Like any pro sports league, the history of the National Basketball Association is not without its quirks and oddities. From unbelievable stats to sharing a home court with teens, check out these five interesting facts about the NBA you never knew until now.
Gym Class Heroes
Today’s Association lights up such stages as Chicago’s 21,000-seat United Center and the iconic Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan. But before the world was watching the NBA, decidedly more local crowds were enjoying the Fort Wayne Pistons from the comforts of North Side High School’s gymnasium. NBA action filled this modest school gym from 1948 to 1952 before the Pistons traded northeast Indiana for Detroit in 1957.
The modern NBA is all about threes. You can thank Steph Curry, a legend who changed basketball, for that. While almost everyone fires from beyond the arc today, that wasn’t the case for Shaquille O’Neal, whose talents lie almost everywhere else. Shaq made exactly one three-pointer in his career on February 16, 1996, a first-quarter buzzer-beater against the Bucks. Shaq was a lifetime 1-for-22 from downtown. Is it more impressive that he sunk one or that he was even allowed to try?
Love It Live (on Tape)
In June 1998, almost 36 million Americans watched Michael Jordan complete the Last Dance with a win over Utah in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. It was a big win for the Bulls and NBC, who carried the game live—which wasn’t always the case. Throughout much of the 1970s and ’80s, CBS aired the NBA Playoffs on tape delay following the late local news. Today, every game is live, and in today’s on-demand world, it’s one of the few shared televisual experiences we have.
The Celtics Are the Clippers?
Red Auerbach made a lot of moves as general manager of the Boston Celtics, but none as big as this one. In 1978, Celtics owner and showbiz executive Irv Levin grew weary of New England winters and decided he would relocate the storied Celtics to Southern California. The league office blocked the shot. Undeterred, Levin and future commissioner David Stern brokered a franchise swap with John Y. Brown, owner of the woebegone Buffalo Braves. Brown would assume ownership of the Celtics while Levin would reinvent the Buffalo franchise as the San Diego Clippers. Under new ownership, the Celtics flourished with the legendary Larry Bird, while the eventual Los Angeles Clippers would become a national laughingstock. But because of the accounting involved, it’s fair to ask: are the Clippers, in the strictest legal sense, 13-time world champions?
Money for Nothing
The fifth of our interesting NBA facts you never knew takes us to 1976, when the NBA merged with the upstart ABA, absorbing the New York Nets, Indiana, San Antonio, and Denver. Then there were the Spirits of St. Louis, who took millions of dollars without taking the court. To capture dispersed talent and eliminate a competitor, the other four ABA teams made a deal: they would buy out Spirits ownership, the Silna brothers, by paying one-seventh of their annual television revenue indefinitely. In the tape-delay era, that was couch change, but as broadcasting contracts became big business, the Silnas made a fortune on the Spirits—the NBA team that wasn’t. The ABA four finally bought out the now-onerous deal in 2014.
From contractual weirdness to statistical greatness, NBA history informs everything we do at Vertical23. We take volumes of historical data into account for our free NBA picks. Now let’s really make things interesting.