Skip to Content

How many times has the NBA expanded?

The NBA continues to grow as more fans around the globe start following the league, the global reach attracts more, better, talent and eventually new teams will be needed to keep pace. The NBA has already been shaped by various expansions. 

How many times has the NBA expanded? The NBA has expanded eleven times, including the first year that the NBA was formed. The most recent expansion was in 2004. 

In total, the NBA has officially expanded eleven times as the league also considers the NBAs ‘rebranding’ in 1949 as an expansion. The NBA expanded four times in the 1960s, twice in the 1970s, three times in the 1980s and once in both the 1990s and 2000s. 

When was the first NBA expansion? 

The NBA counts the 1949 creation of the league as the first time that the league expanded. In 1949, ten teams from the BAA and six NBL teams ‘merged’ to form the NBA, with a genuine expansion team joining the league as well. Official NBA history lists this as an expansion, where the BAA assimilated the NBL teams, rather than a merger, like the 1976 joining of the NBA and the ABA.

This creates what many consider as the first NBA season in 1949-50. Official NBA history counts the 1949-50 season as the fourth season of the NBA, recognising the first three BAA seasons as part of the history of the NBA, starting in 1946.

What was the biggest NBA expansion?

As the NBA does not count the 1976 merger with the ABA as an expansion so it means that the 1970 expansion is the biggest. With the NBA looking to expand on the 14 teams already in the league, three new teams were entered into the NBA. These teams were the Buffalo Braves, Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers. 

The Braves ended up playing in Buffalo until 1978 when the team moved to San Diego and became the San Diego Clippers. The Clippers would later move to Los Angeles. The 1970 expansion was also the fifth time that the NBA held an expansion draft where the teams were able to select any non-protected players. 

What was the most recent NBA expansion? 

The most recent NBA expansion was back in 2004. In 2002, the Charlotte Hornets had relocated to New Orleans, becoming the New Orleans Hornets who would go on to become the New Orleans Pelicans. It meant that Charlotte was without an NBA team despite having all of the facilities for one. 

When the Hornets moved to New Orleans, there were pretty much immediately bids coming in for another NBA team to locate in Charlotte. After bids from a Larry Bird-led consortium, the team was sold to BET founder Robert L Johnson. 

It led to the league introducing the Charlotte Bobcats into the NBA, two seasons after the Hornets had left Charlotte. It meant that the NBA expanded to 30 teams for the first time in the league’s history. 

Is the NBA Expanding? 

At the moment, there are no current plans for any more teams to join the NBA. There have been 30 teams in the NBA since the Charlotte Bobcats joined the league in 2004 after the Hornets had moved to New Orleans. At the moment, it does not look like the NBA is planning on expanding. 

The league seems to be pretty happy with 30 teams and there have been very few rumours about any new NBA teams joining the league, but there is a couple of cities that could get an NBA team soon. 

Will Las Vegas get an NBA team? 

It seems likely that in the near future we will see an NBA team in Las Vegas. In the last five years, we have seen professional teams like the NFL‘s Raiders, NHLs Kings and the WNBA’s Aces all call Las Vegas home. 

The rumours around a Las Vegas NBA team have been going on since 2005 when the Sacramento Kings were looking likely to move. It would make sense if it was the Kings were to be the team to move as they are already in California and Sacramento was not a big market. 

Las Vegas is slowly developing the facilities to host an NBA team. One of the main reasons why there have been so many rumours about a team moving to Vegas is because the T-Mobile Arena is already set up perfectly as an NBA area, with the ability to host 18,000 fans for a basketball game. 

Basketball has certainly been popular enough for an NBA team in Las Vegas. The United States men’s team has trained in Las Vegas in the past. Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman has been very positive about the idea, expressing her confidence in an NBA team coming to Vegas. It seems likely that it won’t be long until we have a Las Vegas NBA team. 

Will Seattle get an NBA team? 

The Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder in 2008. Since that move, there have been many rumours about an NBA team returning to Seattle. It is partly because there is still a lot of NBA fans in Seattle who are desperate to see a team return to the city. 

The SuperSonics were pretty successful in their time in Seattle and produced some incredibly exciting basketball through players like Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. The team even brought a championship to Seattle in 1979 through players like Gus Williams, Jack Sikma and Dennis Johnson. 

If the NBA was to return to Seattle, that team could easily play in the same arena the SuperSonics used to play in. The KeyArena has since undergone massive renovations to become the Climate Pledge Arena and it was opened to the public on October 19th 2021. 

At current, the arena already has the facilities for basketball as it hosts the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and the Seattle Redhawks of the NCAA. With a maximum capacity of 18,300 during basketball, it is more than enough to host an NBA team as the arena once did. 

These reasons are why we are seeing so many rumours about a Seattle team returning to the NBA after the current media rights deal expires in 2024. At the moment this is just a rumour as we have yet to have any official announcement from the NBA. But if the league is considering expansion, Seattle will be one of the top options for a new NBA team.