Oldest Teams in the NBA

The National Basketball Association (NBA) can also look back to its historical twists and turns since its inception on June 6, 1946, in the glory days of the Basketball Association of America. It became the NBA as we know it in the merger between BAA and the competing league, National Basketball League (NBL), on August 3, 1949. Today, the NBA is the leading men’s basketball league globally, drawing in fans across the globe each season. Each competing team has its fan base.

The professional basketball league currently comprises 30 teams (29 in the United States and 1 in Canada). Most of these teams have had a history playing in the NBL that dates back before the merger. Some of the teams we see competing today are as old as the association itself – even older. If you are wondering what the oldest teams in NBA are, you have come to the right place. 

1. SACRAMENTO KINGS (1923)

Sacramento Kings logoSacramento King is the oldest, continuously running team in NBA. The team was named Rochester Seagrams and founded in 1923, playing as a semi-professional team. Aside from the original, the team also took many different names, such as Rochester Eber Seagrams, Rochester Pros, Rochester Royals, Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City-Omaha Kings, and Kansas City Kings. In 1985, they finally settled for their current team name.

The Kings only won a single championship title despite being the oldest NBA team with the New York Knicks as their contender in 1951.

2. DETROIT PISTONS (1941)

Detroit Pistons logo

Detroit Pistons is also one of the teams born ahead of the NBA. Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, the team’s first name, was founded in Fort Wayne in Indiana in 1941 as part of the NBL. The team retained its residency in NBL until the merger that formed the NBA. The Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons changed its name to Detroit Pistons after moving from Fort Wayne to Detroit. Tom Gores currently owns the Pistons. It currently holds two NBL titles (1944 and 1945) and three NBA championships (1989, 1990, 2004).

3. BOSTON CELTICS (1946)

Boston Celtics logoThe Boston Celtics are among the original eight teams in BAA before the merger. It is also one of the teams which never changed its name. Founded in 1946, the Celtics has earned the reputation of being the most successful basketball team in the history of the NBA. The team’s 17 championship titles, about 23.9 percent of all NBA championships, prove their supremacy.

4. NEW YORK KNICKS (1946)

The Knicks is also one of the original teams in BAA. The team has always been called New York Knickerbockers, or simply Knicks. Since its birth in 1946, the Knickers have always played its home games at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks belongs to the two original NBA teams based in its actual city, alongside Boston Celtics.

5. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (1946)

The Golden State Warriors were initially known as Philadelphia Warriors (1946–1962) and San Francisco Warriors (1962–1971). The Warriors won the inaugural BAA championship in 1947, which is technically the NBA’s first championship. The team struggled during the 1980s and became playoffs regular in the decades that follow. In 2015, the Warriors reclaimed the championship glory with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. They clinched the title again in 2017 and 2018.

6. ATLANTA HAWKS (1946)

The team played as Buffalo Bisons back in their early days in the NBL. But, more than a month after taking the name, they moved to Moline, Illinois, subsequently changing the team’s name to Tri-City Blackhawks. The Blackhawks joined the NBA due to the merger and stayed in Moline for quite a while. In 1968, the team made its final move to Atlanta, changing its name to Atlanta Hawks.

7. LOS ANGELES LAKERS (1947)

The Los Angeles Lakers is a survivor in the first few decades of the NBA. Hence, it is also one of the longest-operating teams in the basketball league. Founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Lakers were initially known as Minneapolis Lakers. In 1948, the team joined the BAA, clinched five of the next six championship games. Los Angeles Lakers currently holds the title for the longest winning streak in NBA, with 33 straight games during the 1971–72 season.

8. WASHINGTON WIZARDS (1961)

Formerly known as Chicago Packers, the Washington Wizards was founded in 1961, and just like some basketball teams, it underwent several name changes over its career. The names include Chicago Zephyrs, Baltimore Bullets, Capital Bullets, and Washington Bullets. The terms, however, have met controversies, such that the word ‘Bullets’ had rather violent implications in it, as is ‘Wizards,’ which raised eyebrows because the term had a cultural reference to the Ku Klux Klan. Washington happens to be home to a vastly African American population. Nevertheless, the name Wizards stuck as the team’s nickname.

9. CHICAGO BULLS (1966)

We can all agree that Chicago Bulls is one of the most famous teams in NBA history. The team rode towards victory with the arrival of the legendary Michael Jordan in 1984. Years later, the Bulls would have to taste their golden years, winning six NBA championship titles between 1991 and 1998. Jordan, Scottie Pippen, together with coach Phil Jackson led the team.

10. HOUSTON ROCKETS (1967)

Initially formed as an expansion team in 1967, the then-San Diego Rockets did not perform that much during its early years in San Diego. About four years later, the group moved to Houston, where it somehow improved. However, they weren’t able to clinch championship titles until the 1976–77 season – after trading for the All-Star center Moses Malone. The Rockets are best known for popularizing the use of advanced statistical analytics in acquiring players and playstyle.