The BBA — The Beginning of the NBA
At the Hotel Commodore in New York on June 6, 1946, a group of basketball team owners met to talk about a league — the Basketball Association of America — they hoped to start. These were men who controlled the sports and entertainment arenas in big cities; today's owners are mostly businessmen.
It cost each owner $10,000 to start a basketball franchise in his city. Part of that fee went to a lawyer named Maurice Podoloff, who became president of the BAA. Maurice had a background in hockey — just the opposite of today's National Hockey League Commissioner, Gary Bettman, who used to be a high-ranking NBA administrator.
With World War II over, the owners felt Americans were ready to spend dollars on entertainment and sports. College basketball was already an incredible success, and the owners hoped they could convince some of the college stars to be part of a professional league. On June 11, two conferences were formeE: the Western Conference, made up of the Pittsburgh Ironmen, Chicago Stags, Detroit Falcons, St. Louis Bombers, and Cleveland Rebels; and the Eastern Conference, made up of the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia Warriors, Providence Steamrollers, Washington Capitols, New York Knickerbockers, and Toronto Huskies.
Do you recognize any of the original BAA teams? Only two teams survived with the same name and both are from the Eastern Conference — the Boston Celtics and New York Knickerbockers, who are usually referred to as the Knicks.
The first game was scheduled for November 1, just five months away, and the rules were based largely on those from the college game. However, rather than play two halves, the pro league decided to go with four 12-minute quarters. With timeouts, halftimes, and other time stoppages, the evening entertainment would stretch to two hours, something owners felt was important to their customers. Though zone defenses were prevalent in college, the owners decided that no zone defense would be allowed for at least the first year. They were afraid the zone defense would slow down the game, so they allowed only man-to-man defense.
TIP - IN
Three of the most famous sports arenas were commonly called the Garden. The first basketball game was played in Toronto's hockey rink, Maple Leaf Gardens, but NBA fans probably know the current New York Knicks home is Madison Square Garden. The Celtics played in the Boston Garden, which was demolished in 1997 and replaced by the TD Garden.
To get local fans and to keep travel costs down, teams selected players from local colleges. Providence took players from Rhode Island colleges, Knicks' players came from New York, and Pittsburgh looked for players within a 100-mile radius of the city. The only exception was Toronto, which had just one Canadian player among its mostly American roster. The contracts were very modest compared to the multimillion dollar deals of today.
The first professional basketball game was played in Canada in 1946. The Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens, home of the famous Canadian hockey team the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The opening game had 7,090 fans, and the Knicks won an exciting 68-66 contest. There was no 24-second shot clock, so teams were in no hurry to score, which explains the low point total compared to today's NBA game.
WORDS TO KNOW
The shot clock for college and progames is centered on top of the backboard. It starts when a team takes position of the ball and it is not reset until the ball hits the rim on a shot attempt or the clock winds down to zero.