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Major Events in Basketball History

Scoring the winning points at a basketball game

If you know your basketball history, then you know there are so many major events in basketball history that it would be almost impossible to cover the biggest and best games, changes, and developments, but I’ll give it a shot and go over some of the most memorable to date and the biggest players in the history of the NBA. If you’re a true basketball fan, then you’ve probably witnessed some important moments over the years, from Jordan and Magic going head to head, to the Lakers winning championship after championship. But let’s delve into the biggest and most important moments, the ones that changed the game forever.


Major events in basketball history all really began with its invention in 1891 by a teacher named James Naismith. From there, the formation of the National Basketball Association launched a sport that would take the world by storm. Players including Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant would create the basketball player superstar who would inspire millions of fans. These players each contributed something to the game, leading their teams to championships, but they also made history by creating their own shoe lines, bringing worldwide attention to the NBA, and with the formation of the Dream Team which dominated the Olympics in Spain in the 90s. Over the years, the game has seen many changes and important players come and go, but these hall of famers are what have inspired our children, and high school and college aged students to shoot for the stars and continue to keep the game of basketball alive.

The Rise of the NBA

The Rise of the NBA

The NBA was formed back in 1946 starting off as the Basketball Association of America, before it merged with the National Basketball League in 1949 and changed its name to the National Basketball Association, becoming one of the four major sports organizations. The early years of the organization were dominated by the Lakers who won a total of five championships, until the Boston Celtics took it from there, remaining on top for a total of eleven years.

Wilt Chamberlain: The 100 Point Game

In 1962 on March 2, Wilt Chamberlain made basketball history by scoring a total of one hundred points in a single game. This is a game that’s still talked about to this day, but unfortunately, there were no video recordings of the game. The game itself was against the Philadelphia Warriors and the New York Knicks. To this day, while some players have come close, there is yet to be another player who has scored a total of one hundred points in a single game.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird: The Biggest Rivalry

In the 1980s, the league experienced a whole new level of popularity, thanks to the rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. These two were constantly going at it on and off the court and really showed the world what competitive sports were all about. Thanks to this rivalry, the NBA was more popular than ever. This rivalry eventually led to TV deals and a wave of expansion.

Michael Jordan

Arguably, Michael Jordan is considered one of the best basketball players of all time. In the 1990s if you didn’t know who Michael Jordan was, then you must have been living under a rock. Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to the finals year after year. His accomplishments include being the MVP five times in a row, earning defensive player of the year, playing in the NBA all-star team fourteen times, and receiving ten scoring titles, not to mention being the NBA finals MVP six times, and winning a total of six championships for the Bulls.


Dream Team

The international governing body of basketball call FIBA, decided to allowed players in the NBA to compete in international tournaments and the Dream Team was born. The Dream Team played in the 1992 Olympics and included the best basketball players in the world including:

  • Jordan
  • Drexler
  • Barkley
  • Mullins
  • Ewing
  • Bird
  • Johnson
  • Malone
  • Stockton
  • Pippen
  • Laettner

Obviously, the Dream Team would dominate the Olympics where they won each game by at least forty-four points. This type of international exposure caused the entire world to sit up and take notice of this type of talent.

The NBA is Broadcasted in China

The NBA is Broadcasted in China

For the first time in 1994, China aired every championship NBA game live. This was one of the biggest signs that there was a rising interest in the sport. In 1995, the Chinese Basketball Association was formed and has remained one of the most vibrant overseas professional leagues that consists of players who didn’t make the NBA cut.

Yao Ming

Before the Dream Team broke open the floodgates at the Olympics in Spain, international players were already part of the NBA. But after the Dream Team, the organization saw more international players emerge on a whole new level. In 2002, the seven-foot six-inch tall Chinese center named Yao Ming made his first appearance in Houston Texas as part of the Rockets. While it’s true that there were more successful international players than Ming, Yao was definitely an instant icon who gave millions of fans in China just another reason to follow the NBA. While he only played a total of eight seasons, due to an injury that shortened his career, he was able to make it to the finals a total of four times and had a major cultural impact on the sport. In 2016 he was inducted into the NBA hall of fame, right alongside Shaquille O’Neal.

Shaquille O’Neal

In 2000 he was one of the biggest, baddest players in the NBA. He led the Lakers by dominating the defending team with his powerful slam dunks that no other player was able to intervene or challenge in any way, shape, or form. He had a pretty impressive career, earning an average of seventeen rebounds and thirty-eight points per game.

Kobe Bryant

The early 2000s were dominated by Kobe Bryant and Shaq. They crushed team after team, winning championships and forming an iconic duo that no other team could match in terms of skill, power, and on the court chemistry. In 2006, Kobe Bryant became the closest player to beating Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game, earning a total of eighty-one points, making it one of the greatest single-game performances in modern basketball history. In 2016, Bryant finally retired after winning a total of five championships and participating in eighteen all-star games.

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Lebron James

James is currently one of, if not the, biggest name in basketball today. He first came to fame after skipping college and joining the Cleveland Cavs. Next, he led the Heat to two NBA championship titles before he joined the Lakers in 2018. Like Jordan, he’s also had major success with his shoe line, with the Nike Lebron Soldier XI Mens Basketball Shoes, which are considered the best basketball shoes for ankle support to date.

The NBA Today

As you can see, the introduction of certain iconic players is what has changed basketball the most over the years. Jordan’s era remains the most popular, mainly since he was really the first basketball superstar we had ever seen. He had clothing lines, shoe lines, movie deals, and too many product endorsements to count. But as he grew older, new players such as Bryant and Lebron took over and the game was never the same. These days, basketball still remains one of the most popular major sports. However, for many fans,  the Jordan years are still considered the golden era of basketball.

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Related Questions

When Was Basketball Invented?

Basketball was invented back in 1891 by a man named James Naismith. He created the basis of what basketball is today, with many of the same rules still in effect, although how the game is played has changed over the decades. To learn more, click here to read my article on the history of basketball.

Who Was the Biggest Player in Basketball History?

The answer to this question is debatable. Some fans will immediately say Wilt Chamberlain, while others will argue that Michael Jordan is the player that brought the organization to world fame with his movies, shoe line, and product endorsements. Younger fans will swear Kobe Bryant is the biggest basketball legend of all time. While it’s true that each of these major players changed the world of basketball, Michael Jordan was probably the most successful. Despite the fact that he’s retired, basketball fans of every age know who he is as he continues to take part in the sport on some level and has produced his popular Air Jordan shoe line, year after year.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there have been several major players in the game that changed how we play basketball today, and really, what has made the NBA the success it is. Each decade has seen the rise of many important stars who have been part of major events in basketball history. From Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, these superstars have continued to keep the game alive, inspiring millions of people all over the world.