The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the pre-eminent men's professional basketball league in North America, and is widely considered to be the premier men's professional basketball league in the world. It has thirty franchised member clubs (29 in the United States and 1 in Canada), and is an active member of USA Basketball (USAB), which is recognized by FIBA (also known as the International Basketball Federation) as the national governing body for basketball in the United States. The NBA is one of the five major North American professional sports leagues. NBA players are the world's best paid sportsmen, by average annual salary per player.
The league was founded in New York City on June 6, 1946, as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The league adopted the name National Basketball Association in 1949 after absorbing the rival National Basketball League (NBL). The league's several international as well as individual team offices are directed out of its head offices located in the Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue in New York City. NBA Entertainment and NBA TV studios are directed out of offices located in Secaucus, New Jersey.
The Basketball Association of America was founded in 1946 by owners of the major ice hockey arenas in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and Canada. On November 1, 1946, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens, in a game the NBA now regards as the first played in its history. Although there had been earlier attempts at professional basketball leagues, including the American Basketball League and the NBL, the BAA was the first league to attempt to play primarily in large arenas in major cities. During its early years, the quality of play in the BAA was not significantly better than in competing leagues or among leading independent clubs such as the Harlem Globetrotters. For instance, the 1948 ABL finalist Baltimore Bullets moved to the BAA and won that league's 1948 title, and the 1948 NBL champion Minneapolis Lakers won the 1949 BAA title.
On August 3, 1949, the BAA agreed to absorb the NBL, creating the new National Basketball Association. The new league had seventeen franchises located in a mix of large and small cities, as well as large arenas and smaller gymnasiums and armories. In 1950, the NBA consolidated to eleven franchises, a process that continued until 1953–54, when the league reached its smallest size of eight franchises, all of which are still in the league (the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Royals/Kings, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, and Nationals/76ers). The process of contraction saw the league's smaller-city franchises move to larger cities. The Hawks shifted from "Tri-Cities" (the area now known as the Quad Cities) to Milwaukee (in 1951) and then to St. Louis, Missouri (in 1955); the Royals from Rochester, New York to Cincinnati (in 1957); and the Pistons from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Detroit (in 1957).
Although Japanese-American Wataru Misaka technically broke the NBA color barrier in the 1947–48 season when he played for the New York Knicks, 1950 is recognized as the year the NBA integrated. On April 26, 1950, Harold Hunter signed with the Washington Capitols, becoming the first African American to sign a contract with any NBA team in history. Hunter was cut from the team during training camp, but several African American players did play in the league later that year, including Chuck Cooper with the Celtics, Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton with the Knicks, and Earl Lloyd with the Washington Capitols. During this period, the Minneapolis Lakers, led by center George Mikan, won five NBA Championships and established themselves as the league's first dynasty. To encourage shooting and discourage stalling, the league introduced the 24-second shot clock in 1954. If a team does not attempt to score a field goal (or the ball fails to make contact with the rim) within 24 seconds of obtaining the ball, play is stopped and the ball given to its opponent.
In 1957, rookie center Bill Russell joined the Boston Celtics, who already featured guard Bob Cousy and coach Red Auerbach, and went on to lead the club to eleven NBA titles in thirteen seasons. Center Wilt Chamberlain entered the league with the Warriors in 1959 and became a dominant individual star of the 1960s, setting new single game records in scoring (100) and rebounding (55). Russell's rivalry with Chamberlain became one of the greatest in the history of American team sports.
The 1960s were dominated by the Celtics. Led by Russell, Bob Cousy and coach Red Auerbach, Boston won eight straight championships in the NBA from the 1959–66. This championship streak is the longest in NBA history. They did not win the title in 1966-67, but regained it in the 1967-68 season and repeated in 1969. The domination totaled nine of the 10 championship banners of the 1960s.
Through this period, the NBA continued to strengthen with the shift of the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Warriors to San Francisco, the Syracuse Nationals to Philadelphia to become the Philadelphia 76ers, and the St. Louis Hawks moving to Atlanta, as well as the addition of its first expansion franchises. The Chicago Packers (now Washington Wizards) became the ninth NBA team in 1961. From 1966 to 1968, the league expanded from 9 to 14 teams, introducing the Chicago Bulls, Seattle SuperSonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder), San Diego Rockets (who relocated to Houston four years later), Milwaukee Bucks, and Phoenix Suns.
