NBA world has changed since the Milwaukee Bucks’ first NBA title

The Milwaukee Bucks are the 2020-21 NBA champions and have won the second title in franchise history. Entering this season, Milwaukee’s 49-year championship drought was the fifth-longest among active franchises.

Led by Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Roberson, the Bucks’ 1971 title marked the quick championship for a true expansion team in North American sports (three seasons). Milwaukee’s 66 wins during the 1970-71 regular season remain a team record.

Over the last three seasons, Giannis Antetokounmpo has earned regular season MVP honors twice, won finals MVP and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2019-20. Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon are the only other NBA players to earn all three accolades over their career.

With Milwaukee’s newest title now secured, let’s reflect on some notable changes across the NBA since the franchise’s first championship run.

1976: League Expansion & ABA/NBA merger

In 1974, the New Orleans Jazz were admitted to the NBA as an expansion team. Then-rookie guard Pete Maravich, who remains the all-time leading scorer in Division-I hoops, led the team with 21.5 PPG in its inaugural season.

On August 5, 1976, the NBA merged with the rival ABA by absorbing the New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers from the latter league. Overall, between expansion and the merger, 13 franchises joined the NBA since Milwaukee’s 1971 title.

1979: 3-point line is introduced

The league first experimented with the 3-point line on a one-year basis, but it has become an offensive staple since its inception. Teams combined for 64 total 3-pointers during the 1979-80 season.

For context, this past April, Stephen Curry’s 96 3-pointers set an NBA record for the most by any player over a calendar month. His 2,832 triples trail only Ray Allen’s 2,973 for the most in league history.

1984: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passes Wilt Chamberlain in scoring

Over his 20-year career, Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook proved plenty effective in paving his way toward The Big Dipper’s all-time scoring mark.

On April 5, 1984, Abdul-Jabbar used his patented shot in front of a Las Vegas crowd to reach 31,420 career points. His career total of 37,387 remains the NBA record. Likewise for his regular-season MVPs (6) and All-Star appearances (19).

1992: Team USA goes for Olympic gold with pro players

For the first time in history, FIBA allowed NBA players to participate in Olympic tournaments following Team USA’s bronze medal finish in 1988. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were among 11 eventual Hall of Fame players who led Team USA’s 1992 return to gold.

The Dream Team defeated opponents by an average of 43.8 points per game. Its closest contest was a 32-point victory over Croatia in the gold medal game.

1996: The WNBA is introduced

On April 24, 1996, the NBA Board of Governors approved the concept of the Women’s National Basketball Association for play to begin the next year. The league’s eight teams were divided into the Eastern Conference (Charlotte Sting, New York Liberty, Cleveland Rockers and Houston Comets) and Western Conference (Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs and Utah Starzz).

Houston won the WNBA’s first four titles. The 2020 champion Seattle Storm’s fourth championship tied the Comets and Minnesota Lynx for the league record.

1998: End of Jordan-era Bulls

Thanks to Jordan’s iconic top-of-the-key game-winner to cap the 1998 Finals, Chicago clinched its second three-peat over an eight-year span, capping one of the most dominant runs in NBA history. Jordan’s six finals MVPs and 10 scoring titles with the Bulls remain NBA records to this day.

That same year, Kobe Bryant became the only teenager in league history to participate in the All-Star Game. His 33,643 career points surpassed Jordan for the most by any guard and currently rank fourth all-time.

2002: Lakers complete 5th three-peat in league history

Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers eventually secured the fifth and most recent three-peat in NBA history. Shaquille O’Neal joined Jordan as the only players to win three consecutive finals MVP awards. Head coach Phil Jackson finished his career with the most championships.

Over that three-year run, the Lakers led the NBA in regular-season win percentage (.736). That figure improved to .776 in the playoffs, including a 15-1 mark over the 2001 postseason.

Also in 2002, Lisa Leslie became the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game. Michelle Snow, Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner and Elizabeth Cambage have since joined her.

2008: The Redeem Team claims gold

Following its bronze finish at the 2004 Summer Games, USA Basketball revised its selection process to pursue gold once again. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski led a roster comprised of reigning NBA MVP Kobe Bryant and 10 other All-Stars.

Dwyane Wade led the Redeem Team in scoring average (16.0) as the squad defeated opponents by an average of 27.8 points per game. Its average age of 26.0 years is second-youngest among seven U.S. Olympic Teams formed with NBA players since 1992.

2016: LeBron and the Cavaliers overcome 3-1 deficit against 73-9 Warriors

Led by the first-ever unanimous MVP in league history, the 2015-16 Warriors entered the postseason with the best record in NBA history (73-9). In fact, after snapping a 40-year title drought, Golden State became the first team to avoid consecutive losses over an entire regular season.

After overcoming a 3-1 deficit to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors became the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Finals MVP LeBron James became the first player in NBA history to lead all players in a playoff series in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

2019: Toronto Raptors win first title in team history

Golden State bounced back by signing Kevin Durant and winning consecutive titles in 2017 and 2018. The Toronto Raptors, fresh off five straight playoff appearances, traded All-Star DeMar DeRozan for Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who led the franchise to its first-ever NBA title.

Leonard joined James (Heat, Cavaliers, Lakers) and Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers and Bucks) as the only NBA players to win finals MVP with multiple franchises.

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