NBA history timeline: A journey from 1891 to 2023

The game of basketball has been a game with a long history. Below is a detailed look at the history of the timeline from 1891 to 2023.

Basketball has long been an incredibly popular and beloved sport worldwide, played everywhere from playgrounds to stadiums. Millions of people watch this sport, which started out as a method to pass the time in physical education classes. Icons like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Wilt Chamberlain contributed to the development of the sport into what it is now over time. With the help of this timeline featuring the greatest basketball moments in history, let’s go back in time.

James Naismith- 1891

At the Springfield, Massachusetts, YMCA, physical education teacher James Naismith was searching for a fresh way to engage his students. The class was not allowed to go outside for exercise during the winter. At a loss for ideas, Naismith had to act fast to come up with a task that would pique the interest of his restless and “disorderly” young men. 

As he sat in the gymnasium, Naismith reflected on his early years and recalled playing a game in Canada called “duck on a rock.” The object of the game is to use little rocks to knock a large boulder off a wall. He also remembered rugby players using a floor-based box as a target to practise their hand-eye coordination. 

Naismith thought he could develop a new sport by elevating the box and substituting a ball for the rocks in the two games. In less than 60 minutes, he penned the first basketball regulations. When he ran out of extra crates, he made do with peach baskets as the targets. It was the birth of basketball.

First College Game- 1896

The first-ever college basketball game took place in January of 1896. The University of Iowa and the recently established University of Chicago faced off in an experimental match. By a score of 15–12, the University of Chicago defeated Iowa in this match.

First Professional League- 1898

The National Basketball League, the first professional basketball league, was founded on November 20, 1898. The league comprised six to eight clubs from the northeast region of the United States. The league’s most successful season was 1901–02. The National Basketball League dissolved in January 1904 following a few years of decline.

Modern Hoop- 1906

The first metal hoops that looked like modern rims were introduced in 1906. Previously, peach baskets were used for basketball games, as this was how Naismith originally imagined the sport. Backboards were added along with metal hoops, although they weren’t utilised with the peach baskets.

Formation of FIBA- 1932

The international basketball regulatory body, FIBA, was established in Geneva in 1932. This occurred two years after the IOC recognised the sport. The International Amateur Handball Association governed basketball until 1934. Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland were the eight original members.

Basketball in the Olympics- 1936

Basketball was added to the Olympic schedule and debuted at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games after decades of professional and collegiate competition. The United States and Canada competed in the inaugural Olympic championship on a clay-and-sand tennis court. 

With a 19-8 victory, the United States earned the first-ever basketball Olympic medal. On that particular day, James Naismith was present and helped present the medals to the winning teams.

NCAA Tournament- 1939

March 1939 saw the first-ever NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship competition. There were eight teams in the single-elimination division. In the final game, which took place at Northwestern University, Oregon defeated Ohio State. Notably, Oregon’s next Final Four appearance wouldn’t occur until 2017.

Three-Point Line- 1945

A rather unremarkable regular-season match between Fordham and Columbia on February 7, 1945, served as a test match for one of the most momentous innovations in basketball history—a development that would alter the sport forever. renowned high school basketball coach Howard Hobson proposed rewarding players based on how far their shots were made. The three-point line was created based on this concept.

The 1979 season marked the debut of the novel invention in the NBA. These days, three-point shooting accounts for a large portion of an NBA team’s offensive strategy, and certain players are experts at hitting these shots. Nevertheless, one may argue that the development of the three-point line is among the most significant shifts in basketball history.

Formation of the NBA- 1946

To establish a professional league for the sport that had been invented around fifty years earlier, the NBA was founded in 1946. The NBA is currently investigating establishing a league in Africa and India in addition to expanding its youth programmes into China and Europe. Basketball has maintained a high level of interest in the United States because to the NBA, and its global expansion has helped the sport become more well-known.

24-Second Shot Clock- 1954

The 24-second shot clock was created in 1954 by Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone. Teams were playing low-tempo, slow-scoring basketball and holding the ball frequently to extend the shot clock, which was hurting the league. 

