James Naismith, inventor of basketball

Early Basketball Leagues History

On December 21, 1891, James Naismith of the YMCA, published rules for a new game, asking his class to play a match in the Armory Street court: 9 versus 9, using a soccer ball and two peach baskets. The peach baskets were closed, and balls had to be (read more)

Prior to the late 1930s, professional basketball was cluttered with over a dozen leagues, many regional or short-lived, oftentimes with players and teams in two different leagues. From 1939 until 1948, once the NBL and ABL had been established as the two primary leagues, the top teams were invited to the World Professional Basketball Tournament in order to determine a champion. The NBA followed, putting and end to the other leagues, and giving birth to playoff system and championship trophy.
Abe Saperstein, founder of the 1962 American Basketball League (ABL)
ABL3: 1962-1963 (2 seasons)

League formed when disgruntled Harlem Globetrotters owner did not receive a Los Angeles NBA franchise.

Doxie Moore, Commissioner of the 1950 NPBL
NPBL: 1951-1951 (1 season)

League attempted to become as a successor league to the National Basketball League that folded a year earlier.

Logo for National Basketball Association
NBA: 1950- (70 seasons)

The Basketball Association of America (BAA) merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) to become the NBA that still exists today.

Logo for Basketball Association of America
BAA: 1947-1949 (3 seasons)

Brought basketball to major cities (unlike ABL/NBL) via vacant hockey arenas. Eventually merged with NBL to create NBA.

Maurice White, owner of the Chicago Gears, founded the PBLA
PBLA: 1948-1948 (1 season)

Owner of Champion Chicago Gears team pulled out of NBL to form his own league with star George Mikan.

Logo for National Basketball League III
NBL: 1938-1949 (12 seasons)

Formed as the official "professional" incarnation of the MBC. Eventually merged with the BAA to become the modern NBA.

H.C. Carlson, commmissioner of the Midwest Basketball Conference (MBC)
MBC: 1936-1937 (2 seasons)

Teams arranged their own schedules under ruse as an “amateur” league. Later restructured as pro and became NBL.

Logo for American Basketball League II
ABL: 1934-1953 (20 seasons)

ABL returned by creating new league constructed of best teams from EBL2 and MBL2. Folded due to NBA dominance.

Mac Kinsbrunner played his rookie year for Brooklyn in the Metropolitan Basketball League II
MBL2: 1932-1933 (2 seasons)

Based in New York, as the Great Depression and ABL1 collapse forced basketball into regional leagues.

John Wooden played his rookie year for Indianapolis in the National Professional Basketball League II
NPBL2: 1933-1933 (1 season)

Based in the Midwest, as the Great Depression and ABL1 collapse forced basketball into regional leagues.

Eddie Gottleib coached for the Sphas in the Eastern Basket Ball League II
EBL2: 1931-1933 (3 seasons)

Based in Philadelphia, as the Great Depression and ABL1 collapse forced basketball into regional leagues.

TBL: 1931-1931 (1 season)

Based in the East, as the Great Depression and ABL1 collapse forced basketball into regional leagues.

Carl Storck, President of the 1930 NPBL
NPBL1: 1930-1930 (1 season)

Based in Michigan/Ohio, as the Great Depression and ABL1 collapse forced basketball into regional leagues.

Head coach Johnny Whitty brought his Celtics to the NBL
NBL2: 1927-1927 (1 season)

Signed independent Celtics to jumpstart league. ABL struck back, stealing the Celtics, effectively killing the new league.

Joseph Carr, President of the NFL, organized the 1926 American Basketball League (ABL)
ABL1: 1926-1931 (6 seasons)

Organized from independent pro teams. Celtics dominated, so league forced breakup, and strategy backfired.

Joe Brennan played for Brooklyn in the Metropolitan Basketball League (MBL)
MBL: 1922-1928 (7 seasons)

Formed from the strongest independent clubs in New York. Crumbled after several teams joined the ABL

Soup Campbell played for Tri-Council in the Philadelphia Basketball League
PBL2: 1923-1925 (3 seasons)

Formed in attempt to compete with the MBL after demise of the Eastern (EBL) and Interstate (IBL) Leagues

Barney Sedran played for Carbondale in the Interstate Basketball League
IBL: 1916-1923 (8 seasons)

Formed when NYSL suspended operations for a year. By 1923, there were 4 pro basketball leagues, and the IBL could not compete.

Bucky Harris played for Pittston in Pennsylvania State Basketball League
PSL: 1915-1921 (7 seasons)

Formed when NYSL suspended operations for a year. In 1921, two franchises left for the EBL, and the PSL folded

Lew Wachter played for Troy in the New York State Basketball League
NYSL: 1912-1924 (13 seasons)

Several teams left the HRL to form the NYSL. Eventually, players moved to the growing Metropolitan League.

Harry Hough played for Trenton in the Eastern Basket Ball League
EBL: 1910-1923 (14 seasons)

Rose from the ashes of the PBL. After many years as the premier pro league, eventually fell to the success of the MBL.

Ed Wachter played for Troy in the Hudson River Basketball League
HRBL: 1910-1912 (3 seasons)

Tried to compete with established CBL. League president was not re-elected, so several teams withdrew to form NYSL.

Charles Powers, sports editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch, formed the Central Basketball League
CBL: 1907-1912 (6 seasons)

The most ambitious pro basketball organization prior to 1910. Eventually collapsed due to competition from the EBL and NYSL.

Whitey Schwer won the championship for Jasper in the Philadelphia Basketball League
PBL: 1903-1909 (7 seasons)

Blossomed when the NBL folded. Eventually collapsed as the Central League offered higher player salaries.

Willie Kinkaide coached for champion South Framingham in the New England League
NEL: 1902-1905 (4 seasons)

Formed by split of MSBL. Known as Massachusetts League in 1902. Folded under high salaries being paid by PBL

Henry Martens coached and played for Springfield in the MCBL
MCBL: 1902-1904 (3 seasons)

Formed by split of MSBL. Known as Western Massachusetts League in final year before teams moved to the NEL.

Jack Porter played in the Massachusetts State Basketball League
MSBL: 1899-1901 (3 seasons)

Consisted of teams in small towns within a 25 mile radius of Worcester. Later split into NEL and MCBL.

Fred Cooper coached Trenton in the original National Basketball League
NBL1: 1899-1904 (6 seasons)

The first professional basketball league was centered in Philadelphia and stretched from NYC to Delaware.