In 1967, the league faced a new external threat with the formation of the American Basketball Association (ABA). The leagues engaged in a bidding war. The NBA landed the most important college star of the era, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor). However, the NBA's leading scorer, Rick Barry, jumped to the ABA, as did four veteran referees—Norm Drucker, Earl Strom, John Vanak, and Joe Gushue.
In 1969, Alan Siegel, who oversaw the design of Jerry Dior's Major League Baseball logo a year prior, created the modern NBA logo inspired by the MLB's. It incorporates the silhouette of the legendary Jerry West based on a photo by Wen Roberts, although NBA officials denied a particular player as being its influence because, according to Siegel, "They want to institutionalize it rather than individualize it. It's become such a ubiquitous, classic symbol and focal point of their identity and their licensing program that they don't necessarily want to identify it with one player." The iconic logo debuted in 1971 and would remain a fixture of the NBA brand.
The ABA succeeded in signing a number of major stars in the '70s, including Julius Erving of the Virginia Squires, in part because it allowed teams to sign college undergraduates. The NBA expanded rapidly during this period, one purpose being to tie up the most viable cities. From 1966 to 1974, the NBA grew from nine franchises to 18. In 1970, the Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Buffalo Braves (now the Los Angeles Clippers) all made their debuts expanding the league to 17. The New Orleans Jazz (now in Utah) came aboard in 1974 bringing the total to 18. Following the 1976 season, the leagues reached a settlement that provided for the addition of four ABA franchises to the NBA, raising the number of franchises in the league at that time to 22. The franchises added were the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and New York Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets). Some of the biggest stars of this era were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry, Dave Cowens, Julius Erving, Elvin Hayes, Walt Frazier, Moses Malone, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin, Dan Issel, and Pete Maravich. The end of the decade, however, saw declining TV ratings, low attendance and drug-related player issues – both perceived and real – that threatened to derail the NBA.
The league added the ABA's innovative three-point field goal beginning in 1979 to open up the game. That same year, rookies Larry Bird and Magic Johnson joined the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers respectively, initiating a period of significant growth in fan interest in the NBA throughout the country and the world. In 1984 they played against each other for the first time in the NBA Finals. Johnson went on to lead the Lakers to five titles, and Bird went on to lead the Celtics to three. Also in the early '80s, the NBA added one more expansion franchise, the Dallas Mavericks, bringing the total to 23 teams. Later on, Larry Bird won the first three three-point shooting contests. Current league commissioner David Stern took office on April 1, 1984, and oversaw the expansion and growth of the NBA to a global commodity.
Michael Jordan entered the league in 1984 with the Chicago Bulls, providing an even more popular star to support growing interest in the league. This resulted in more cities demanding teams of their own. In 1988 and 1989, four cities got their wishes as the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Minnesota Timberwolves made their NBA debuts, bringing the total to 27 teams. In the first year of the 1990s, the Detroit Pistons would win the second of their back-to-back titles, led by Chuck Daly and Isiah Thomas. Jordan and Scottie Pippen would lead the Bulls to two three-peats in eight years during the 1991–98 seasons. Hakeem Olajuwon won back-to-back titles with the Houston Rockets in '94 and '95.
The 1992 Olympic basketball Dream Team, the first to use current NBA stars, featured Michael Jordan as the anchor, along with Bird, Magic, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, and Christian Laettner. Eleven players on the Dream Team have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 1995, the NBA expanded to Canada with the addition of the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors. In 2001, the Vancouver Grizzlies relocated to Memphis, which left the Raptors as the only Canadian team in the NBA. In 1996, the NBA created a women's league, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). In 1998, the NBA owners began a lockout which lasted 191 days and was settled on January 18, 1999. As a result of this lockout the 1998–99 NBA season was reduced from 82 to 50 games (61% of a normal season), and the All-Star Game was cancelled. The San Antonio Spurs won their first championship, and first by a former ABA team, by beating the New York Knicks, who were the first, and to this date, the only, eighth seed to ever make the NBA Finals.
