3-2.
  • 2007: The Phoenix Mercury won over the Detroit Shock 3-2.
  • 2008: The Detroit Shock swept the San Antonio Silver Stars 3-0.
  • 2009: The Phoenix Mercury won over the Indiana Fever 3-2.
  • 2010: The Seattle Storm swept the Atlanta Dream 3-0.
  • 2011: The Minnesota Lynx swept the Atlanta Dream 3-0.

Notable Players

Note: these are mostly players who have, or have had, pop culture currency; if you want to make a women's basketball reference, you'll probably use one of these players.

  • Cynthia Cooper: The league's first MVP. A sixth man at USC, she honed her skills in Italy before being assigned to the Houston Comets and proceeding to fuck everyone's shit up on her way to four straight titles before retiring in 2000. Her single-game scoring record (44) in the inaugural season stood for ten years. An all-around threat, though not a great pro coach. Currently coaching collegiately at UNC-Wilmington.
  • Chamique Holdsclaw: What Could Have Been in a smooth, athletic package with a knack for getting into small spaces. She came into the league in 1999 with high expectations after being part of three championship teams at Tennessee. Lingering knee and hamstring problems cut many of her seasons short, while battles with depression compounded by family tragedies left gaps in her career. You might not want to get into that last part with people.
  • Lisa Leslie: One of the cornerstones of the Los Angeles Sparks and the league, she was assigned to LA at the league's beginning- appropriate for an Angeleno who went to USC. For a fair chunk of the league's existence, she was one of the best players, and the best center, out there. A two-time champion, three-time MVP (in 2002, sweeping All-Star MVP, regular season MVP, and Finals MVP), many-time All-WNBA and All-Star. A Base Breaker at her finest. There are those who call her Lisamort, and those who call her the Diva, and those... she has a lot of FanNicknames. Her number is retired and the Sparks' court is named after her; she's since bought into the team as a part owner.
  • Teresa Weatherspoon: A fiery point guard, "Spoon" was assigned to the New York Liberty in 1997 and left there after the 2003 season. We do not discuss her 2004 season with the Sparks. Best known for her buzzer-beating halfcourt heave in Game 2 of the 1999 Finals to win the game for New York and extend the series; it was selected the greatest moment in league history during the 15th anniversary season of 2011. Currently coaching at her alma mater, Louisiana Tech.

Current Players

  • Sue Bird: Point guard for the Seattle Storm, drafted #1 overall in 2002 out of Connecticut. The quintessential Girl Next Door- if the girl next door could find you blind on the fast break or drain a dagger three in your face. Her especially clutch play in 2011 earned her the Fan Nickname "Die Bitches".
  • Maya Moore: Forward for the Minnesota Lynx, drafted #1 overall in 2011 out of Connecticut. She has her own shoe.
  • Candace Parker: Forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, drafted #1 overall in 2008 out of Tennessee. Silky, smooth, and incredibly athletic- when not sidelined with injuries or pregnancy. Married to NBA journeyman Shelden Williams.
  • Cappie Pondexter: Guard for the New York Liberty, drafted #2 overall in 2006 out of Rutgers by Phoenix. An explosive, offensive-minded guard. She, Diana Taurasi, and the Mercury won two titles in three years... and then she demanded a trade, either because she wanted to be on the Liberty or because of her fashion business. A Base Breaker among New York's faithful, especially after making some unfortunate remarks after the earthquake/tsunami/meltdown in Japan.
  • Sheryl Swoopes: Forward for the Tulsa Shock, originally assigned to the Houston Comets. One of the game's greats, she had a comeback with Tulsa after sitting out two years. A brilliant defensive player and incredible slasher in her prime. Her marriage to her high school sweetheart and pregnancy with son Jordan was heavily marketed by the league. Revealed in 2005 that she was gay and in a relationship with her former assistant coach Alisa Scott. Now engaged to a man. If you're having trouble keeping up, you're not the only one.
  • Tina Thompson: Forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, drafted #1 overall in 1997 by Houston out of USC. The league's first-ever draft pick [30], she signed with her hometown Sparks after the Comets folded. Has played in all 15 seasons, the only player to do so. The league's all-time leading scorer. Rarely seen without her lucky lipstick.

The international game

The USA was late to the party when it came to founding a stable league, and still competes with European leagues for the full attention of elite players. Most players spend their winters in Europe to supplement their incomes and stay sharp. Between 1981 and 1996, Europe, Asia, and South America offered the only options for a woman who wanted to keep playing. The pecking order of leagues is fluid; currently the most prestigious and lucrative include Russia and Turkey. You can also find W players, alumnae, and hopefuls in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Israel, and other countries.

