The NBA has become a sprawling juggernaut, spanning out over the globe. The core of the league is still 30 teams playing Basketball games in North America. In order to manage this massive fixture list that spans more than a continent, the 30 NBA teams have traditionally been split into Divisions.
How many NBA teams are in the Atlantic Division? There are 5 teams in the Atlantic Division. The Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks. They compete in the Eastern Conference of the NBA.
The Division system has been around since the inception of the NBA in the 1940’s. The Atlantic Division was formed in 1970, originally consisting of the Celtics, Knicks, 76ers and the now defunct Buffalo Braves.
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The Atlantic Division is currently made up of the following 5 NBA teams;
- Boston Celtics (joined 1970)
- Brooklyn Nets (joined 1976)
- New York Knicks (joined 1970)
- Philadelphia 76ers (joined 1970)
- Toronto Raptors (joined 2004)
The Nets joined the Atlantic Division following the ABA merger in 1976. Over the years they have been known as New York Nets and New Jersey Nets before finally becoming the Brooklyn Nets in 2012.
Despite the city of Toronto being able to lay claim to hosting the first ever official NBA game, the Raptors didn’t join the NBA until 1995. They initially played in the Central Division. The Raptors joined the Atlantic Division in 2004, following the NBA expanding to include the Charlotte Bobcats.
Over the years there have been 10 different teams in the Atlantic Division. Franchises that are no longer part of the Atlantic Division are;
- Buffalo Braves (1970 – 1978)
- Washington Bullets/Wizards (1978 – 2004)
- Charlotte Hornets (1988-89)
- Miami Heat (1989 – 2004)
- Orlando Magic (1991 – 2004)
The Buffalo Braves would relocate to San Diego in 1978, becoming the Clippers (now based in Los Angeles). This would trigger this original member of the Atlantic Division to move to leave, joining the Pacific Division for the start of the 1978-79 season.
The Washington Bullets would replace the Braves in the Atlantic Division in 1978. Competing under the Bullets name until 1997 when they became the Washington Wizards. The Wizards would leave to join the South East Division during the 2004 reshuffle.
The Charlotte Hornets would compete in the Atlantic Division for 1 season following their addition as an expansion team in 1988. They competed in the Midwest Division in the 1989-90 season, before permanently moving to the Central Division from 1990 onwards.
The Miami Heat joined the Atlantic Division from the Midwest in 1989, before leaving for the South East in the 2004 re-shuffle.
The Orlando Magic would compete in the Atlantic Division between 1991 and 2004. Joining from the Midwest and moving on, to join the South East Division.
The Atlantic Division has remained in its current format since 2004, save for the New Jersey Nets becoming the Brooklyn Nets in 2012.
Historically the most successful team in the Atlantic Division has been the Boston Celtics. Winning the Division title 22 times (up until 2020-21 season). The Raptors (7), 76ers (6) and Knicks (5) have also seen some success. Of the 10 Franchises to compete in the Atlantic Division only the Buffalo Braves and Charlotte Hornets (only 1 season) have failed to hoist the metaphorical Division Banner.
While it is not common practice to hang divisional banners and the goal of any competent NBA Franchise is to win the Larry O’brien trophy, there is a certain pride fans can take from knowing they are the best franchise in their Division that year. It’s always good to outdo your neighbors.