The Origins & History of Every NBA Team

See how jerseys have changed over the years

The Origins & History of Every NBA Team

With over seven decades of history, chances are there’s probably a lot you don’t know about the National Basketball Association and its 30 teams. Did you know that the Los Angeles Lakers once called Minnesota home? What about the fact that the Boston Celtics have had 24 players inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame? How about that the Los Angeles Clippers are supposedly cursed?

We’re diving deep into the history of every single current NBA team. You’re going to learn about how the teams came to be who they are today, including how the franchise was created, relocations to new cities, unexpected name changes and evolutions of jerseys and logos.

You’ll find out where your favorite stars hit the court in their home cities, accolades each team brought home and teams that have a solid representation in the Hall of Fame.

So, what do you actually know about the NBA? Let’s find out!


Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder is one of the few teams in the NBA that can pack its stadium for home games during both losing and winning seasons. So how did a team that’s only been known as the Oklahoma City Thunder for 12 years secure such a loyal fan base? You’re about to learn everything there is to know about the new Oklahoma City Thunder, including the history of the team, the arenas the team has played in, and the logo changes during the years.

The Beginning Years

Before the Oklahoma City Thunder existed, they were the SuperSonics, a professional basketball team based out of Seattle, Washington in 1967. The team was established with the help of Los Angeles businessmen by the names of Eugene V. Klein and Sam Schulman, who also happened to be owners of the San Diego Chargers down in California. The name “SuperSonics” came from a potential plane design by airplane manufacturer, Boeing.

Under the leadership of head coach Al Bianchi, the SuperSonics claimed their first victory as a team during their third game of the 1967 season. Though the team ended the season with a dismal 23-59 record with the help of Walt Hazzard, the team would come to fill the roster with the likes of Lenny Wilkens and Bob Rule. Both would go on to score over 20 points per game and would both see playing time in the 1970 NBA All-Star Game.

With the help of new head coach Bill Russell, the SuperSonics were able to secure their first playoff slot during the 1975 season. The coaching staff was then twice upheaved during the next few seasons, eventually settling on former SuperSonics player Lenny Wilkens as the head coach for the team. The team won what would be the team’s only NBA Championship in the 1979 season against the Washington Bullets.


As the Seattle SuperSonics, the team frequently shifted from one logo to another.

Between 1968 and 1970, the SuperSonics logo was entirely green and white. The logo includes what appears to be a space needle (which was built in Seattle in 1861) as well as a green basketball alongside the name “Seattle SuperSonics.”
In 1971, the team logo was simplified to a simple green basketball with “Seattle SuperSonics” engraved on the front.
The team logo adopted more of a retro-style in 1972, using modern lettering for the time.
Between 1976 and 1995, the Seattle SuperSonics logo transitioned to more of a skyline view of Seattle infused into a basketball, this time adding the color yellow to the logo in the background.
By 1996, the logo changed again to add orange and red to the logo while also stylizing the letter “I” in “Sonics” with the Seattle Space Needle. The “Super” aspect of the name was dropped, simply referring to the team as the Seattle Sonics.
In the final logo as the SuperSonics starting in 2002, the logo returned to the green, yellow, and white design. This final SuperSonics logo plays around with new fonts and includes a stylized letter “S” atop of a yellow basketball on a green background.
Since being known as the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, the team has used this logo. It shifts toward blue and orange coloring with large “Thunder” written on top and “OKC” over the basketball design in the center.

Chesapeake Energy Arena

Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Сapacity: 18,203


While playing as the Seattle SuperSonics, the team frequently moved back and forth between arenas. That includes the Seattle Center Coliseum from 1967 to 1978 and then the Kingdome until 1985. The SuperSonics then moved back to the Seattle Center Coliseum until 1994 and played briefly at the Tacoma Dome for a year in 1995 as the previous arena was being renovated. The team returned to the newly renovated Seattle Center Coliseum, the KeyArena, until the team formally left the region in 2008. The Thunder have played at the Chesapeake Energy Arena since 2008.

Famous Fans

The Thunder have a pretty solid celebrity fan base, despite playing quite far from the hub of celebrities (Hollywood). Celebrities like Nas, Bill Hader, and Kristin Chenoweth are proud Thunder fans. 50 Cent, Paul McCartney, and Kate Upton have been seen at games as well.

Retired Numbers and Hall of Famers

The 1970s and 1980s held some of the greatest seasons in SuperSonics history. After such success in post-season play, the team honored the commitments of 6 powerhouses on the court by retiring their jerseys forever. Since relocating to Oklahoma City and renaming the team the “Thunder,” 1 additional jersey has been retired. The retired jerseys include:

Gus Williams
Nick Collison
Nate McMillan
Lenny Wilkens
Spencer Haywood
Fred Brown
Jack Sikma

As impressive as seven retired jerseys is for an NBA team, it’s important to point out that the Thunder also have had 11 players inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. That includes player/coach Lenny Wilkens, who played for the SuperSonics for a period of 3 years and later went on to coach the team for several years into the late 1980s. It’s also expected that current superstar Kevin Durant will find his way into the Hall of Fame in the future.

Then to Now

The Seattle SuperSonics eventually made it to the NBA Championship in the 1996 season, but ultimately fell to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games. By the year 2000, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sold the SuperSonics for a whopping $350 million and the team relocated to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Fans chose the team name as “Thunder” thanks to the development of the U.S. Army’s Thunderbirds in the area.

The team’s success took a drastic turn in 2007 after recruiting newcomer Kevin Durant, who is still considered one of the best players in the league today. The Thunder locked down an NBA Finals appearance in the 2012 season but proved unsuccessful against the powerful Miami Heat. Unfortunately, Kevin Durant eventually left the team in 2016, though the team has maintained winning records since his departure.

Despite the loss of such a powerful player, the recent history of the Oklahoma City Thunder is quite clear and paints a rather bright future for this formerly unknown team. The team has successfully clinched 5 division titles between 2010 and 2016 and earned the title of conference champion in 2012. Though the team doesn’t end every season with a title in hand, the Thunder is still the only professional sports team in Oklahoma and maintains a loyal fan base year in and year out.