Earvin "Magic" Johnson of LA Lakers throws a ball during a basketball game in the 1980s.

20 Historic NBA Trivia Facts

The NBA is a strong part of American culture. So strong, in fact, that it made its way into Canada in 1995 when the Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors stormed the court as the league’s newest expansion teams.

As we know, time changes everything. The Grizzlies struggled during the 1998 lockout, seeing attendance drop to one of the lowest in the league. It wasn’t long before they relocated following the sale of the team. The Grizzlies now reside in Memphis, Tennessee, where they’ve called home since the 2000-2001 season.

Started in 1946 with 11 teams, the NBA now boasts 30 teams; 29 in the US and 1 in Toronto, Canada. With that legacy, that growth, and all that athleticism, the NBA has more than a handful of amazing facts and stories to carry them into sports trivia fandom.

NBA Origins – The First Merger and First Game

Maple Leaf Garden Plaque tells history about this hockey arena which was home of the first NBA basketball game.
Photo Credit: Spudgun67, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The origins of the NBA take us back to 1946 with the Basketball Association of America, which was started by owners of the major ice hockey arenas in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and Canada. The Basketball Association of America merged with the National Basketball League in 1949 to become renamed and known as the NBA, the National Basketball Association.

On November 1, 1946, the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens. This was the first game played in NBA history.

Three of the Original NBA Teams Still Exist

Ben Goldfaden as a member of the Washington Capitals in the first season of the National Basketball Association 1946.
Ben Goldfaden as a member of the Washington Capitals in the first season of the National Basketball Association. Photo Credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia.

The original 11 teams  of the NBA were:

  • Eastern Division: Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Philadelphia Warriors, Providence Steamrollers, Toronto Huskies, and Washington Capitols
  • Western Division: Chicago Stags, Cleveland Rebels, Detroit Falcons, Pittsburgh Ironmen, and Louis Bombers

Of these teams, three still exist – the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, and Philadelphia Warriors – though the Philadelphia Warriors have been the Golden State Warriors since 1962 when they moved to San Francisco.

Only Two Teams Have Never Moved

Boston Celtics championship banners hanging up in the TD Garden on May 23, 2011 in Boston.
Image Credit: shooterjt/Depositphotos.com.

Teams relocate for many reasons, including low fan attendance, like the Vancouver Grizzlies, or lack of sponsorships, like the Kansas City Kings. Only two teams have remained in their original cities: Boston Celtics and New York Knicks. Both teams are original from 1946.

Two Teams With the Most Titles

Larry Bird of Boston Celtics and Karim Abdul Jabar of the Lakers both playing basketball.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics each hold 17 NBA championships. These two teams have had some of the most legendary names on their rosters including Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Paul Pierce, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, and Wilt Chamberlain.

Most Points in a Single Game!

Wilt Chamberlain poses with basketball in a Harlem Globetrotters uniform 1959.
Photo Credit: Fred Palumbo 1959, World Telegram staff photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of Wilt Chamberlain, he holds the record for most points in a single game with a staggering 100 points. The record was set on March 2, 1962. Kobe Bryant holds the second-place position with 81 points.

Air Jordans Were Banned

Air Jordan shoes.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Despite being designed for the basketball court, the legendary Air Jordans were banned for violating the standard uniform policy. This policy required players to wear sneakers that matched their team colors and that matched with other players. Players opting to wear Air Jordans faced league-imposed fines. As the shoes became readily available in the general market, the NBA eventually allowed Air Jordans onto the court.

Olympic Dream Team

At the 25th Olympic games David Robinson, at that time US Navy Reserves, makes a free throw during the game between the "Dream Team" and Puerto Rico.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com. and National Archives at College Park – Still Pictures, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Prior to 1992, International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules prevented NBA players from competing in the Olympics. When the restriction was lifted, the USA formed a “Dream Team” for the 1992 games held in Barcelona. Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley were all on the team

This team, full of incredible basketball players, defeated their opponents at the Olympics by an average of 44 points per game. The 1992 USA Men's Olympic Basketball Team won Gold, defeating Croatia 177-85. 

Christmas Eve Games

christmas basketball.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

It’s not uncommon to catch a football game on Christmas Eve, but the NBA has only played two games on December 24th over its 70+ years of play. Christmas Day, on the other hand, sees several teams take to the courts.

