The National Basketball Association, or NBA, is one of the world’s most popular sports. The league consists of 30 teams, 29 in the United States and one in Canada. The NBA began in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America, or BAA. The first game was played in Toronto, Ontario on October 7, 1946.

The NBA playoffs, which begin in late May and culminate in June, pit the top eight teams from each conference against each other. The winners of each series advance to the next round. The final best-of-seven series is known as the NBA Finals, and the victors receive the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. The winner of the Finals also earns the right to host the following season’s All-Star Game, and each player on the winning team receives a championship ring.

Despite their wealth and celebrity, NBA players often struggle with drug abuse, gambling addiction and other problems. Several of the league’s most prominent stars have been accused of drug trafficking or sexual assault in recent years, which has raised concerns about whether professional athletes can be trusted to stay clean and sober off the court.

In his new book, “Black Ball: The Hidden History of the NBA”, sportswriter David Runstedtler argues that the alluring public narratives about the league and its players are largely manufactured by a decades-long battle between Black labor and white ownership. The ugliest caricatures and abuse emerge not when players express their personal politics but when the business struggles or needs someone to blame, he writes.

Each spring, the NBA holds a lottery (composed of ping-pong balls drawn randomly in an audited event) to determine the order in which the 14 teams that did not make the playoffs will pick in the draft. The first three lotto balls determine the first, second and third picks; the remaining picks go in reverse order of regular-season finish, with teams having the option to trade up or down in the selection process.

Allstar Games

Each February, the NBA pauses its regular season to celebrate the annual NBA All-Star Game. Fans vote throughout the United States and abroad to choose their favorite players for each conference, and the top vote-getters in each conference are named captains. The All-Star Game features a two-game exhibition series followed by a seven-game playoff, where the top seed plays the eighth seed and the second-best team plays the seventh.

The game’s unique rules include a basket measuring 10 feet high, a free throw line 15 feet from the rim and a 3-point arc that runs from 23 feet, 9 inches at the top to 22 feet at the baselines. The league’s official ball, which is made of leather, has a circumference of 9 inches and must be inflated to between 8.5 and 9.5 pounds per square inch.

Founded in 1946, the NBA has become an international sensation with players from many countries becoming major stars, such as Yao Ming from China, Manu GinĂ³bili from Argentina and Tony Parker from France. The NBA has been the most popular sport in the United States for more than a decade and is the most-watched domestic league in the world, with an average of 20,000 spectators at each home game.