8 Teams to 30 Teams
by Zachary Husser
A conversation I had recently on the make up of the NBA as it related to allowing “Black Players” to play in the Association’s arenas is something to behold. Sit back and read this synopsis of what took place as the NBA solidified itself and then moved forward, because of the exciting play of some critical and vital Black Players that give Us most of the Association we see today.
Prior to 1950
The NBA was a small time league made up of about 10-20 teams depending on what month and year it was. Some times the Association started the season with approximately 20 Teams, but by the time the season concluded, seven to eight of those teams would fold because of bad business and or they couldn’t make any money. The “League” only had White Players and that was one of the factors why it didn’t catch the public’s eye. You see, folks knew about the Harlem Rens and the Harlem Globetrotters all over the World as the BEST basketball players in the World. However, in the United States of America where the game was born and improved, No Black Players were allowed to play on the All White NBA teams. This was Racism in one of it’s terrible forms. You see, the BEST basketball players in the World were Black and that was a fact! Even the white NBA Players knew that because of the Championship Series played in Chicago most years that concluded with one of the Black Five Teams winning the Championship. History that is factual and true never changes. These statements can be researched so you too will know the history of the game we love so much.
What we know as the National Basketball Association was founded on June 6, 1946 and was officially known as the (BAA) Basketball Association of America. Several other Independent professional leagues were in existence at that time, but they just couldn’t make ends meet. So, on August 3, 1949, the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League “Merged” and the new professional basketball business was called the National Basketball Association. At the time in 1949, 17 teams were in the initial Association in very small towns and in big town like New York City. As a result of the strong survive as well as good business practices, the 1949 NBA consolidated down to 11 teams to start the 1950 NBA Season.
Now, the NBA has only 11 teams and has played in different forms since 1946 without any Black Players. Racism took care of not allowing Black Players, the Best in the World, to be blocked from playing in the NBA. Those were the times we lived in as Black Folk tried to survive in the United States of America. However, at the beginning of the 1950-51 NBA Season, the first Black Players are drafted and or on the rosters of the New York Knicks and the Detroit Pistons team. Earl Lloyd becomes the first Black Player to play in a NBA game, but Sweet Water Clifton is the first Black Player to be signed to a NBA contract and he plays for the New York Knicks team right here in New York City. Black players getting signed to other teams took some time and between 1950 and 1960, most NBA teams would only sign two Black Players regardless of their talents.
Expansion of the NBA
In 1949 the first National Basketball Association group had 17 teams. Two years later, the Association consolidated those 17 teams into 11 good teams with only white players and no black players allowed. As we move forward, the NBA got more franchises to come into the Association so that by 1970 the NBA had 17 teams again. As we move through history to 1980, the Association has expanded to 23 teams. In 1990 the Association has 27 teams and since the year 2000, the National Basketball Association has been an animal that the initial owners and players wouldn’t recognize because there are 30 teams in various cities around the United States of America and the Toronto Raptors in Canada. The business of NBA Basketball is Worldwide with their players recognized all over the planet. NBA Basketball is a multi-Billions dollar enterprise that keeps giving their fans excitement!
Black Players Save the NBA
After that 1950-51 Season that saw Earl Lloyd and Sweet Water Clifton running up and down the NBA courts showing a new brand of professional player, the NBA went from the two Black Player quota to making as much money as the Association could by winning Championships. The Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks went out for the best players and both teams ended up the mid 1960’s with six or more Black Players on their 12 man roster. For the Celtics, the signing of Bill Russell in late 1958 0r 1959 concluded with 11 Championships for that storied franchise during Bill Russell’s dominance in the NBA.
The Wilt Chamberlain Affect
Wilt Chamberlain came out of Overbrook High School in Philly and was the most dominant player the World had ever seen. Here was a young man that was seven feet tall, one of the quickest big men the Association or any fans had ever seen. Chamberlain came into the NBA in 1960 and the fan base exploded because everyone wanted to see this “large and tall man” do this thing on the NBA courts. Mr. Chamberlain changed the way the game was played because new rules came just to stop Wilt. Additionally, Wilt was a one man Civil & Human Rights gang for all of the Black Players. Wilt let Owners and Businessmen in Cities that didn’t allow Black NBA Players to stay at the top hotels and eat at the restaurants of their choice know, He, Wilt Chamberlain, wasn’t going to play ball in that NBA City. Businessmen and big dollars broke down segregation and racism in most of the Cities in the NBA without the Association taking a stance against Racism. This was 1960 and most white folks didn’t go against what was considered white privilege even if it meant forcing Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robinson, and Wilt Chamberlain to sleep and eat in the Black part of most NBA cities.
My commentary is to give a short synopsis of the early NBA, how it came into being, and now You can do some research to see what’s happening in today’s NBA. There’s still only two Black Men involved in Ownership of an NBA Franchise and that’s Michael Jordan and Grant Hill. We have a lot of work to do to force the NBA to be great corporate citizens. To date, today’s NBA hasn’t done anything to help the Black Neighborhoods of this time to get changes that make things open for equal competition just like on their NBA Teams. What do You think?
In the Interest of Knowing Your History,
Brother Zach Husser, National Communications Advisor
Fathers in Education Campaign, Incorporated