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The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the professional basketball league in North America and is universally regarded as the most competitive in the world.
The competition consists of 30 clubs, 29 from the US and one from Canada competing in a 82 game regular season.
NBA teams are divided into two conferences, East and West. Conferences are further split into three divisions consisting of five teams.
The season, which spans across calendar years, culminates in playoffs, followed by the NBA Finals series.
Both the playoffs and The Finals are a best of seven game knockout series. The playoffs play the top eight conference seeds against each other to find a conference champion – the East and West conference champions then play in the NBA Finals.
Playoffs are based on a 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6, 4 vs 5, bracketing, with the top four teams having a home-curt advantage with the first and last game of the best of seven series played at home.
The first team to win four games in the playoffs or Finals is the winner.
Basketball was invented by Canadian James Naismith and first played in 1891 in Massachusetts and has since become one of the most popular sports in the world.
The NBA, originally the Basketball Association of America (BAA), was founded in 1946. In 1949, after merging with the rival National Basketball League (NBL), the NBA was established under its current moniker.
The NBA continued relatively unimpeded by competition until 1967 and the formation of the American Basketball Association (ABA), which instigating an aggressive bidding war for players.
From 1966-74 the NBA grew from nine to 18 franchises in a strategic move to place teams in the most valuable and viable US cities. In 1976 the ABA merged with the NBA and since this point the organisation has remained unchallenged by rival competitions. In 1979 the NBA’s administration implemented a three point line after its success in the ABA.
It was not until the 1980’s that the NBA grew to truly global status. Predominantly this is owing to the rise of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and but also Jordan himself who is regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time and the sport’s biggest superstar.
Before Jordan, Larry Bird (Boston Celtics), Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers) and Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers) are credited as bringing basketball to North American mainstream culture.
In the modern era, the Western Conference has dominated over the East, with the LA Lakers and San Antonio Spurs winning nine of 14 titles since 1990. In spite of this recent success the Eastern Conference’s Boston Celtics have won the most titles of any franchise with 17.
The last three years have been dominated by the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. They have contested each of the previous three finals series between themselves, with the Warriors winning in 2014-15 and 2016-17. The Cavaliers became the first team in NBA Finals history to come back from 3-1 down in 2015-16 though, then they beat the Warriors, winning Game 7 away from home by just four points.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the league’s leading point scorer of all time (38,387), Wilt Chamberlain has the most rebounds (23,924) and John Stockton has the most assists ever recorded (15,806).