The NBA’s popularity began to grow right from the start. However, the surging popularity of the league was experienced between 1979 and 1998. In 1979, the league introduced the three-point line, which revolutionized the game. It is in that same year that some of the biggest names in NBA’s history, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, joined the NBA. Larry played for the Celtics, and Magic Johnson played for the Los Angeles Lakers. They initiated the growth in fan interest.
In the early 1980s, Dallas Mavericks joined the NBA, bringing the total number of teams to 23. David Stern was appointed to be commissioner of the NBA and did quite a lot to improve the league during his career. In 1984, Michael Jordan, another big name in the NBA, entered the league. He was playing for the Chicago Bulls, and he spurred quite a lot of interest in the league.
The number of teams increased to 27 after Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Orlando Magic joined the league in 1988 and 1989. The additional teams meant increased popularity in the four cities that they came from, and elsewhere.
Inpact of the 1992 Olympic Games
The 1992 Olympics also had a significant impact on the popularity of the NBA. It was the first time the United States used star players from the NBA to form the team that represented the US in the Olympic games. The team was dubbed The Dream Team and included players such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley, among other stars.
The Canadian Connection & the Women’s League
The NBA was expanded to Canada in 1995 when Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies joined the league. In the following year, a women’s league was introduced, which was named the Women’s National Basketball Association. That resulted in additional attention and an increase in the number of NBA fans.