In international play, the US is the heavyweight, rarely contested. The game has a presence in several other countries, though:

Australia: The Opals have been one of the most consistent sides in the world in the last fifteen years, but haven't been able to finish the job. Known for Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, and bodysuits.

Brazil: The gender dynamic of basketball and soccer is, for the most part, reversed between Brazil and the US, which has resulted in Brazil being a world power in women's basketball for a looooong time. Like other Brazilian athletes, they are best known by their first names or their apellidos. Their legends include Magic Paula, Hortência, and Janeth; current stars include Érika and Damiris.

The USSR/Russia: The Unified Team brought back Olympic gold in 1992, spurring the development of the US national team. Russia is still a power on the world stage, though they haven't developed their young talent in recent years.

  1. Besides the lock-out seasons in (1998-)99 and 2011-12, the NBA didn't really have a consistent amount of games played until the 1967-68 season, where they permanently made the NBA have 82 games per season
  2. Coincidentally, this team was also the only team to enter the NBA Finals with a losing record! In the 1956-57 season, all of the Western Conference teams ended up with losing records! However, they would lose to Boston, but it was a pretty close series there.
  3. Had that during their NBL days.
  4. They got their name from the company owned by founder Fred Zollner, which made pistons in Fort Wayne, IN for several industries; fortunately for them, the association between pistons and cars is very obvious.
  5. in 2004, they once held five straight teams to under 70 points; average scores are normally in the 90s-100s
  6. !!
  7. He eventually got traded to the New York Knicks along with Chauncey Billups for a few of New York's good players
  8. Interesting fact : Olajuwon won both NBA titles during Michael Jordan first retirement
  9. The Pittsburgh Pirates could give them a run for their money, but they're in a smaller city and don't have a rival in the same location who can outshine them as badly as the Lakers do the Clippers. Also the Pirates, unlike the Clippers, have five championships and several division titles to their name.
  10. This name's another relic; during the American Revolution the British described Charlotte as "a hornet's nest"
  11. picking a good or very good player waaaay below where someone who turned out that good should have been drafted in hindsight
  12. (!!)
  13. the National Professional Basketball League
  14. the American Basketball League
  15. with a record of 3-11
  16. it would've been called the Western Basketball Association (WBA)
  17. He then went to an improving Tri-Cities Blackhawks team for a year before finally coaching the Boston Celtics, and the rest speaks for itself...
  18. And before anyone asks, no, it isn't the same Waterloo that's famed for being Napoleon Bonaparte's downfall.
  19. Buffalo would eventually have an NBA team planned out for them. Unfortunately for the city, that team would later move to California, and become the Butt Monkey of the NBA. Indiana, on the other hand, never had truly planned for another new team after the failed two Indianapolis teams, but the ABA did. Unlike the Buffalo experiment, the Indiana experiment ended up successful in the NBA, despite the fact that they haven't repeated the success found in the ABA.
  20. Although he was really born in Johannesburg, South Africa and is often listed from Santa Clara, California due to his time at Santa Clara University
  21. He still had the best stats in NBA for the minutes he was playing at age 35, after suffering a rupture of both Achilles tendons, and was then basically playing without jumping nor running
  22. Divac claimed in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary that if the guy who approached the team on the floor was waiving a Serbian flag, he would still have thrown it to the ground, because he wasn't too happy with that Basketball game being politicized as it was
  23. the NBA's leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had 38,387
  24. (in fact, China's hoping to having the CBA become the second-best professional basketball league around behind the NBA)
  25. of the 2002-03 San Antonio Spurs
  26. We are aware that Lin is Taiwanese; however, this was a common point raised in the commentary during the aforementioned "Linsanity".
  27. though in 2011 Princeton and Harvard had 12-2 conference records, necessitating a one-game play-off
  28. Not terribly surprising, given that he's known to play basketball himself to blow off steam--often against his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who led the Harvard Crimson in the late '80s and played pro ball in Australia for four years
  29. In 1998, Harvard upset Stanford in the first round of the NCAA Women's Tournament, making the Crimson the only No. 16 seed (women or men) to ever win a tournament game. And to boot, first-round games were played on the home court of the higher seed at the time.
  30. since the league doesn't seem to include the Elite Draft in its totals