Since the breakup of the Chicago Bulls championship roster in the summer of 1998, the Western Conference has dominated, with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs combining to win the title in nine of fourteen years. Tim Duncan and David Robinson won the 1999 championship with the Spurs, and Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant started the 2000s with three consecutive championships for the Lakers. The Spurs reclaimed the title in 2003 against the Nets. In 2004, the Lakers returned to the Finals, only to fall in five games to the Detroit Pistons.
After the Spurs took home the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy in 2005, the 2006 Finals featured two franchises making their inaugural Finals appearances. The Miami Heat, led by their star shooting guard, Dwyane Wade, and Shaquille O'Neal, who had been traded from the Lakers during the 2004 summer, won the series over the Dallas Mavericks in 6 after losing the first two games. The Lakers/Spurs dominance continued in 2007 with a four-game sweep by the Spurs over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were led by LeBron James. The 2008 Finals saw a rematch of the league's highest profile rivalry, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, with the Celtics prevailing, for their league leading 17th championship, thanks to their new big three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett.
In 2009, the Lakers with Kobe Bryant returned to the Finals, this time defeating the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic. Kobe Bryant won his first Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award award in his 13th season after leading the Lakers to their first NBA championship since the departure of Shaquille O'Neal.
The 2010 NBA All-Star Game was held at Cowboys Stadium in front of the largest crowd ever, 108,713. At the end of that season, the Celtics and the Lakers renewed their rivalry from 2008 when they met again in the NBA Finals for a record 12th time. The Lakers won the title in Game 7, 83–79. Before the start of the 2010–11 season the NBA had an exciting summer with one of the most anticipated free agent classes of all time. Two of which signed, and one resigned, with the Miami Heat, leading to a season that was heavily centered on their eventual success or failure at taking home the championship. The Heat, led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, did in fact make the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, in a rematch for the franchises of the 2006 Finals. The Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki (the eventual NBA Finals MVP), took the series in six games. This was the Mavericks' first title. Other veterans like Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry also won their first titles with Nowitzki.
On July 1, 2011, at 12:01 a.m., the NBA announced another lockout. After the first few weeks of the season were canceled, the players and owners ratified a new collective bargaining agreement on December 8, 2011, setting up a shortened 66-game season. Following the shortened season, the Miami Heat made a return to the Finals with the trio of Dwyane Wade, Lebron James and Chris Bosh against Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The Heat went on to defeat the Thunder in 5 games, capturing their second NBA title in 6 years.
Following pioneers like Dražen Petrović (Croatia) who joined the NBA in the late 1980s, an increasing number of international players have moved directly from playing elsewhere in the world to starring in the NBA. Below is a short list of notable foreign players, either currently or formerly active in the league:
On some occasions, young players, most but not all from the English-speaking world, have attended U.S. colleges before playing in the NBA. Notable examples are:
Since 2006, the NBA has faced Euroleague teams in exhibition matches in the NBA Europe Live Tour and since 2009 in the Euroleague American Tour.
The 2009–10 season season opened with a record of 83 international players on the opening night rosters, tying the record set in the 2006–07 season.
In 2001, an affiliated minor league, the National Basketball Development League, now called the NBA Development League (or D-League) was created. Before the league was started, there were strong rumors that the NBA would purchase the Continental Basketball Association, and call it its developmental league.
In 2004, two years after the Hornets' relocation to New Orleans, the NBA returned to North Carolina as the Charlotte Bobcats were formed as an expansion team.
In 2005, the Hornets relocated to Oklahoma City for two seasons because of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, the Hornets returned to New Orleans.
On June 28, 2006, a new official game ball was introduced for the 2006–07 season, marking the first change to the ball in over 35 years and only the second ball in 60 seasons. Manufactured by Spalding, the new ball featured a new design and new synthetic material that Spalding claimed offered a better grip, feel, and consistency than the original ball. However, many players were vocal in their disdain for the new ball, saying that it was too sticky when dry, and too slippery when wet.
On December 11, 2006, Commissioner Stern announced that beginning January 1, 2007, the NBA would return to the traditional leather basketball in use prior to the 2006–07 season. The change was influenced by frequent player complaints and confirmed hand injuries (cuts) caused by the microfiber ball. The Players' Association had filed a suit in behalf of the players against the NBA over the new ball. As of 2006, the NBA team jerseys are manufactured by Adidas, which purchased the previous supplier, Reebok.
