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It started in 1946 with 11 teams and 160 players. The shot clock was nearly a decade away, the 3-point line was a couple generations away. Buildings were smaller. So were the players. And it wasn’t even called the National Basketball Association.

The NBA, 75 years ago, was different in almost every imaginable way.

Over the coming months, The Associated Press will look back at what the league was on and off the court, how it became what it is and where it’ll be going over the next 25 years as it moves toward the century mark.

The series will recall those humble beginnings, with Ossie Schectman — who scored the first basket in league history — making $60 a game. It’ll show how what was happening in the country seemed to mirror what was happening in the league, from the league’s path toward integrating in the 1950s, to its stance on social issues and race relations today.

In those earliest of years, teams lost plenty of money. Some of the inaugural franchises only had inaugural seasons, folding after Year 1. There was no robust following and the NBA had little to no impact on societal issues.

And all the players were white.

“None of us who were playing at that time knew what this would be,” Schectman, who played for the original New York Knicks, said in a 2010 interview, three years before his death. “We didn’t know if this was going to work out and become something.”

Schectman scored the first basket in Basketball Association of America history; it wasn’t called the NBA until three years later, but the NBA counts those years as part of its own. It was an underhand layup for the Knicks in a game at the Toronto Huskies on Nov. 1, 1946, the first two points of 13.7 million in league history and counting.

In time, Schectman got his answer: The NBA, indeed, would become something.

Today, the 30 NBA franchises are worth at least $100 billion combined, possibly much more than that. The league has a fan base that stretches to each corner of the globe and a reputation of being a leader when it comes to social issues.

Richard Lapchick, the son of former New York Knicks coach Joe Lapchick and researcher on social and racial issues within sport, said the league's platform has always provided an opportunity to be a conduit for change — perhaps never more so than now.

“I genuinely believe that the NBA, with Adam Silver as its current leader, is in this for the right reasons and has the support of the largest integrated labor force in America in terms of percentage of the population," Lapchick said. “They're also very wealthy, so they can use their resources — and this is new — to invest in social justice campaigns in their communities."

There has been a major commitment by players to spark change in recent years, from additional and almost unprecedented levels of support for historically Black colleges and universities, to LeBron James leading a voting rights and registration push that wound up playing a significant role in the 2020 presidential election.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer believes he knows why basketball tends to make such an impact on society.

“I’ll say something a little silly,” Ballmer said. “How many sports can you really see the players? Football, you’ve got helmets on. Baseball players are quite remote, in center field. Even soccer, hockey, you have guys who are moving super-fast with helmets. People can relate to the players in basketball. You can see them. You can feel them.

“There’s fewer players which means you get more interviews and get to know certain personalities more than you would in just about any other sport,” he added. “Actually, that’s a significantly important aspect of why basketball becomes much more at the forefront of societal change.”

Like with many things, the early days were the toughest.

The Philadelphia Warriors — now the Golden State Warriors — won the league’s first title in 1947, over the Chicago Stags. By the time the next season started, four of the 11 original teams had folded; the league added a team from Baltimore and played with eight franchises for the second season.

A 60-game schedule was pared down to 48 to save money on travel. Maurice Podoloff, a hockey executive who was the BAA’s first president and ultimately the first NBA commissioner, was tasked with saving the league and winning a battle with the rival National Basketball League for players and attention.

In May 1948, the battle was won. Four teams left the NBL — Indianapolis, Rochester, Fort Wayne and Minneapolis, who had arguably the biggest name in basketball at the time with George Mikan — for the BAA.

“Maurice Podoloff charted the unknown for the NBA,” the late David Stern, who was the NBA commissioner for 30 years, said when Podoloff died. “He took an idea and nurtured professional basketball through its formative years. It is through the efforts of sporting pioneers like Podoloff that the NBA has become an everyday part of the American sporting scene.”

By 1949, the NBA had turned a corner. The league was up to 17 teams, more than doubling what it was. Teams were turning profits. The rebranding to the NBA was complete. And with the evolution in the boardrooms complete, it was time to evolve on the floor as well.

While the race barrier had been broken — Wat Misaka, a Japanese-American player, was drafted and played for the Knicks in 1947 — it was barely noticed, in part because he played only three games. The first Black players were three years away from joining the league, changing the face of the game for good.

As the country was changing, moving on from World War II and into the civil rights movement, the NBA was in lockstep. Change then led to unrest and division, just as it did in recent years across the U.S. But the NBA pressed on, then and now.

“That’s what this country is all about and should be about,” NBA great and Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West said. “It’s about fair play. And for years, there hasn’t been a lot of fair play in this country. I think the NBA has been a front-liner in that, and it’s great to see.”

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CHICAGO (AP) — Candace Parker returned home to bring Chicago a championship. She did just that leading the Sky to the franchise’s first title.

Allie Quigley scored 26 points and Parker added 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists and Chicago beat the Phoenix Mercury 80-74 on Sunday in Game 4.

“We were down nine, down 11 and we stayed with it,” Parker said. “So proud of this group. Sloot doing what she does all year. Allie its amazing.”

