Basketball has been one of the world’s favorite sports for more than a century. From the dazzling dunks of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to the ferocious play of Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, the NBA has produced a legendary group of players. In addition to those stars, the NBA has also nurtured a remarkable crop of coaches and managers who have helped shape the game’s rules and culture.
The NBA was founded in 1946 as a way for NHL owners to make money on days when their teams were not playing. The NBA, or BAA, started with 17 teams and soon began losing them to financial problems. The league merged with the NBL in 1949 and eventually shrank to its current 18 teams.
Unlike the NFL and MLB, which rely on big city markets, the NBA is a league of small towns. Several NBA cities don’t have a corresponding NFL or MLB team, and the league has historically drawn many of its most talented players from inner-city ghettoes. These players have become known for their street smarts and ability to hustle.
Many of these players have had trouble handling their newfound wealth. The 1980s was a time of social upheaval and economic turmoil, and the chaos in NBA arenas seemed to mirror the violence, drugs, and crime that were taking place in the streets of American cities. As the sport’s stars grew older, they seemed to get bigger and more unstable.
While the NBA has always been a place for superstars, it’s also become an unruly workplace. Throughout the years, players and their managers have clashed over everything from pay and contracts to drug use and sexual harassment. In this book, Jason Runstedtler argues that the public narratives that emerge about the NBA don’t simply come from what fans see on the court. They also reflect decades-long struggles between Black labor and white ownership.
As the 2023-24 season continues, some teams are struggling and others have taken off to surprising heights. To help you figure out which ones are contenders and which to keep an eye on, we ranked all 30 teams in the league. We took into account each team’s record, record against their rivals, the strength of their coaching staff, and a number of other factors in order to determine which are the best NBA teams this season.