On July 19, 2007, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated allegations that veteran NBA referee Tim Donaghy bet on basketball games he officiated over the past two seasons and that he made calls affecting the point spread in those games. On August 15, 2007, Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation. However, he could face additional charges if it is determined that he deliberately miscalled individual games. Donaghy claimed in 2008 that certain refs were friendly with players and "company men" for the NBA. Donaghy alleged that refs influenced the outcome of certain playoff and finals games in 2002 and 2005. NBA commissioner David Stern denied the allegations and said Donaghy was a convicted felon and a "singing, cooperating witness". Donaghy served 15 months in prison and was released in November 2009. According to an independent study by Ronald Beech of Game 6 of the NBA 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Kings, although the refs increased the Lakers' chances of winning through foul calls during the game, there was no collusion to fix the game. On alleged "star treatment" during Game 6 by the refs toward certain players, Beech claimed, "there does seem to be issues with different standards and allowances for different players."
On July 2, 2008, it was announced that the Seattle SuperSonics would relocate to Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City Thunder began playing in the 2008–09 season.
On October 11, 2008, the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets played the first outdoor game in the modern era of the NBA at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
On September 1, 2009, the contract between the NBA and its referees expired, creating a referee lockout. On October 1, 2009, the first preseason games were played and replacement referees from the WNBA and NBA Development League were used. The last time replacement referees were used was the beginning of the 1995–96 season. The NBA and the regular referees reached a deal on October 23, 2009.
In 2011, the first official NBA league games on European ground took place. In two matchups, the New Jersey Nets faced the Toronto Raptors in London's O2 Arena in front of over 20,000 fans.
In July 2011, the NBA laid off around 114 league employees (about 11 percent of all the league office workforce) to save money.
The 2011–12 NBA season, scheduled to begin November 1, 2011 with a matchup between the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and the Chicago Bulls, was postponed due to a labor dispute. The lockout officially ended on December 8, 2011, when players and owners ratified a new collective bargaining agreement, and the season began on Christmas Day.
On April 30, 2012, the New Jersey Nets officially changed their name to the Brooklyn Nets. They began playing in the New York City borough of Brooklyn in the 2012–13 season.
In October 2012, the NBA announced that it would begin fining players for flopping.
After the 2012–13 season, the New Orleans Hornets renamed themselves the Pelicans. In addition, the Charlotte Bobcats will rename themselves the Hornets following the 2013–14 season.
The NBA originated in 1946 with 11 teams, and through a sequence of team expansions, reductions, and relocations currently consists of 30 teams. The United States is home to 29 teams and one is located in Canada. The Boston Celtics have won the most championships with 17 NBA Finals wins. The second most successful franchise is the Los Angeles Lakers, who have 16 overall championships (11 in Los Angeles, 5 in Minneapolis). Following the Lakers are the Chicago Bulls with six championships, all of them over an 8-year span during the 1990s, and the San Antonio Spurs with four championships, all since 1999.
The current league organization divides thirty teams into two conferences of three divisions with five teams each. The current divisional alignment was introduced in the 2004–05 season. Reflecting the population distribution of the United States and Canada as a whole, most teams are in the eastern half of the country: thirteen teams are in the Eastern Time Zone, nine in the Central Time Zone, five in the Pacific, and three in the Mountain Time Zone.
Following the summer break, teams begin training camps in late September. Training camps allow the coaching staff to evaluate players (especially rookies), scout the team's strengths and weaknesses, prepare the players for the rigorous regular season, and determine the 12-man active roster (and a 3-man inactive list) with which they will begin the regular season. Teams have the ability to assign players with less than two years of experience to the NBA development league. After training camp, a series of preseason exhibition games are held. Preseason matches are sometimes held in non-NBA cities, both in the United States and overseas. The NBA regular season begins in the last week of October.
During the regular season, each team plays 82 games, 41 each home and away. A team faces opponents in its own division four times a year (16 games). Each team plays six of the teams from the other two divisions in its conference four times (24 games), and the remaining four teams three times (12 games). Finally, each team plays all the teams in the other conference twice apiece (30 games). This asymmetrical structure means the strength of schedule will vary between teams (but not as significantly as the NFL or MLB). Over five seasons, each team will have played 80 games against their division (20 games against each opponent, 10 at home, 10 on the road), 180 games against the rest of their conference (18 games against each opponent, 9 at home, 9 on the road), and 150 games against the other conference (10 games against each team, 5 at home, 5 on the road).
