We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Rise of the National Basketball Association

David G.Surdam

Publication Year: 2012

Today's National Basketball Association commands millions of spectators worldwide, and its many franchises are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But the league wasn't always so successful or glamorous: in the 1940s and 1950s, the NBA and its predecessor, the Basketball Association of America, were scrambling to attract fans. Teams frequently played in dingy gymnasiums, players traveled as best they could, and their paychecks could bounce higher than a basketball. How did the NBA evolve from an obscure organization facing financial losses to a successful fledgling sports enterprise by 1960? _x000B__x000B_Drawing on information from numerous archives, newspaper and periodical articles, and Congressional hearings, The Rise of the National Basketball Association chronicles the league's growing pains from 1946 to 1961. David George Surdam describes how a handful of ambitious ice hockey arena owners created the league as a way to increase the use of their facilities, growing the organization by fits and starts. Rigorously analyzing financial data and league records, Surdam points to the innovations that helped the NBA thrive: regular experiments with rules changes to make the game more attractive to fans, and the emergence of televised sports coverage as a way of capturing a larger audience. Notably, the NBA integrated in 1950, opening the game to players who would dominate the game by the end of the decade: Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Oscar Robertson. Long a game that players loved to play, basketball became a professional sport well supported by community leaders, business vendors, and an ever-growing number of fans._x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (85.3 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (61.9 KB)
pp. v

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (104.0 KB)
pp. vii-viii

A large number of people provided help along the way in completing this manuscript. As always, few authors work in isolation. Several curators and research librarians provided crucial material. Thanks to Matt L. Zeysing, historian and archivist, and Kip Fonsh, curatorial assistant, of the Joseph...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (108.2 KB)
pp. 1-4

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a successful professional sports league that has either absorbed or thwarted at least three rival leagues. Its athletes are among the most recognized and highest paid on the planet. However, the league and its players were not always so highly acclaimed. The Basketball Association..

read more

1. Economics of Sports Leagues

pdf iconDownload PDF (236.6 KB)
pp. 5-19

Owners in professional team sports leagues enjoy advantages that other business owners do not. The league owners are, in a sense, a cartel. Cartels are usually against U.S. antitrust laws. All professional team sports leagues have partial or full antitrust exemptions, thanks to the courts and to congressional legislation...

read more

2. The Beginnings (1946-48)

pdf iconDownload PDF (455.4 KB)
pp. 20-54

The popularity of college basketball implied a potentially strong demand for a chance to watch well-known college stars continue their playing careers. Why not professional basketball? Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and professional football were enjoying the effects of pent-up wartime craving...

read more

3. The Merger and Its Aftermath (1948-51)

pdf iconDownload PDF (410.3 KB)
pp. 55-86

Because the NBL possessed George Mikan and other well-known stars, BAA owners faced difficulties in persuading the public that their teams played the best basketball. After two seasons the BAA owners had to decide whether to woo the more attractive NBL teams to join their league. The owners also faced the issue...

read more

4. Shakedown (1951-54)

pdf iconDownload PDF (325.8 KB)
pp. 87-110

With the NBL gone, along with some of the original BAA franchises, the surviving owners hoped consolidation would provide stability if not prosperity. However, the elimination of six weak teams did not immediately create prosperity for the remaining NBA teams. Three more teams folded before the league settled into...

read more

5. Stability (1954-57)

pdf iconDownload PDF (304.6 KB)
pp. 111-132

With the NBA down to eight teams, owners still faced inadequate revenues. They continued to grapple with the unattractive aspect of the league’s end games, where fouling and rough play were still the tactics of choice. How to reduce the primitive aspects of the game remained a difficult problem, but it was one with an elegant...

read more

6. Moving to Major League Status (1957-62)

pdf iconDownload PDF (417.3 KB)
pp. 133-164

Although some of the eight franchises were still struggling to earn sufficient revenues, the NBA’s stability and the success of its twenty-foursecond shot clock encouraged NBA owners. Some began considering relocating their teams to larger cities. Their improved product on the court and growing prosperity spurred...

read more

Conclusion: The NBA Becomes "Major League"

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.7 KB)
pp. 165-168

Why did the NBA survive and eventually prosper? A series of events and decisions helped improve the league’s prospects. Ned Irish’s high hopes aside, the BAA/NBA’s early history was written in red ink. The attrition of teams during the league’s first decade buttressed the owners’ claims of losses, and the demand for pro...

Appendix A: Estimating Factors Affecting Net Gate Receipts

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.5 KB)
pp. 169-170

Appendix B: Tables

pdf iconDownload PDF (334.6 KB)
pp. 171-196


pdf iconDownload PDF (463.0 KB)
pp. 197-230

Selected Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.3 KB)
pp. 231-236


pdf iconDownload PDF (183.8 KB)
pp. 237-247

About the Author, Production Notes, Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (116.4 KB)
pp. 249

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094248
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037139

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012