Biasone came up with the idea and gave it to the league. That same year, the shot clock was introduced, and it is still in use in basketball today.

Introduction of Dribbling- 1959

In 1959, dribbling was added to the basketball rules. The only time the ball was bounced on the floor before this was to pass it to a teammate. This progress was made possible by Tony Hinkle’s creation of the contemporary rubber basketball, which has a higher bounce.

Wilt Chamberlain- 1962

The globe witnessed the pinnacle of basketball prowess set to rise on March 2, 1962. After two years in the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain had three years of professional experience. Chamberlain’s season with the Philadelphia Warriors was breaking all previous records. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a 169-147 victory over the New York Knicks during the regular season, setting a record for the best individual scoring performance. 

Even now, his 100 points remain the highest point total in NBA history for a single player. The only other player who came closest to reaching that total was Kobe Bryant, who in one game during the NBA season of 2006–07 scored 81 points.

Boston Celtics- 1967

The Boston Celtics’ championship run came to an end this year. The Celtics had captured their eighth straight NBA title the season before. At the time, Bill Russell was the most dominant player in basketball, and he was largely responsible for the team’s success. 

The Boston Celtics won the championship in the 1968–1969 season after losing it to the San Francisco Warriors in the 1966–1967 campaign. Many people believe that this was the most dominant period in professional basketball history for one franchise.

NBA-ABA Merger- 1976

The NBA and the ABA, the two main national basketball leagues, combined in 1976. It is believed that the merger marked the start of the NBA as we know it today. The ABA was founded to fill a need in small towns where the NBA lacked franchises, hence the leagues were rivals. 

Despite being seen as successful, a slew of financial misdeeds brought the ABA dangerously close to bankruptcy. Following negotiations, players from the remaining seven ABA clubs were added to the “new” NBA, and four of the teams—the Spurs, Nets, Pacers, and Nuggets—joined the NBA.

NBA Draft- 1984

One of the most renowned drafts in history is thought to have occurred in 1984 for the NBA. Some of the biggest stars in the sport entered the league that year, including Michael Jordan, a junior at the University of North Carolina. In addition to Jordan, other players selected in the draft included Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton.

Basketball Hall of Fame- 1986

The Basketball Hall of Fame was established in 1986. It bears James Naismith’s name, who invented basketball.

Slam Dunk Contest- 1988

Michael Jordan pulled perhaps the most famous dunk of all time on February 6, 1988, at the NBA dunk competition held during All-Star weekend. The year before, Michael Jordan had emerged victorious in the dunk competition and was possibly at the peak of his athletic abilities.

Jordan chose to test his physical limitations by trying an unprecedented dunk in an attempt to achieve a perfect 50. Jordan sprinted up the court, took off from the free throw line, and blasted the ball through the basket to win the final round of the dunk competition. He won the competition with this dunk, which is frequently cited as one of the greatest dunks ever.

Summer Olympics- 1992

NBA players were first permitted to compete for their national teams during the Summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. The game of basketball was thriving, there were an unprecedented number of spectators worldwide, the NBA was overflowing with gifted players from the previous years, and it appeared that American players had reached a new level of competence. The prohibition was lifted because it was no longer logical for the best basketball players in the world to be excluded from the world’s premier sporting event.

The NBA and NCAA’s top players were assembled by the US to compete in the Olympic basketball competition in Barcelona. Because of how effortlessly they defeated their opponents and took home the gold medal, this team is frequently referred to as “The Dream Team.”

Several of the best players in history, including Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan, were on this team. Basketball fans everywhere hold the Dream Team in high regard.

Formation of the WNBA- 1996

On April 22, 1996, the Women’s National Basketball Association was established, and competitions began in 1997. The squad had to face off against the American Basketball League, a rival women’s professional league when it started with eight teams. (In 1999, the ABL folded.) The enormous success of the US Women’s National team at the 1996 Olympics, where they took home gold medals, played a significant role in the WNBA’s creation.