As of 2008, the NBA is one of only two of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada in which teams play every other team during the regular season (the other being the National Hockey League). Each team hosts and visits every other team at least once every season. For a few seasons until 2008, the NBA had the distinction of being the only one of the four major leagues in which all teams play every other team.
The NBA is also the only league that regularly schedules games on Christmas Day. The league has been playing games regularly on the holiday since 1947, though the first Christmas Day games weren't televised until 1983–84. Games played on this day have featured some of the best teams and players. Christmas is also notable for NBA on television, as the holiday is when the first NBA games air on network television each season. Games played on this day have been some of the highest-rated games during a particular season.
In February, the regular season pauses to celebrate the annual NBA All-Star Game. Fans vote throughout the United States, Canada, and on the Internet, and the top vote-getters at each position in each conference are given a starting spot on their conference's All-Star team. Coaches vote to choose the remaining 14 All-Stars. Then, Eastern conference players face the Western conference players in the All-Star game. The player with the best performance during the game is rewarded with a Game MVP award. Other attractions of the All-Star break include the Rookie Challenge, where the top rookies and second-year players in the NBA play against each other in a 5-on-5 basketball game; the Skills Challenge, where players compete to finish an obstacle course consisting of shooting, passing, and dribbling in the fastest time; the Three Point Contest, where players compete to score the most amount of three-point field goals in a given time; and the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, where players compete to dunk the ball in the most entertaining way according to the judges. These other attractions have varying names which include the names of the various sponsors who have paid for naming rights.
Shortly after the All-Star break is the trade deadline, which is set to fall on the 16th Thursday of the season (usually in February) at 3pm Eastern Time. After this date, teams are not allowed to exchange players with each other for the remainder of the season, although they may still sign and release players. Major trades are often completed right before the trading deadline, making that day a hectic time for general managers.
Around the middle of April, the regular season ends. It is during this time that voting begins for individual awards, as well as the selection of the honorary, league-wide, post-season teams. The Sixth Man of the Year Award is given to the best player coming off the bench (must have more games coming off the bench than actual games started). The Rookie of the Year Award is awarded to the most outstanding first-year player. The Most Improved Player Award is awarded to the player who is deemed to have shown the most improvement from the previous season. The Defensive Player of the Year Award is awarded to the league's best defender. The Coach of the Year Award is awarded to the coach that has made the most positive difference to a team. The Most Valuable Player Award is given to the player deemed the most valuable for (his team) that season. Additionally, Sporting News awards an unofficial (but widely recognized) Executive of the Year Award to the general manager who is adjudged to have performed the best job for the benefit of his franchise.
The post-season teams are the All-NBA Team, the All-Defensive Team, and the All-Rookie Team; each consists of five players. There are three All-NBA teams, consisting of the top players at each position, with first-team status being the most desirable. There are two All-Defensive teams, consisting of the top defenders at each position. There are also two All-Rookie teams, consisting of the top first-year players regardless of position.
NBA Playoffs begin in late April, with eight teams in each conference going for the Championship. The three division winners, along with the team with the next best record from the conference are given the top four seeds. The next four teams in terms of record are given the lower four seeds.
Having a higher seed offers several advantages. Since the first seed begins the playoffs playing against the eighth seed, the second seed plays the seventh seed, the third seed plays the sixth seed, and the fourth seed plays the fifth seed, having a higher seed means a team faces a weaker team in the first round. The team in each series with the better record has home court advantage, including the First Round. This means that, for example, if the team who receives the 5 seed has a better record than the team with the 4 seed (by virtue of a divisional championship), the 5 seed would have home court advantage, even though the other team has a higher seed. Therefore, the team with the best regular season record in the league is guaranteed home court advantage in every series it plays. For example, in 2006, the Denver Nuggets won 44 games and captured the Northwest Division and the #3 seed. Their opponent was the #6 seed Los Angeles Clippers, who won 47 games and finished second in the Pacific Division. Although Denver won its much weaker division, the Clippers had home-court advantage and won the series in 5.
