NBA basketball fans who don't know NBA history are missing out on a great story! It's easy to see all the glitz and glamour, the fame and fortune, the sell-out crowds, and the amazing stadiums and assume that's the way it's always been.
That would be a big mistake!
Though it's one of the premier sports leagues in the world, the NBA had very humble beginnings, faced lots of challenges, and experienced many setbacks before becoming the global phenomenon it is today.
If you're interested in some great resources about the history of the NBA, check out these highly rated and very popular books.
The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History
The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy
Sports Illustrated: The Basketball Book
Amazing History of the NBA: A Timeline of Major Events
45 Cool & Unusual NBA Records
To really appreciate NBA history, you have to start at the beginning...
It didn't take long after basketball was invented for people to figure out how to make a buck off of it.
Its popularity exploded, and it quickly grew out of control.
Competitions became very rough and soon the game didn't very well represent the ideals of the YMCA from which it was founded.
Some chapters of the YMCA tried get a tighter reign on the games and settle them down, but some of the more competitive and feisty teams decided to drop out of the YMCA league altogether.
These teams tried to make it on their own without the support the YMCA provided. Needless to say, they faced a lot of challenges...
First of all, the state-of-the-art basketball stadiums we have today that
seat tens of thousands of people didn't exist back then. Good basketball courts
were hard to come by.
Teams started competing against each other anywhere they could find a makeshift court. Dance halls, theaters, armories, or any other building that would accommodate a couple of portable baskets became the norm; that is, if they were lucky enough to get to play indoors.
The need to borrow facilities raised another problem - money.
These buildings had to be rented, and money was hard to find. Pro basketball's first stars could be found standing outside selling tickets before tip-off or passing the hat around at the end of the ball game.
Hard to imagine, isn't it?
Next, in order to raise money, there had to be fans willing to buy tickets.
The early basketball rules made for a strange looking game. There was no dribbling, a lot of short passes, two-handed set shots, and flat-footed rebounding. Players were not allowed to leave the floor.
That's a far cry from the amazing ball handling and almost acrobatic feats of
today's NBA games!
Greatest Moments in NBA History
NBA's Greatest: The NBA's Best Players, Teams, and Games
The First Tip-Off: The Incredible Story of the Birth of the NBA
And the players themselves looked rather odd in their long-sleeve woolen jerseys.
Still, there seemed to be enough interested spectators around to help offset expenses.
Depth of talent was another issue in early NBA history. No doubt, there were some good players, but there was too much disparity between the good players and the bad. They were either good or they were bad, and there was little in between. That made for a tough game to watch sometimes.
Another challenge had to do with the basketball rules. Every team had its own set of rules. Teams never knew what they were getting into until they arrived for the game. Needless to say, it was impossible to have fair competition.
Finally, it was incredibly difficult in the late 1890s to make a living as a
pro player. Few players were able to do it. That’s really hard to imagine when
you think about the multi-million dollar salaries of today’s famous basketball
Want to learn more?
The NBA from Top to Bottom: A History of the NBA, from the No. 1 Team through No. 1,153
Hoop Lore: A History of the National Basketball Association
The man who invented basketball would not believe what his simple game has grown to become!
The NBA basketball rules are a far cry from James Naismith's original
13 basketball rules.