How Many Teams Are There in the NBA? A Complete Overview of the NBA's League Structure - Newport Paper House


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How Many Teams Are There in the NBA? A Complete Overview of the NBA's League Structure

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. With 30 teams across the two countries, the NBA has grown into a massive organization since its founding in 1946. But for those new to following the league, the number of teams and overall structure can be confusing.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide a complete overview of how many teams there are in the NBA and how the league is organized from top to bottom.

A Brief History of the NBA's Formation

The NBA was founded in 1946 in New York City as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The original league consisted of 11 teams, with most located in major cities along the East Coast. After a few years, the BAA merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1949 to form the NBA we know today.

Over the next few decades, the NBA steadily expanded by adding new franchises in cities across the United States. The league grew to 18 teams by the end of the 1960s. Further expansion in the 1970s and 1980s brought the total number of NBA teams to 23.

The most recent wave of expansion happened in the late 1980s and 1990s, led by commissioner David Stern. Seven new franchises were added during this period, resulting in the 30-team structure that the NBA maintains in the present day.

Breakdown of Current NBA Teams by Conference and Division

The NBA is made up of 30 teams divided into two conferences - the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Each conference contains three divisions consisting of five teams each.

Here's a breakdown of the current NBA teams by conference and division:

Eastern Conference

  • Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors
  • Central Division: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Southeast Division: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards

Western Conference

  • Northwest Division: Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz
  • Pacific Division: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings
  • Southwest Division: Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs

So in total, there are 15 teams in each conference, with 5 teams in each of the six divisions across the NBA.

Regular Season and Playoff Format

During the regular season, each of the 30 NBA teams plays 82 games from October through April. Teams play more frequently against opponents within their own division and conference.

At the end of the regular season, eight teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs based on regular season record. The three division winners are guaranteed playoff spots. The remaining five spots go to teams with the best records.

The playoffs are conducted in a tournament format consisting of four rounds:

  • First Round: Best-of-seven series played between the #1-#8 seeds, #2-#7 seeds, #3-#6 seeds, and #4-#5 seeds within each conference.
  • Conference Semifinals: Winners from the first round face off in best-of-seven series within their conference.
  • Conference Finals: Winners from the semifinals play in a best-of-seven series to determine the conference champion.
  • NBA Finals: The Eastern Conference champion and Western Conference champion meet in a best-of-seven series to determine the NBA champion.

The playoff format results in a total of 16 teams qualifying, eight from each conference. The team that emerges victorious in the NBA Finals is crowned the NBA Champion for that season.

Key Takeaways on the Number of NBA Teams

  • There are currently 30 NBA teams divided between the Eastern Conference (15 teams) and Western Conference (15 teams).
  • Each conference has three divisions (Atlantic, Central, Southeast in the East; Northwest, Pacific, Southwest in the West).
  • Five teams make up each of the six divisions, so 15 teams per conference.
  • Eight teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs based on regular season records.
  • The NBA Finals pits the Eastern Conference champion against the Western Conference champion.
  • Expansion from the late 1980s through the 1990s resulted in the current 30 team alignment.

So while complex in structure, the NBA stands as a 30-team league housing some of the world's greatest basketball talent. This overview provides useful insight into the makeup of the NBA for any new or casual fan getting acquainted with the league.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Number of NBA Teams

Here are answers to some common FAQs about the number of teams in the NBA:

How many teams are there currently in the NBA?

There are 30 total NBA teams - 15 in the Eastern Conference and 15 in the Western Conference.

How many teams qualify for the NBA playoffs each year?

The NBA playoffs include 16 of the 30 teams, 8 teams from each conference.

How many teams have joined the NBA through expansion?

The NBA has added 24 expansion teams at various points in its history, most recently with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004.

How often does the NBA add new expansion teams?

The NBA has gone through periodic waves of expansion, but there have been no new teams since 2004. Expansion requires approval by the league.

What was the last expansion team added to the NBA?

The Charlotte Bobcats, now known as the Hornets, were the last expansion team added to the NBA in 2004.

How many teams did the original NBA have?

The original NBA started with 17 teams in 1949 after a merger between the BAA and NBL. The original teams were a mix of franchises from the two former leagues.

Has an NBA team ever relocated to a different city?

Yes, several current NBA teams relocated from different cities prior to joining the league. The Lakers, Kings, Hawks, Grizzlies, and Thunder all relocated.

How many NBA teams have folded or been disbanded?

The NBA has had around 10 teams fold throughout its history, mostly during its early years of formation and expansion.

How many teams have won an NBA Championship?

In NBA history, a total of 20 different franchises have won at least one NBA Championship. The Celtics and Lakers have the most with 17 and 16 titles respectively.


The National Basketball Association has experienced dramatic growth from its beginnings with 11 teams in 1946 to the 30 team league it is today. With expanses across the United States and Canada, the NBA stands as one of the most popular professional sports leagues worldwide.

The NBA's 30 teams are divided strategically into two conferences and six divisions to facilitate competitive gameplay and exciting playoffs. Even with a complex structure, the league continues to thrive by showcasing the phenomenal talents of basketball players around the globe.

For any basketball fan, knowing the breakdown of the teams across conferences and divisions is key to following the action. So whether new to the sport or a lifelong NBA aficionado, this overview provides critical insights into the complete structure of the NBA's 30 team league.

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