The playoffs follow a tournament format. Each team plays an opponent in a best-of-seven series, with the first team to win four games advancing into the next round, while the other team is eliminated from the playoffs. In the next round, the successful team plays against another advancing team of the same conference. All but one team in each conference are eliminated from the playoffs. Since the NBA does not re-seed teams, the playoff bracket in each conference uses a traditional design, with the winner of the series matching the 1st and 8th seeded teams playing the winner of the series matching the 4th and 5th seeded teams, and the winner of the series matching the 2nd and 7th seeded teams playing the winner of the series matching the 3rd and 6th seeded teams. In every round except the NBA Finals, the best-of-7 series follows a 2–2–1–1–1 home-court pattern, meaning that one team will have home court in games 1, 2, 5, and 7, while the other plays at home in games 3, 4, and 6. For the NBA Finals, the series follows a 2–3–2 pattern, meaning that one team will have home court in games 1, 2, 6, and 7, while the other plays at home in games 3, 4, and 5. The 2–3–2 pattern has been in place since 1985.
The final playoff round, a best-of-seven series between the victors of both conferences, is known as the NBA Finals, and is held annually in June. The victor in the NBA Finals wins the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. Each player and major contributor—including coaches and the general manager—on the winning team receive a championship ring. In addition, the league awards the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award to the best performing player of the series.
On August 2, 2006, the NBA announced the new playoff format. The new format takes the three division winners and the second-place team with the best record and rank them 1–4 by record. The other 4 slots are filled by best record other than those other 4 teams. Previously, the top three seeds went to the division winners.
Current teams that have no NBA Finals appearances:
The National Basketball Association has sporadically participated in international club competitions. From 1987 to 1999 the NBA champions played against the continental champions of the Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) in the McDonald's Championship. This tournament was won by the NBA invitee every year it was held. FIBA is organizing a new World Club Championship to begin in 2010, and currently plans to invite the NBA champions starting in 2011.
In 2012, a ticket cost from $10 to $3,000 apiece, depending on the location of the seat and the success of the teams that were playing.
The 1984 NBA draft was the 38th annual draft of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The draft was held at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York on June 19, 1984 before the 1984–85 season. The draft was broadcast in the United States on the USA Network. In this draft, 23 NBA teams took turns selecting amateur U.S. college basketball players and other eligible players, including international players. The Houston Rockets won the coin flip and were awarded the first overall pick, while the Portland Trail Blazers, who obtained the Indiana Pacers' first-round pick in a trade, were awarded the second pick. The remaining first-round picks and the subsequent rounds were assigned to teams in reverse order of their win–loss record in the previous season. The Cleveland Cavaliers were awarded an extra first-round draft pick as compensation for the draft picks traded away by their previous owner, Ted Stepien. A player who had finished his four-year college eligibility was automatically eligible for selection. Before the draft, five college underclassmen announced that they would leave college early and would be eligible for selection. Prior to the draft, the San Diego Clippers relocated to Los Angeles, California and became the Los Angeles Clippers. The draft consisted of 10 rounds comprising the selection of 228 players. This draft was the last to be held before the creation of the Draft Lottery in 1985. The draft is generally considered to be one of the greatest in NBA history, with four Hall of Famers being drafted in the first sixteen picks. Olajuwon, Barkley, and Stockton are each among the greatest to ever play their respective positions, while Jordan is held to be one of the greatest—if not the single greatest—basketball player in history.
