When in 1891 a YMCA instructor by the name of Dr James Naismith put his head to the task of devising a game that could be played indoors during the winter little could he have known what a phenomenon he would create – a game of skill, athleticism and quick thinking that would bed itself down as both a universal professional sport and one played in schools, street courts and backyards the world over.
Late one night Naismith put together the basic rules of this new game and basketball was born.
From these humble beginnings interest in the sport spread rapidly, with Colleges in particular taking it up. A Pro League, the National Basketball League (NBL), was established in 1937 but only survived ten years after a rival code, the Basketball Association of America, sprang up in competition, which was in turn superseded in 1949 by the modern incarnation of the professional game – the National Basketball Association, or the NBA.
While the NBA flourished initially, it hit rocky times when a rival league in the American Basketball League sprang up in 1967. As issue after issue hit the NBA, it suffered a decline during the 70s but the introduction of a new cable network, ESPN, the new three-point line rule and its eventual merger in 1976 with the ABA helped the NBA dig itself out of trouble so that by the 80s it was becoming a basketball force to be reckoned with once more – in fact the pre-eminent professional basketball league in the world.
Even clear of its 70s troubles; the NBA remains a sport mired in controversy, in particular several player lockouts that have occurred when management and players could not agree over player salary contracts, despite NBA players being amongst the highest-paid sports professionals in the world.
Regardless, the NBA season remains a highly-anticipated fixture in not just the USA sporting calendar but internationally, with its champions making themselves household names. And with colourful player nicknames like “The Human Highlight Reel” (Dominique Wilkins), “The Black Mamba” (Kobe Bryant), “The Worm” (Denis Rodman) or simply “Magic” (Earvin Johnson), what lover of the game wouldn’t get right into it?!
The NBA has thirty franchised member clubs (29 in the United States and one in Canada), and is officially recognised as one of the four major North American professional sports leagues. Current teams in the NBA are grouped in two – the Eastern and Western Conferences – which are in turn broken into divisions.
The Eastern Conference is made up of 15 teams, split into three divisions of five teams each. While this has changed over time, it currently is organised as follows:
- Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors
- Southeast Division: Atlanta Hawks. Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards
- Central Division: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks
The Western Conference is similarly split into three groups of five:
- Northwest: Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz
- Pacific: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings
- Southwest: Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs
At season end, each division winner and the next best side are seeded 1 through 4 for the playoffs, with the next best four coming in at 5-8. These playoffs occur in two rounds, leading to the Conference Finals from which emerges a Conference Winner.
The Western Conference has been completely dominated by Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers with 31 titles – the closest next side are the San Antonio Spurs with just five. A similar dominance is held by the Boston Celtics in the Easter Conference with a total of 21 Conference titles, although there’s not as much daylight between them and the next best as there is in between the Western Conference’s top and second ranked champs, with the Syracuse Nationals/ Philadelphia 76ers holding seven.
The overall winner from each Conference Final goes on to play in the NBA Finals until one side or the other is crowned the NBA Champion. With the Conference winner stats in mind it will come as no surprise that the Boston Celtics take the top of the NBA Championship Winners table with 17 titles, followed closely by the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers with 16. The cellar dweller status is held by half a dozen sides – New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets), Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns , Utah Jazz (formerly New Orleans Jazz), Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.
NBA Betting rolls right throughout the season, with the chance for basketball bettors to try their luck on every NBA game, the respective Conference Playoffs and Championships, and, of course, the big dance, the NBA Championship itself, plus special events like the All-Stars weekend.
Betfair has every basketball betting market covered, from moneylines, total points, over/under and quarter by quarte betting being amongst the more popular NBA bets. With the time difference meaning NBA games are on around lunchtime in Australia, the NBA is one of the most popular televised sports consumed by Australian viewers… and punters!
And who wouldn’t want to bet on such a pulsating, colourful, exciting sport such as the NBA, filled with amazing aerial feats, fast breaks that change the fate of a game in a moment and incredible giant-like players who attain God-like status amongst NBA fans with their incredible athletic sporting prowess.