What Were the Original NBA Teams?

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The Basketball Association of America (BAA) is synonymous with the NBA and was founded in 1946. What were the original NBA teams? There were 11 teams during the inauguration of the BAA. These were:

  • Pittsburgh Ironmen
  • Chicago Stags
  • Detroit Falcons
  • New York Knickerbockers
  • St Louis Bombers
  • Philadelphia Warriors
  • Providence Steamrollers
  • Toronto Huskies
  • Washington Capitols
  • Cleveland Rebels
  • Boston Celtics

Walk down memory lane for some NBA nostalgia and discover how the league transformed into a lucrative business.

When Was the NBA Originated_ When Was the NBA Originated? 

Walter Brown, Boston Garden owner, noticed that major hockey stadiums were empty most nights. He could earn dollars by filling the void with basketball games during hockey’s off nights. Brown’s business savviness went to work to form the Basketball Association of America (BAA) on June 6, 1946, to host basketball matches.

BAA and National Basketball League (NBL) representatives met three years later to discuss a merger. National Basketball Association (NBA) was coined from the union between the two rival basketball organizations on August 3, 1949.

However, basketball pundits recognize the BAA as the original NBA.

The NBL started in 1937 and had the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (currently called the Atlanta Hawks)  and the Syracuse National (currently called the Philadelphia 76ers) on the league’s roster.

There were 11 original NBA teams when the BAA league started in 1946, but they lost four teams the following season. The BAA had more success than the  NBL enticing four key teams and star players to join the BAA league in 1948. The BAA held matches in large arenas like the New York Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden, while the NBL games existed in small gymnasiums. The face of the NBL, George Mikan, went over the fence to join the Minneapolis Lakers (currently called the Los Angeles Lakers) in the rival league.

The NBA had  17 teams to start the season but dropped to eight in 1955. The league created the 24-second clock for a fast-paced game, making it more exciting to watch. Fans returned to the game, making the NBA the most-watched sports show and the most lucrative league globally.

As the league enjoyed success, a rival sprang to challenge the NBA in 1967 – the American Basketball Association (ABA). The quality of players was equal to the NBA, earning a loyal fan base with its type of loose play. The court was transformed into a display of basketball prowess from notable players like Julius (“Dr. J”) Erving, Rick Barry, Connie Hawkins, and David Thompson. The ABA lasted nine years until it merged with the NBA in 1976. Four ABA teams; the New York Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets), the Denver Nuggets, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Indiana Pacers; joined the NBA roster. The number of franchises was raised to 22.

The NBA was threatened near the end of the ’80s by actual and suspected substance abuse by players, dwindling attendance, and low TV ratings. At this point, the league introduced the three-point shot in 1979, and Larry Bird and Magic renewed their college rivalry in the NBA arena. Michael Jordan donned the Bulls uniform in 1984, sparking fans’ interest in the league.

The last team to join the league was the Charlotte Bobcats in season 2004-05, raising the total to what it is today – 30 NBA teams.

What were the Original NBA TeamsWhat Were the Original NBA Teams?

The NBA was initially called the BAA and had 11 teams split into the East and West Divisions, broken down as follows:

East Division (6 Teams)

Boston Celtics, Washington Capitols, New York Knickerbockers (Knicks), Toronto Huskies, Providence Steamrollers, and the Philadelphia Warriors (currently called Golden State Warriors).

West Division (5 Teams)

Chicago Stags, St. Louis Bombers, Cleveland Rebels, Pittsburgh Ironmen, and the Detroit Falcons.

Each team played 60 regular season games. The first BAA official game was a match between the New York Knickerbockers and the Toronto Huskies on November 1, 1946, with the Knickerbockers coming out as the winner (68-66).

The 1946-47 concluded with the Philadelphia Warriors defeating the Chicago Stags (4-1) to be crowned as the first BAA Champion.

What Original NBA Teams are Still in the LeagueWhat Original NBA Teams are Still in the League?

Only three original NBA teams still playing in the league since it started in 1946: the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics, and the Golden State Warriors. The three teams combined won 25 championships, with Boston leading the way with 17, Golden State with six, and New York has two.

These teams survived the test of time and continuously operated for over seven decades.

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics was one of the original teams that hadn’t changed their name. The Celtics’ name affirms the city’s large Irish community.

The Celtics share the same number of NBA Championships with their archrival, the Los Angeles Lakers, at 17 apiece. The Celtics dynasty began when the franchise hired coach Red Auerbach and center Bill Russel in 1956. The Celtics had a remarkable run of winning eight consecutive NBA championships from 1959 to 1966.

In the NBA 2022-23 season, both teams are in the conference semifinals. It will be nice to see the two teams battle it out for the crown and relive their old rivalry. The last Finals matchup between the two ancient protagonists was in 2010. The Celtics were on top 3-2 before the Lakers won two consecutive games to close the series.

Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors team have six championships, including two when they were formerly called the Philadelphia Warriors. Fans associate the Warriors team with Steph Curry for his deadly three-pointers. Curry was picked seventh overall in the 2009 NBA draft; since then, the Warriors have hoisted the trophy four times in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2022.

The Golden State Warriors were recognized as the first NBA champs when the Philadelphia Warriors won the inaugural BAA championship in 1947.

New York Knicks

The New York Knicks is one of two teams that have not changed their name since joining the BAA, and the other is the Boston Celtics. All home games have been played at Madison Square Garden since the Knicks was founded.

The Knicks team first signed a non-white player in 1947; Wataru Misaka is a Japanese American playing the guard position.

The tandem of Willis Reed and Walt Frazier, backed by Jerry Lucas, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, and Earl Monroe, brought glory to The Big Apple in 1970 and 1973.

How NBA Changed Over TimeHow NBA Changed Over Time

From its humble beginning to big business, the NBA generated around $10 billion in season 2021-22, and no team is worth less than $1 billion. Loyal fans gathered to watch thrilling games, and dynasties were built. The last seven decades showed the emergence of sports giants like Bill Russel, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Irving, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James.

The game evolved as each generation of great players has come and gone. From rules, strategies, and clothing, here’s how the NBA changed.


Bill Russell hung his jersey in 1969 with a peak salary of $100,000 and an extra $25,000 as a player-coach. This pales compared to Steph Curry’s five-year deal worth $201.16 million or S40.23 million a year. Check out how much NBA players make on average.


Forwards, centers, and guards were classified according to size and given specific roles. Guards were responsible for dribbling and directing plays, while forwards handled point production. Bigs loiter around the goal area for rebounds, putbacks, or blocking shots.

Today’s brand of play requires two-way players, Giannis Antetokounmpo handles the ball like a guard, LeBron James rebounds and passes, while Steph Curry shoots from the parking lot.

Three-point shot

The NBA copied the three-point shot from the ABA in 1979. The three-point shot impacts the game in many ways making the game more exciting to watch.

  • It allows a trailing team to catch up.
  • A dagger three can put the game away.
  • A buzzer-beater can send the game into overtime or win the game outright.

Teams are using 3-point attempts as an offensive weapon. The average 3-point attempts by teams per game is 34.2 in season 2022-23, which is way above the 2.8 average when the NBA adopted the 3-point shot.

The three-point shot doesn’t land as often as mid-range shots. More misses lead to fast-paced plays, increased possessions, and a rise in players’ productivity.

Wrapping Things Up: What Were the Original NBA Teams?

Do you know that there are three original NBA teams in 1946 that are still playing in the semifinal playoff?

Yup, that’s correct, and these are the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks, and the Golden State Warriors, formerly called the Philadelphia Warriors.

But don’t leave the Los Angeles Lakers out of the discussion yet.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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