NBA At 75: What to expect at the league’s 100th anniversary

Apr 7, 2022, 11:47 PM | Updated: 11:54 pm
FILE - The NBA Championship trophy is on display at the public celebration in Miami for the Miami H...

FILE - The NBA Championship trophy is on display at the public celebration in Miami for the Miami Heat after the team won the championship June 25, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)

It was David Stern’s running joke. He would get asked when the NBA would be adding a European division and his answer was almost always the same.

“In 10 years,” the then-commissioner of the NBA would say.

Thing is, it wasn’t intended to be a joke. Stern was always looking ahead, looking for the next thing, the next innovation to keep the league moving. He oversaw expansion, pushed toward getting the league on television around the world, found ways to take revenues to record levels.

It took more than 4,700 players and nearly 14 million points to get to this spot, but the 75th anniversary season for the National Basketball Association is winding down. Nobody knows for certain where the NBA will be in 25 years, when it’ll be celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The only safe bet is that things will be very, very different.

A play-in postseason tournament was added in recent years. An in-season tournament is probably coming in the next couple years. By the 100th anniversary, having more teams seems certain. Seeing more women in leadership roles, on the court and off, also seems certain.

Maybe a 4-point shot gets added. Robot referees. The possibilities are endless, especially in a wildly and rapidly changing world where technology evolves constantly and ideas flow just as quickly.

“You could have a separate league,” Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said. “There are obviously leagues in Europe. But you have to say, ‘What’s the purpose? Do you want the best players from Europe to play in Europe or do you want them to come to United States and play in the greatest league in the world?’ I think the answer is the latter, because you want to see the best of the best play against each other. To have an NBA team in London would be nuts; the travel would wipe people out, so you’re not going to do that.”

Where Ballmer sees change coming is in the way the game is experienced.

Technology, he insists — and believes — is everything. Technology is what truly allowed the game to grow, because NBA games can now be watched on phones and tablets in just about all corners of the world.

“I think the broadcast, the way we think about the broadcast, the way we use technology in the broadcast to enhance the broadcast and make it more social … I think that will be dramatically different,” Ballmer said. “I think the stadium experiences will be dramatically different, but the broadcast is where I think … there won’t be a broadcast anymore, it will be a digital interaction.”

Innovations in travel — faster planes, for example — could change the way games are scheduled. Innovations in fitness could allow players to recover more quickly. The ball could become some sort of computerized tracking device. Virtual reality, something that only a small percentage of people experience now, might be something more mainstream by then, allowing fans to have a true in-arena feel without leaving their home.

It will be different.

Oscar Robertson only hopes the decision-makers in 2047 treat the league with the same reverence as was the case at its 25th anniversary, its 50th anniversary and now as the league celebrates its 75th.

“The game is a great game,” the Hall of Famer said. “The 3-point shot is electrifying … and the fans love it. As long as the fans want the game, it’s going to be fine. I just hope the players and owners get together and keep it at the top of the list.”

Nobody knows what will happen. But the players of now are laying the groundwork for whatever will come, just as the players of yesterday did for the players of today.

The way LeBron James sees things, it’s on each generation to take the game and push it forward.

“It’s a responsibility, for sure,” said James, a four-time champion with Miami, Cleveland and most recently the Los Angeles Lakers. “Somebody did it before me and put it in a position where it was my responsibility to make sure I kept it where it was and also make it even more grand and make it better than what it was and represent this league with the utmost respect.

“I’ve held that title of the ambassador of the league. Nobody ever told me to do it, but I felt like if I wasn’t going to do it, who was going to do it? I took that with a lot of responsibility, and I’ll continue to do it until I’m done playing the game.”

And in 25 years, he hopes — and expects — to see something even better than what the world enjoys now.


More AP NBA: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

              FILE - Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann celebrates after dunking during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, April 3, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
              FILE - Fans cheer after the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA basketball finals, July 20, 2021, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won the NBA championship. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)
              FILE - Philadelphia 76ers' Tyrese Maxey, right, goes up for a shot against Denver Nuggets' Monte Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game, March 14, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
              FILE - Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James in action during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Nov. 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
              FILE - A Black Lives Matter banner hangs outside of the arena after a postponed NBA basketball first round playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. NBA players walked out on playoff games inside the league's bubble against the coronavirus pandemic upset over racial injustice and the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisc. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool, File)
              FILE - Referee Ashley Moyer-Gleich gestures next to Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (3) during the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Washington Wizards and the Warriors, March 27, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
              FILE - Fans watch the Milwaukee Bucks vs. Orlando Magic NBA playoff basketball game on a large TV at a bar across from the Fiserv Forum, Aug. 18, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
              FILE - Then-NBA Commissioner David Stern smiles during a news conference after an NBA board of governors meeting in New York on Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
              FILE - The NBA Championship trophy is on display at the public celebration in Miami for the Miami Heat after the team won the championship June 25, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)


Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
2 days ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
2 days ago
(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
8 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
16 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
16 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
NBA At 75: What to expect at the league’s 100th anniversary