The Houston Rockets used their first pick to draft Hakeem Olajuwon (then known as Akeem Olajuwon), a junior center from the University of Houston. The Nigerian-born Olajuwon became the second foreign-born player to be drafted first overall, after Mychal Thompson from the Bahamas in 1978. The Portland Trail Blazers used the second overall pick to draft Sam Bowie from the University of Kentucky. The Chicago Bulls used the third pick to draft Naismith and Wooden College Player of the Year Michael Jordan from the University of North Carolina. Jordan went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award and was also selected to the All-NBA Second Team in his rookie season. Jordan's teammate at North Carolina, Sam Perkins, was drafted fourth by the Dallas Mavericks. Charles Barkley, a junior forward from Auburn University, was drafted fifth by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Olajuwon, Jordan and Barkley, along with the 16th pick John Stockton, have been inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. They were also named in the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History list announced at the league's 50th anniversary in 1996. Olajuwon's achievements include two NBA championships, two Finals Most Valuable Player Awards, one Most Valuable Player Award, one Defensive Player of the Year Award, twelve All-NBA Team selections, twelve All-Star Game selections and nine All-Defensive Team selections. Olajuwon retired as the all–time league leader in total blocked shots with 3,830 blocks. The third pick, Jordan, achieved even greater success than Olajuwon. He won six NBA championships, six Finals Most Valuable Player Awards, five Most Valuable Player Awards, one Defensive Player of the Year Award, eleven All-NBA Team selections, fourteen All-Star Game selections and nine All-Defensive Team selections. Barkley and Stockton never won an NBA championship, but both players received numerous awards and honors. Barkley won the Most Valuable Player in 1993 and was selected to eleven All-NBA Teams and eleven All-Star Games. Stockton was selected to eleven All-NBA Teams, ten All-Star Games and five All-Defensive Teams before retiring as the all–time league leader in assists and steals. Alvin Robertson, the seventh pick, is the only other player from this draft who has won annual NBA awards as a player; he won both the Defensive Player of the Year Award and the Most Improved Player Award in 1986. He was also selected to one All-NBA Team, four All-Star Games and six consecutive All-Defensive Teams. Two other players from this draft, ninth pick Otis Thorpe and eleventh pick Kevin Willis, were also selected to one All-Star Game each. Willis also had one selection to the All-NBA Team. Rick Carlisle, the 70th pick, became a coach after ending his playing career and won the Coach of the Year Award in 2002 while coaching the Detroit Pistons. In 2011, he coached the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA Championship.
The 1984 draft class is considered to be one of the best in NBA history as it produced four Hall of Famers and seven All-Stars. However, it was also marked by the Blazers' selection of Sam Bowie, considered one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history. It is believed that the Blazers picked Bowie over Michael Jordan because they already had an All Star shooting guard in Jim Paxson and a young shooting guard in Clyde Drexler, whom they drafted in the 1983 Draft. Although Drexler went on to have a successful career, Bowie's career was cut short by injuries; he had missed two of the past three seasons in his college career as well. Despite having a 10-year career in the NBA and averaging 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, Bowie's career was interrupted by five leg surgeries, which limited him to 139 games in 5 years with the Blazers.
Brazilian Oscar Schmidt was drafted with the 131st pick in the sixth round by the New Jersey Nets. However, Schmidt turned down the offers to play in the NBA and stayed to play in Italy and later in Brazil. He played in five Olympics and was the top scorer in three of them. He finished his career with 49,703 points with various clubs and the Brazilian national team, more than the NBA's career scoring leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 38,387 points in his NBA career. In 2010, International Basketball Federation (FIBA) honored Schmidt with an induction to the FIBA Hall of Fame, and he has been announced as a 2013 inductee of the Naismith Hall (he will be formally inducted in September). University of Houston track and field athlete Carl Lewis, who had never played college basketball, was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the 208th pick in the 10th round. Lewis stayed with his athletics career and went on to win nine Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships gold medals. In the fifth round, the Portland Trail Blazers drafted Mike Whitmarsh, who starred for the University of San Diego in both basketball and volleyball, with the 111th pick. Whitmarsh played professional basketball in Germany for three years, but never played in the NBA. He then left basketball to play beach volleyball, where he achieved greater success, including a silver medal in the Olympics.
The following list includes other draft picks who have appeared in at least one NBA game.
The following trades involving drafted players were made on the day of the draft.
Prior to the day of the draft, the following trades were made and resulted in exchanges of picks between the teams.
1: When Hakeem Olajuwon first arrived in the United States in 1981, his first name was incorrectly spelled as "Akeem". He used that spelling until March 9, 1991, when he announced that he would add an H and changed it to "Hakeem", the original Arabic spelling of his name.
2: Hakeem Olajuwon was born in Nigeria, but became a naturalized United States citizen in 1993. He has represented the United States national team.
3: As compensation for the first-round draft picks traded away by the previous owner, Ted Stepien, the Cleveland Cavaliers were awarded extra first-round draft picks in the 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986 drafts in exchange for cash.
4: Even though Tim McCormick was a senior, he had one year of college eligibility remaining and thus had to apply for early entry.
5: Stuart Gray was born in the Panama Canal Zone which was controlled by the United States. He has represented Panama national team.