Basketball Association of America (BAA)

The Association Before "The Association"

1953-54 NBA World Champion Minneapolis Lakers
NBA Photos / Contributor/National Basketball Association

In June of 1946, a group of businessmen with ties to professional hockey met at the Commodore Hotel in New York with a simple goal in mind. "Let's find a way to make our arenas more profitable in the fall and winter." And on June 6, 1946 - two years to the day after the D-Day invasion - the Basketball Association of America was born.

BAA Beginnings

The primary players in the creation of the league were Walter Brown, who owned Boston Garden, Al Sutphin, owner of the Cleveland Arena, Ned Irish, president of Madison Square Garden. Given their close ties to professional hockey, the owners of the new league enlisted Maurice Podoloff - then the president of the American Hockey League - to run their new venture. The trophy given every year to the NBA MVP bears Podoloff's name.

The new league began play that fall with teams in eleven cities: the Washington Capitols, Philadelphia Warriors, New York Knickerbockers, Providence Steamrollers, Boston Celtics and Toronto Huskies formed the Eastern Division, while the Chicago Stags, St. Louis Bombers, Cleveland Rebels, Detroit Falcons and Pittsburgh Ironmen made up the Western. League play tipped off on November 1, 1946, when the Knicks beat the Huskies, 68-66 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto - a game now considered the first in NBA history.

The Philadelphia Warriors beat the Chicago Stags, 4-1 in the championship series to win the BAA's first title.

The Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto and Pittsburgh franchises folded after that first season, and the Baltimore Bullets (not the same franchise as today's Washington Wizards) were added. The Warriors reached the Finals for the second straight season, but lost to the new arrival Bullets in the 1947 championship series.

The BAA got a major infusion of talent for the 1947-48 season, with the additions of the Fort Wayne Pistons, Indianapolis Jets, Minneapolis Lakers and the Rochester Royals from the rival National Basketball League (NBL). The most significant arrival was the Lakers, a team built around 6-10 center George Mikan, the game's first real superstar big man. The Lakers would go on to win the first of sixteen league titles.

After the season, the BAA and NBL merged to form the National Basketball Association.

Teams of the BAA

Six of today's NBA teams have roots in the BAA:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Fort Wayne (Detroit) Pistons
  • Minneapolis (Los Angeles) Lakers
  • New York Knicks
  • Philadelphia (Golden State) Warriors
  • Rochester (Sacramento Kings) Royals