Like most other sports, the creation of the ‘modern game’ in the likes of basketball, baseball and ice hockey came about in the late 1800’s.
Common wisdom would have it that baseball was the first of the ‘US Sports’ to reach a professional level… or at least acquire a set of codified rules, a governing body and an organisation of playing teams.
It was the National Association of Base Ball Players that gave baseball its first mark of distinction in 1857… which soon evolved into the National League in 1876 and then developed still further with the creation of the American League in 1901.
These two leagues became natural rivals with the baseball World Series, started in 1903, being the annual play-off between the championship winning team of each league.
A mainstay of American culture, the sport has spawned many famous names – Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth – and iconic teams such as the New York Yankees, LA Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, known the world over.
The modern game of baseball… MLB
Like most American sports, the history of baseball is littered with team re-branding, mergers and re-locations but in 2000 Major League Baseball (MLB) saw the unification of the National and American League under one, single Commissioner of Baseball.
Often, rather simplistically, called the American version of cricket, baseball remains a huge favourite amongst sports fans and its seasonal attendances outstrip those of the NFL (American Football), NHL (ice hockey) and the NBA (basketball).
There are now 30 teams MLB franchises (29 in the USA and 1 in Canada) playing in two leagues (American & National) both made up of three divisions (East, West and Central).
Ten teams from each league, after the regular season, make it into the post season play-offs.
These teams then play down to just two, the championship team from the AL and NL… and they compete in the annual best-of-seven World Series.
The MLB season usually runs from late March/early April through to October.
The rise of basketball… and the NBA
The name of Dr. James Naismith is familiar to all basketball fans.
Back in 1891 the PE teacher from Springfield, Massachusetts created an indoor game to maintain his students activity levels when playing outdoor sports wasn’t possible.
But the game has come a long way from the time Naismith nailed a peach basket (hence “basket ball”) to the gymnasium wall all those years ago…
Teams spread through the schools and colleges of America (Naismith was teaching at a YMCA school when he created the game) and by 1898 there was a National Basketball League in place – although this first organisation lasted barely five years.
But at college level, the sport flourished through the early 1900’s… helped by the creation of the body that would later become the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
In 1937 the National Basketball League (NBL) was formed… and nine years later the Basketball Association of America (BAA) came into being.
It was in 1949 when the two merged that the National Basketball Association (NBA) first appeared and the sport had a professional, unified governing body.
Just 11 teams were in the original league… the number growing to the current level of 30 basketball franchises (29 in the USA and 1 in Canada).
The first winners of the NBA title in 1950, winning the Walter A. Brown Trophy, were the Minneapolis Lakers (later the LA Lakers).
Pro basketball teams now play for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, the cup being renamed in 1984 after the NBA Commissioner of the same name… the inaugural winners being the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics are in fact the most successful team in NBA history, winning 17 titles to 16 for the Lakers, with the Chicago Bulls (6) next on the list.
The modern day NBA is split into two sections, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. And like other US Sports these are further separated into smaller divisions… Atlantic, Central and Southeast (Eastern) and Northwest, Pacific and Southwest (Western).
The season starts in late October, early November and runs through until May/June when the play-offs and NBA Finals take place.
And don’t forget ice hockey… in the NHL
Ice hockey, in its earliest forms, actually pre-dates all other US sports. However, the creation and growth of the game that we see today took place from around 1875 onwards… largely in Canada, not the US.
That’s the date of the first recorded indoor game, in Montreal, and from that point onwards the sport gained popularity through colleges, universities and at a wider amateur level.
The game hit the professional era in a matter of years… the International Professional Hockey League was formed in 1904, soon superceded by the National Hockey Association (1910), which later became the National Hockey League (1917).
Other leagues sprang up and were either disbanded or subsequently lost in mergers… the Western Hockey League (1921-1926), the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (1911-1924)… but by 1926 the National Hockey League (NHL) was established as the sport’s single association and governing body.
The oldest professional ice hockey team in the USA, the Boston Bruins, joined in 1924 with teams like the Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers coming on board two years later.
Currently there are 30 ice hockey franchises affiliated to the NHL, split into the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Of these teams, 23 are found in the US whilst 7 are based in Canada.
The ice hockey conferences are split into Atlantic, Northeast, Southeast (Eastern) and Central, Northwest and Pacific (Western)… 5 teams in a division, 15 in each conference.
The ice hockey play-offs now feature 8 teams from each conference. Through a knockout competition these post season qualifiers play down to a final two teams… who then compete in a best-of-seven final for the Stanley Cup.
The Ottawa Senators (1927) won the first of the modern ice hockey championships.
Since then the trophy has been dominated by the Montreal Canadiens (24 wins), Toronto Maple Leafs (13) and the Detroit Red Wings (11).
And the spread of the game has seen Stanley Cup winners from outside of the stronghold of Canada and the Northern US states… such as Dallas (1999), Tampa Bay (2004) and Carolina (2006).
The 82 game regular season starts in late September/early October and runs through to the play-offs and final in June.
Like the other US Sports, ice hockey is a staple of the American sporting diet with all manner of superstar players… none probably bigger than Wayne Gretsky aka ‘the Great One’.
What markets are available on US Sports?
In outright betting there is clearly the opportunity to bet on divisional champions as well as conference champions as well as the overall winners… whether that be the Stanley Cup, World Series or the NBA Championships.
And concerning the individual matches themselves, whatever the particular sport, there are bets to be placed on the result, the scoreline, major scoring plays (e.g. how many home runs will be scored) or more speciality markets (most rebounds or highest number of assists).
Further markets cover the result or happenings in certain innings (baseball), quarters (basketball) or periods (ice hockey) – result, points, scoring plays etc.
US sports handicap lines are also big markets to play on and any number of handicap bets can be placed on teams to win by so many points, goals or runs.
Click here to see a full explanation of handicap betting.
American sports are heavily influence by stats… take the example of the Brad Pitt film, Moneyball… and this gives the bookmakers plenty of choice in pricing up the most obscure of markets.
You will never be short of something to bet on when it comes to US Sports!
Why bet on US Sports?
A readily available and exhaustive array of statistical (form) figures, any number of markets on offer by the layers, a tremendous amount of associated web-based information and lots of TV coverage.
There are any number of opportunities to get up to speed with US Sports and for many backers, especially those in the UK, their preference for other sports (e.g. soccer) is maybe costing them some profit in this area.
That’s why if you’re not paying on US Sports… you’re missing out.
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