In 1949, after a three-year battle to win both players and fans, the rival Basketball Association of America (BAA) and National Basketball League (NBL) merge to form the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The BAA incorporated in 1946, challenging the hegemony of the nine-year old NBL. The BAA established itself in bigger cities than the NBL, which existed only in small Midwestern cities like Fort Wayne, Sheboygan and Akron. While the NBL held its games in small gymnasiums, the upstart BAA played its games in large major-market arenas such as the Boston Garden and New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
On August 3, 1949, representatives from the two leagues met at the BAA offices in New York’s Empire State Building to finalize the merger. Maurice Podoloff, head of the BAA since its inception, was elected head of the new league. The new NBA was made up of 17 teams that represented both small towns and large cities across the country.