Who Won the First-Ever NBA Championship?

There have been some legendary teams to win titles over the years, but only won won the first-ever NBA championship.
The Larry O’Brien Trophy, which the NBA gives to its champion every year. | Mike Calendrillo/Sportscasting

If you’re reading this, you likely have great memories from watching the NBA Finals. There have been some legendary champions over the years.

You may remember when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won all their titles, or the era in which Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six championships. Perhaps you enjoyed watching LeBron James reach nine NBA Finals in 10 years and go to 10 overall.

So, who started it all? What team won the first-ever NBA championship? Here’s your answer.

The Philadelphia Warriors technically won the first-ever NBA championship

The 1946-47 campaign was the first-ever NBA season. Actually, it was the first BAA season (Basketball Association of America), but it turned into the NBA in 1949.

There were only 11 teams in the league, but the Philadelphia Warriors and Chicago Stags were the final two and battled it out in the NBA/BAA Finals.

The Warriors – who went 35-25 during the regular season – took a 3-0 lead in the series, but the Stags – who went 39-22 – won 74-73 in Game 4. As you likely know, there still hasn’t been a team to come back after trailing 3-0 in a playoff series, so Philly closed things out in Game 5. Howie Dallmar’s basket with under a minute left broke an 80-80 tie between the teams, and the Warriors went on to win 83-80 to clinch the NBA’s (or BAA’s) first-ever championship.

Warriors star Joe Fulks led the league in scoring that season with 23.2 points per game. He then averaged 26.2 points in the Finals and had 34 in Game 5.

The Philadelphia Warriors later became the Golden State Warriors and have won four titles since their move to California. They also won another in Philly in 1956.

The Minneapolis Lakers won the first “NBA” championship

The NBA will always consider the 1947 Warriors as their first-ever champion, but the Minneapolis Lakers won the first title after the league changed its name from the BAA to the NBA in 1949-50.

The Lakers, who went 51-17 that year, beat the Syracuse Nationals 4-2 in the Finals. Hall of Famer George Mikan dropped 40 in Game 6 to help clinch the title. Mikan also led the league in scoring that season with 27.4 points per game. It was one of three scoring titles for the 6-foot-10-inch center.

The championship marked the Lakers’ second straight. They also won five of six from 1949 to 1954. Like the Warriors, the team also moved to Cali, becoming the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1960s. They have since won 12 titles in LA.

Whether you consider the Warriors or Lakers the winners of the first-ever NBA championship, the league has certainly come a long way since then. Instead of Joe Fulks and George Mikan, we have Stephen Curry and LeBron James, and we’re all thankful for it.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com

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