Academic journal article The Historian

The Rise of the National Basketball Association

Academic journal article The Historian

The Rise of the National Basketball Association

Article excerpt

The Rise of the National Basketball Association. By David George Surdam. (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2012. Pp. viii, 247. $25.00.)

David George Surdam, professor of economics, explores how the National Basketball Association (NBA) survived its humble origins to develop into something resembling the professionally organized league that it is today. An expert on the economics of professional sports, Surdam focuses his study on the business of basketball, or, more precisely, how entrepreneurs in the years following World War II--between 1946 and 1962--turned the game of basketball into a business.

Drawing upon extensive statistical research that he organizes into thirty-three separate tables in the book's second appendix, Surdam discusses how team owners sometimes deftly, and other times clumsily, managed to turn franchises that routinely ran in the red into a stable league by the middle of the 1950s.

The NBA began as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) with teams in major cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. A rival league known as the National Basketball League (NBL) focused on smaller cities like Toledo, Fort Wayne, Youngstown, and Oshkosh. Before the 1949-1950 season, the BAA absorbed five teams from the NBL, forming the NBA. Surdam shows that despite the differences in the sizes of their markets, all teams faced a similar set of economic strains related to player salaries, attendance, potential revenue sharing, arena rental, and transportation.

Surdam's study reveals how NBA owners managed to maintain a certain level of stability against a number of odds. …

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