Dennis Rodman Married 

Dennis Rodman and Marcus Schenkenbergat day four of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall Collection. Smashbox Studios, Culver City, CA. 03-21-07
Photo credit: s_bukley-Depositphotos

Dennis Rodman is one the most colorful NBA players of all time. He’s known for his off-court antics, including his 1996 wedding…to himself. Rodman dressed in a wedding gown with a blonde wig declared he was bi-sexual and “married” himself.

The Most Missed Shots

kobe bryant playing basket ball.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

The legendary Kobe Bryant takes this record with 14,481 missed shots during his tenure in the NBA.

However, he also made 11,718 shots, amassing 33,643 points in his career, making him third on the list of all-time NBA points scorers.

Shaquille O’Neal Only Made a Single 3-Pointer 

kobe bryant playing basket ball.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

While Shaq is a legend, making 11,130 shots over his 19-year career with six teams, he only managed one 3-pointer of the 22 he attempted. It took place on February 16, 1996, with just 2 seconds left on the clock.

The Full Name of the New York Knicks!

Man wearing Knickerbockers for cycling.
Photo Credit: Mr Michael Phams (Michael Pham), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Knickerbockers – the full name of this NBA team comes from pants that Dutch New Yorkers used to wear. The term, knickerbocker, became a nickname for anyone residing in Manhattan. The team adopted the moniker, and the name has stayed with them since 1946.

His Parents Co-signed His Contract

NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers greets Chinese fans at a meeting during his China tour in Guangzhou city, south Chinas Guangdong province, 29 July 2010.
Photo credit: ChinaImages-Depositphotos

He was the 13th pick in the 1996 draft, but he wasn’t yet 18 years old and not eligible for the NBA under the rules of the time. But that didn’t stop him. Kobe Bryant’s parents cosigned his contract, beginning his career with the Charlotte Hornets before an immediate trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. He turned 18 later that year.

Height Matters

Tall and short basketball players standing next to each other.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

With around 8 billion people on the planet, it’s estimated that 2800 of them measure over 7’. Of those, 17% played in the NBA. If you happen to be over 7 feet tall, your odds of playing in the NBA are far higher than average.

Minutes Without Scoring

Nba Star Dennis Rodman Pro Ball Legend.
Photo credit: ChinaImages-Depositphotos

Not once, but twice. Chandler Wilson and Dennis Rodman played 48 minutes without scoring a single point. Rodman at least tried, but he missed the single shot he attempted.

Live Bat Stopped the Game

Spurs coyote holding up a net on basketball court after catching a bat.
Photo Credit: screenshot via Casey_Viera Twitter

It was Halloween 2009. The San Antonio Spurs and the Sacramento Kings were in the midst of the game when a bat swooped down from the rafters, interrupting the game. Batman..actually Spurs guard Manu Ginobili…came to the rescue, slapping the bat out of midair. The game continued. Bats continue to interrupt Spurs’ games as recently as January 2024. Luckily, there's now a bat-catching coyote always at the ready.

Youngest MVP

NBA star Derrick Rose of Minnesota Timberwolves plays basketball.
Photo credit: ChinaImages-Depositphotos

During the 2010-11 season, Chicago Bulls player, Derrick Rose, averaged 25 points per game with 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. He rose to fame at the age of 22 to be the youngest player to receive the MVP nod.

Oldest MVP 

Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz
Photo credit: ProShooter-Depositphotos

At the age of 35, Karl Malone was the oldest player to capture the MVP award during his time with the Utah Jazz in the 1998-99 season. He averaged 23.8 points with 9.4 rebounds and 44.1 assists per game.

The Biggest and Most Expensive Ring

Picture on the buss as the Toronto Raptors hold their victory parade after beating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in Toronto. June 17, 2019.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Every championship team not only scores the title but also a custom-designed championship ring. The Milwaukee Bucks' 2021 ring is estimated to have cost just over $40,000. But the Toronto Raptors' 2019 prize-winner rings in at an estimated $150,000.

Women’s NBA

Woman with image of basketball superimposed on her face.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Basketball obviously isn’t just for men. In 1996 the WNBA formed with 12 teams. It wasn’t the first professional women’s basketball league, but it was the first to receive endorsement from the NBA.

More Sports Trivia

Jerry Rice Catching a football during super bowl.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

If you're a sports trivia fan, you might also enjoy testing your knowledge with our collection of Super Bowl Trivia Facts.

Author: Todd Rowley

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Todd Rowley is a copywriter and content writer. He’s an unabashed introvert, an only child with a curious spirit, and a lover of the Oxford comma. Originally educated as a Child and Youth Worker - spending more than 25 years in the field - he also dabbled in Religious Education and Communications Studies.