Amazing History of the NBA
Timeline of Major Events: 1890s-1940s


The history of the NBA is full of interesting bits of basketball trivia. This NBA history timeline highlights some of the most significant events in the life of this great league.

The National Basketball Association was actually born out of necessity by a group of hockey team owners and arena managers who needed to find events they could schedule to fill open dates in their arena calendars. 

What began over 60 years ago with 11 teams has grown into a 30-team league spanning the U.S., including a team in Canada.

Its first official game boasted a crowd of 7,000 spectators, which pales in comparison to the 800 million viewers from 214 different countries that tune in to the NBA championship game nowadays!

Learn more about history of the NBA from the league's humble beginning through its many challenges to become the premiere league it is today.

Follow this basketball history timeline from the birth of the NBA through the 1940s.

History of the NBA

Dec 21, 1891

First basketball game ever played. It included 18 players, 13 rules, 2 peach baskets, and a final score of 1-0.


National Basketball League (NBL) formed. Other leagues started showing up on the East Coast with teams from Trenton, NJ; Camden, NJ; Millville, PA; the Pennsylvania Bicycle Club; the Hancock Athletic Club; and the Germantown Club

History of the NBA


NBL ended


First game ever played in Madison Square Garden

History of the NBA

Jan 7, 1926

Harlem Globetrotters were founded. They were originally called the "Savoy Big Five"


Henry "Dutch" Dehnert revolutionized the game by playing with his back to the basket. From this position, he could either pass to an open teammate or spin around for a shot.


Harlem Globetrotters played their first game.

Marques Haynes

Marques Haynes

Harlem Globetrotters

Harlem Globetrotters

history of the nba

Harlem Globetrotters

History of the NBA


National Basketball League was founded under the name Midwest Basketball Conference

NBA History

June 6, 1946 

Basketball Association of America (BAA) was officially founded with Maurice Podoloff appointed president. It was formed mainly because hockey owners and arena operators decided professional basketball was the best way to fill open dates on their arena calendars. 

Nov 1, 1946


First official game of the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The New York Knickerbockers played the Toronto Huskies. Ticket prices ranged from $.75 to $2.50. If you happened to be taller than Toronto’s 6' 8" George Nostrand, you were granted free admission. More than 7,000 fans watched the game.

New York Knickerbockers

NY Knicks

vs. Toronto Huskies

Toronto Huskies

This league eventually became known as the National Basketball Association (NBA). It consisted of 11 teams, and you will notice by the team names that corporate sponsorships were alive and well.

The league included the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, Toledo Jim White Chevrolets, and the Chicago Studebakers.

Some of the players were even employed by the auto makers during the week when they weren't playing. 


Kenny Sailors became the first pro player to use the jump shot


Bobby McDermott was named the best player in the history of the game by NBL coaches. He was an incredible scorer during the 1930-40s with his two-handed set shot.

At the end of his career, when defenders started jumping, the two-handed set shot became obsolete because it was too easy to block.


Philadelphia Warriors beat the Chicago Stags to win the first BAA title

Philadelphia Warriors

Philly Warriors

vs. Chicago Stags

Chicago Stags

Aug 11, 1949 

BAA merged with the NBL to form the National Basketball Association (NBA)

See more exciting eras in NBA history:



Other topics you might be interested in:

Cool & unusual NBA records

Major basketball rule changes

James Naismith: inventor of basketball

>> >> 1890-1940s