The New NBA: Reordering History


Here is a proposal that we only reference and use NBA achievements and statistics starting from the first season after the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, everything before should be disregarded. This means that Karl Malone, not Kareem is first on the all time scoring list, the Los Angeles Lakers not the Boston Celtics are the most successful franchise of all time with 10 championships, Kobe's 81 is the most points ever scored in a game and Russell Westbrook is the only player to have averaged a triple double over an entire season. Why the 1976 season, and why disregarded everything before, leaving out greats like Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell? Well, let me explain.

The NBA as currently advertised was established in 1946 with 5'9" white men dribbling around each other in short shorts. The inaugural season ended with the Warriors, then located in Philadelphia, winning the championship of what was an 11-team league with each team playing 60 games. The first game ended with the New York Knicks defeating the Toronto Huskies 68-66. Joe Fulks was the top scorer for the season with 23 points a game and no team averaged more than 80 points a game. However, after that initial season there would be an explosion in scoring.

The first 30 years of the NBA leading up to the 1976 season were full of outrageous numbers and incredible individual and collective achievements. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game while averaging 50 points a game in the 1961-62 season; Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics won 11 championships over a 13-year span and Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double in just his second year in the league. These were incredible but also extremely inflated and diluted achievements.

It would be ignorant to simply set aside some of the incredible achievements during this era but it is important to look at things from the proper perspective. The majority of the NBA records still standing today are from that era. Wilt's 100 has been around for 57 years, all 10 of the highest scoring team seasons are from that time, all 10 of the highest rebounding seasons are from that time along with a bevy of other records. So why were these players so incredible? It's not that players in that era were so much more talented than today or that they had some secrete juice that made them superior, no, the true reason is that they played in an inferior NBA that allowed for arcade like numbers.

Multiple NBA franchises also benefitted greatly from the pre-merger era, mostly, the Boston Celtics. The Boston Celtics won 13 of their 17 championships during this era, due to a scarcity of elite players and teams in the league. What makes the lack of parity so apparent is the fact that nine of their 13 championships in the pre-merger era came with less than 10 teams in the league. This was a common occurrence during the period before the merger, dominant performances in a league that never had more than 18 teams, comprised of a handful of black players because the majority of owners refused to sign black athletes.

With these discrepancies taking into account, it is clear that the NBA must follow in the footsteps of the MLB, NFL and other leagues that separate their league's history into two. The NFL for example only refers to records from the Super Bowl era starting with the first Super Bowl season in 1966.

The new NBA would start right after the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, 3 years before Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entered the league. This is fitting when you consider how important Magic and Bird were in revolutionizing the NBA. However, the first true star would be 1977 Finals MVP, Bill Walton, as he led the Portland Trail Blazers to a 4-2 victory in what would be the new inaugural NBA Finals over Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers would go on to make a few more finals in the next decade but that period was dominated by the Magic Johnson led Los Angeles Lakers.

The post-merger era would recognize only 14 franchises with the 42 NBA Championships. The Los Angeles Lakers would have by far the most championship with ten, the Chicago Bulls would be second with 6 thanks to Michael Jordan, the Spurs would be the third most storied franchise with five and the Boston Celtics would have four.

The biggest change would occur in the record books, particularly single game records. Kobe's 81 is now the most points ever scored in a game, and Moses Malone would have the record for most rebounds in a game at 37 as opposed to Wilt's 55 along with many other changes.

This is not suggesting that we forget about the great teams or the great players from the pre-merger era but that we look at them in a different light. We look at it as the same sport but a different standard, similar to the way the NBA looks at ABA achievements, recognized but not acknowledged. The NBA as we know it today started in 1976 and here are a few of the statistical changes that would recognize that:


1. Karl Malone                   36,928                              

2. Kobe Bryant                   33,643                                       

3. Michael Jordan              32,292                          

4. LeBron James                 31,832                             

5. Dirk Nowitzki                 31,189                                  

6. Shaquille O'Neal            28,956                             

7. Moses Malone                 27,409                                

8. Hakeem Olajuwon         26,946                         

9. Dominique Wilkins       26,668                           

10. Tim Duncan                  26,496                         


1. Kobe Bryant                    81

2. David Thompson           73

3. David Robinson              71

4. Devin Booker                  70

5. Michael Jordan               69

6. Pete Maravich                 68

7. Kobe Bryant                     65

8. Michael Jordan               64

9. George Gervin                63

10. Michael Jordan             63      


Los Angeles Lakers                  10

Chicago Bulls                             6

San Antonio Spurs                    5

Boston Celtics                            4

Golden State Warriors              3

Miami Heat                                 3

Detroit Pistons                           3

Houston Rockets                        1

Cleveland Cavaliers                   1

Portland Trail Blazers               1

WashingtonWizards                  1

Oklahoma City Thunder           1  

Philadelphia 76ers                     1

Dallas Mavericks                        1 

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