Fifty years ago professional basketball was largely a diversion
for cultists, a game played in dimly lit, smoke-filled arenas
that barely made a dent on America's consciousness. Today it is
entertainment for the universe, an ever-expanding empire built
with marketing genius and the telegenic appeal of the most
athletic superstars in sports. As the NBA gets ready to tip off
its golden anniversary season, we take a snapshot look at the
stunning growth of this American success story--from set shots
to slam dunks, from Mikan to Michael...and just about everything
in between.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: GRAPHICS BY NIGEL HOLMES [Timeline charting changes in professional basketball over the fifty-year history of the NBA including salaries, fan attendance, ticket prices, names of teams, number of Black players, average height of players and uniform styles.]