The NBA has grown over the years. Though another expansion will probably come in the next decade, how many teams are there currently in the league?
Whether you’re new to NBA fandom or just blanked on how many teams there are and need a definitive answer, we don’t judge, we just have answers!
Here’s everything you need to know about how many teams are in the NBA, when they came into existence, and some brief history of league mergers and expansions over the years.
How many NBA teams are there?
Entering the 2021-22 season, there are 30 NBA teams, with 15 in the Eastern Conference and 15 in the Western Conference. The conferences are split into three different divisions (five teams each, of course). The East has the Atlantic, Central, and Southeast. The West has the Pacific, Southwest, and Northwest.
Which NBA teams are original NBA teams?
The NBA was once called the BAA (Basketball Association of America) and in 1949 teams from the National Basketball League merged with the BAA. At that time, the league’s name was changed to the NBA.
These 11 teams are original NBA teams:
- New York Knicks
- Boston Celtics
- Golden State Warriors (then the Philadelphia Warriors)
- Los Angeles Lakers (then the Minneapolis Lakers)
- Sacramento Kings (then the Rochester Royals)
- Detroit Pistons (then the Fort Wayne Pistons)
- Atlanta Hawks (then the Milwaukee Hawks)
- Philadelphia 76ers (then the Syracuse Nationals)
Which NBA teams are original ABA teams?
In 1976, the NBA and ABA merged. Four teams came from the ABA to the NBA and still exist in the league today:
- San Antonio Spurs
- Denver Nuggets
- Indiana Pacers
- Brooklyn Nets (then the New York Nets)
The NBA didn’t add the 3-point line (which only existed in the ABA before the merger) until the 1979 season.
Which NBA teams are expansion teams?
The NBA has expanded several times. Though some teams, like the Chicago Bulls, may not be viewed as traditional “expansion franchises” most of the league’s teams were brought in from expansion since only 14 were original NBA or ABA teams.
These are the expansion franchises that preceded the ABA merger:
- Chicago Bulls: 1966
- Houston Rockets (then the San Diego Rockets): 1967
- OKC Thunder (then the Seattle SuperSonics): 1967
- Phoenix Suns: 1968
- Milwaukee Bucks: 1968
- Los Angeles Clippers (then the Buffalo Braves, later the San Diego Clippers): 1970
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 1970
- Portland Trail Blazers: 1970
- Utah Jazz (then the New Orleans Jazz): 1974
And these are the expansion teams more colloquially considered “expansion” teams:
- New Orleans Pelicans (then the Charlotte Hornets): 1988
- Miami Heat: 1988
- Orlando Magic: 1989
- Minnesota Timberwolves: 1989
- Toronto Raptors: 1995
- Memphis Grizzlies (then the Vancouver Grizzlies): 1995
- Charlotte Hornets (then the Charlotte Bobcats): 2004
How many teams have played in Canada?
While the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies currently or once called Canada home, the Los Angeles Clippers have a history there as well. When the Buffalo Braves (now-Clippers) first got started, they were third in line to get the arena behind the Buffalo Sabres and Canisius College. As a result, some Braves games were played in Toronto and overseas to build a stronger, international following.
Where will the NBA expand next?
The NBA could certainly expand again. An increase to 32 teams would put it in line with the number of teams the NFL has. An appetite for basketball exists in Seattle still following the departure of the SuperSonics (now the Thunder). Additionally, though it’s touristy, the Raiders have proven sports can work in Las Vegas, and the league already has roots there since its annual Summer League games are held in Vegas.
A few years back, we at FanSided considered a smaller market like Kansas City as well, putting on a mock expansion between the Seattle Sea Lions and Kansas City Burnt Ends.