Jordan’s 2nd Three-Peat with the Bulls- 1998

Between 1996 and 1998, Michael Jordan accomplished an amazing three-peat by winning three straight NBA Finals. In the following seasons, the Bulls defeated the Jazz twice in a row and the Sonics in the 1996 Finals. Although Jordan achieved his first three-peat in 1991–1993, his supremacy and future were cast in doubt due to gambling and a brief time in baseball. Jordan solidified his place in basketball history following his famed “I’m back” declaration.

NBA Draft opens to international players- 2002

The first foreign player to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft without having played in the United States made a positive impact on the league on June 26, 2002. The Houston Rockets selected Yao Ming, a 7’6″ centre who weighed 311 pounds, with the first overall pick.

The decision to draft outside of the United States attracted millions of new international fans to the NBA and allowed other clubs to begin aggressively scouting foreign players. Yao Ming was a dominant player who had a highly successful career and popularised the NBA in China despite having a history of injuries. Yao Ming was admitted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Redeem Team in the Olympics- 2008

Following their gold medal win, the US Men’s Olympic Basketball Team of 2008 earned the moniker “Redeem Team.” The term was a throwback to the controversial 1992 “Dream Team.” It also alluded to the team’s poor bronze medal results in the FIBA World Championships in 2006 and the Summer Olympics in 2004. Superstars like Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Chris Paul helped the squad upset Spain 118-107 in the championship game, led by team captain Kobe Bryant.

LeBron James moves to Miami Heat- 2010

LeBron James had just completed his final season of his rookie campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 8, 2010. James wanted to join a new team where he could fight for titles since he was sick of being the lone scorer on the squad. When it came time to respond, James decided to join the Miami Heat even though he received offers from several teams in the NBA to play. 

The only way James could have informed his old team that he would not be coming back was to make this choice, which was widely reported. This had an impact on the league since it heralded a period when super teams with numerous stars were formed. Kevin Durant’s well-known switch to the Warriors following the 2016 season was equally as important to the league as James’s departure from the Heat.

Golden State Warriors plays the best regular season- 2016

With a cumulative record of 73 wins and nine defeats in 2016, the Golden State Warriors—who had won the championship the year before—posted the best regular-season record in NBA history. The club was unable to replicate its regular season dominance during the playoffs, though, as they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in one of the most memorable NBA Finals Series in history. The next two seasons would see the Warriors win the championship as well.

Highest viewing audience- 2017

The NBA is constantly coming up with innovative strategies to advertise its goods globally. Both their platform and the game of basketball itself are constantly being expanded. As a result, TV ratings have increased. For example, during the 2017 NBA Finals, an average of 20.24 million people watched each game.

Toronto Raptors win their first title- 2019

LeBron James missed the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 during the 2019 season. After competing for the championship eight years running, LeBron’s new team, the Los Angeles Lakers, had a tumultuous season and he was unable to lead them to the championship game. When the Toronto Raptors overcame the Golden State Warriors in six games, they became the first team from outside the United States to win the NBA championship. The Raptors had never won an NBA title before.

Covid-19 pandemic- 2020

The globe saw something unprecedented in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic not only stopped all of the rest of the world in its tracks, but it also ended the seasons of all American major sports leagues. The NBA started what became known as the “NBA Bubble” when it was one of several sports leagues looking for a way to revive basketball. 

During the NBA bubble, which lasted from June to October 2020, all of the league’s players and employees were housed on the remote Disney World property in Orlando, Florida, to protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic and the general public. While in the bubble, they continued playing regular season games, hosted the inaugural NBA Play-in Tournament, and ran the whole NBA Playoffs. LeBron James and Anthony Davis led the Los Angeles Lakers to victory that season, and they were crowned NBA Champions.

LeBron James breaks scoring record- 2023

LeBron James created NBA history on February 7, 2023, when he scored his 38,388th point and took the lead in regular season scoring. In the third quarter of a game between his Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, he accomplished this with a turnaround jump shot. LeBron James has scored more points than any other player in basketball history. James broke the nearly 40-year-old record of 38,387 points held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

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