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The Rise of the National Basketball Associationby David George Surdam
Synopses & Reviews
Today's National Basketball Association commands millions of spectators worldwide, and its many franchises are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But the league wasn't always so successful or glamorous: in the 1940s and 1950s, the NBA and its predecessor, the Basketball Association of America, were scrambling to attract fans. Teams frequently played in dingy gymnasiums, players traveled as best they could, and their paychecks could bounce higher than a basketball. How did the NBA evolve from an obscure organization facing financial losses to a successful fledgling sports enterprise by 1960?
Drawing on information from numerous archives, newspaper and periodical articles, and Congressional hearings, The Rise of the National Basketball Association chronicles the league's growing pains from 1946 to 1961. David George Surdam describes how a handful of ambitious ice hockey arena owners created the league as a way to increase the use of their facilities, growing the organization by fits and starts. Rigorously analyzing financial data and league records, Surdam points to the innovations that helped the NBA thrive: regular experiments with rules changes to make the game more attractive to fans, and the emergence of televised sports coverage as a way of capturing a larger audience. Notably, the NBA integrated in 1950, opening the game to players who would dominate the game by the end of the 1950sdecade: Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Oscar Robertson. Long a game that players loved to play, basketball became a professional sport well supported by community leaders, business vendors, and an ever-growing number of fans.
The National Football League has long reigned as Americaand#8217;s favorite professional sports league. In its early days, however, it was anything but a dominant sports industry, barely surviving World War II. Its rise began after the war, and the 1950s was a pivotal decade for the league. Run to Glory and Profits tells the economic story of how in one decade the NFL transformed from having a modest following in the Northeast to surpassing baseball as this countryand#8217;s most popular sport.
To break from the margins of the sports landscape, pro football brought innovation, action, skill, and episodic suspense on and#8220;any given Sunday.and#8221; These factors in turn drove attendance and rising revenues. Team owners were quick to embrace television as a new medium to put the league in front of a national audience. Based on primary documents, David George Surdam provides an economic analysis in telling the business story behind the NFLand#8217;s rise to popularity. Did the leagueand#8217;s vaunted competitive balance in the decade result from its more generous revenue sharing and its reverse-order draft? How did the league combat rival leagues, such as the All-America Football Conference and the American Football League? Although strife between owners and players developed quickly, pro-football fans stayed loyal because the product itself remained so good.
About the Author
David George Surdam is an associate professor of economics at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the author of Wins, Losses, and Empty Seats: How Baseball Outlasted the Great Depression and The Postwar Yankees: Baseballand#8217;s Golden Age Revisited, both available from the University of Nebraska Press.
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