Guide to Basketball
Professional basketball is made up of four quarters lasting 12 minutes each. Five players on each team are on the court at the same time. The point of the game is to shoot a basketball in a hoop to get the most baskets (and the most points). A basket counts as either two or three points, depending on how far the shooter was from the basket they hit the shot. Courtside seats gives fans unprecedented access to the players, so basketball brings out celebrity sightings like no other sport. Just check out the dynamic combo of Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Tracy Morgan and Leslie Jones catching a NY Knicks game. Can we get in on that or what?
How is it organized?
The highest level of the sport is the National Basketball Association aka NBA and the Women's National Basketball Association aka the WNBA. Let's start with the NBA. The league is divided into two conferences (East and West), and each of those conferences are further divided into three divisions. There are 30 teams in the league, including 29 in the U.S. and one in Canada.
The best of the best
The reigning NBA champions are the LA Lakers. The Lakers claimed their 17th (!!!) NBA title in franchise history during the NBA’s historic 2020 bubble season played at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Superstar LeBron James led his Lakers squad, earning NBA Finals MVP honors by averaging nearly 30 points per game throughout the Finals. King James became the first player to ever win the MVP honors with three different franchises. True royalty.
James had some help from teammate Anthony “The Brow” Davis, who averaged 25 points throughout the Finals. Talk about a dynamic duo.
The 2020 bubble season was historic for many reasons, most notably the wildcat strikes for social justice which nearly ended the season midway through the playoffs. With these strikes and calls to action, these players and franchise put social justice at the forefront all season long.
In addition to King James and Davis, the league’s most notable stars also include 2019-20 league MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo (pronounced YAWN-IS ANT-TET-TO-KOOM-PO), who could stir up some drama by joining a new team this offseason, and Houston Rockets guard James “The Beard” Harden.
When does the next NBA season start?
The 2019-20 NBA season ended on October 11th, right around when the new season would typically begin. It took some negotiating, but we officially have a start date for the 2020-21 season: December 22nd. It's a Christmas miracle!
Although this season won't be played in a bubble, things will still look a bit different. Most notably, each team will play 72 games as opposed to the standard 82. Exact schedule details (including fan attendance policies) are still TBD, but we're already counting down the days until tip-off.
Play like a girl (it’s better that way)
The WNBA is one of the best professional sports leagues for women in North America as these basketball bosses actually get airtime on top sports networks. Keep your eye on:
- WNBA legend and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks)
- 2018 league MVP and 2020 Finals MVP Breanna Stewart, who led her Seattle Storm to their fourth (!!!) title in franchise history.
- Reigning WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces. Last season, Wilson lifted the Aces to a WNBA-best 18-4 record.
- 2020 No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty, who will be returning from a heart-breaking season-ending injury. We can't wait to see her back out on the court!
Wow! Can I get more info on the WNBA?
Absolutely! The WNBA season (typically) runs from May until late September or early October, with each of the 12 teams playing 34 regular-season games. The league has actually been around since 1997, though only three teams remain from inception: the New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury. Go deeper on how the league is organized here.
These women still have a long way to go before reaching parity with their professional male counterparts. But thanks to 87 nationally televised regular season games (more of this, please!), the WNBA saw an incredible 68% increase in viewership during the 2020 season. Amazing what happens when you put women's sports on TV!
And prior to the historic wubble season, we finally saw the WNBA bet on itself by signing a groundbreaking new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will significantly benefit the players. Among other things, players receive an increase in salary that improves the average compensation from $79k to $130k (!!!) with the league’s top players set to earn $500k — more than three times the previous maximum. Cardi B would be so proud.
- It also includes added bonuses for top players, guaranteed fully paid maternity leave, better travel conditions and mental health resources. And maybe the most notable addition: access to offseason job opportunities with the league to limit the number of women playing in leagues overseas to make ends meet, which has become a nagging necessity for WNBA players. Can we get a hell yeah?!
There’s obviously still a long way to go before there’s parity with the men’s professional leagues. That being said, this is a BFD — the WNBA listened to its players and took their input into account more than ever before. It’s refreshing to see a league partner with its players and bet on its women to move closer to closing the inequality gaps that still exist in women’s sports.
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