Courtney Vandersloot added 10 points and 15 assists for the Sky, who won the series 3-1, rallying from a 72-65 deficit with 4:42 left. Chicago scored the next nine points to take a two-point lead on Stefanie Dolson's layup. She then added another basket to make it 76-72 with 45.8 seconds left.

Diana Taurasi was fouled on the next possession shooting a 3-pointer and made the first two free throws, but missed the third.

Vandersloot then scored in the lane to seal the victory setting off the celebration. As the final buzzer sounded, Parker sprinted to the corner of the court and hugged her family with tears in her eyes.

“Their defense went to another level trapping BG,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “We got some good looks, layups. we missed them and they made them. Allie really changed the momentum of the game there.”

Quigley, who also hails from Illinois, got the decisive run started and Parker tied the game with a 3-pointer before Dolson's baskets.

It was a full-circle moment for Parker, who triumphantly returned home to Chicago this season after spending 13 years with Los Angeles. She has been continually called the Sky’s missing piece throughout the playoffs, a label she proved accurate many times during Chicago’s stunning run, winning the title as a six-seed.

“It feels amazing. My high school coach is here,” Parker said. “I know Pat’s (Summitt) watching. Got the whole city here. We got the whole city here. We are champions for life now.”

Brittney Griner was a focal point of Phoenix’s offense early on. The seven-time All-Star finished the game with 28 points, 18 of which came in the first half. Griner and guard Skylar Diggins-Smith helped lead a 9-0 run to finish the second quarter and give Phoenix a 44-37 edge at halftime.

Parker initially had trouble getting into a rhythm offensively, going one for six from the floor with just four points by the end of the first half.

Kahleah Copper, who had been a force in the first four games of the finals, earned MVP honors of the championship.

GETTING TECHNICAL

Emotions were high for both teams right from the start, as Taurasi and Sky forward Kahleah Copper were each hit with technical fouls within a 50-second span in the first quarter.

PACKED HOUSE

The Sky drew a sell-out crowd despite the Chicago Bears hosting the rival Green Bay Packers just down the street at Soldier Field. Chance the Rapper was once again in attendance to support his hometown team.

TIP-INS:

Chicago coach James Wade became the third Black male coach to win a WNBA championship, joining Michael Cooper who did it with the Los Angeles Sparks and Corey Gaines, who did it with Phoenix. ... Phoenix had been 4-0 in the WNBA Finals after losses until Sunday's defeat.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — For a guy who dislikes drama, Chris Taylor sure provided plenty of it.

Taylor hit three homers and drove in six runs, joining the likes of Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth in October baseball lore, as the Los Angeles Dodgers broke loose at the plate to beat Atlanta 11-2 on Thursday, cutting the Braves’ lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven NL Championship Series.

“It’s cool. It's definitely a surreal feeling for me,” Taylor said. “I never thought I was going to hit three homers in a game, let alone a postseason game, and it just still hasn’t really sunk in.”

AJ Pollock had two home runs and four RBIs for the defending champion Dodgers, who have won seven straight postseason elimination games dating to last season. They also trailed 0-2 and 1-3 against Atlanta in the NLCS last year before rallying to win three straight at a neutral site in Texas.

“We needed to make a statement," the mild-mannered Taylor said. "They put it on us yesterday. We had to respond.”

Game 6 is Saturday in Atlanta, where the Braves get two more chances to clinch their first trip to the World Series since 1999.

“I guess when our backs are against the wall we play our best and fight, but that’s just not an ideal spot to be in,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

After mustering just four hits during a 9-2 loss in Game 4 that pushed them to the brink of elimination, the desperate Dodgers rapped out eight hits by the third inning off Max Fried. They finished with 17, a club record for a postseason game, and also equaled a postseason franchise mark with five home runs.

The Dodgers got to Fried with four consecutive hits in the second. Pollock hit a tying homer and Taylor drove the first pitch he saw to left field, putting Los Angeles in front for good, 3-2.

Starting in place of injured Justin Turner at third base, Taylor became the second Dodgers player with a three-homer game in the postseason. Kiké Hernández also did it in Game 5 of the 2017 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs.

Taylor had an RBI single in the third to make it 4-2. He went deep in the fifth, sending an 0-2 pitch from Chris Martin to center field and extending the lead to 6-2.

Taylor homered again in the seventh, taking Dylan Lee out to left-center before taking a curtain call in the dugout.

“I never look cool doing anything,” Taylor said.

The versatile veteran had an opportunity to match the major league mark of four home runs in a game, but struck out swinging to end the eighth.

“I was trying not to think about it,” Taylor said. “Usually I'm just trying to hit line drives.”

Taylor also hit a game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth inning against St. Louis in the NL wild-card game for the 106-win Dodgers.

“He’s just super calm and he’s so consistent for us,” Pollock said. “Maybe the three home runs might have spiked his adrenaline, but probably not.”

Albert Pujols wasn't just hugging, he was hitting, too.

The 41-year-old slugger got on base three times, including a walk, and scored twice on Taylor's homers. He got two singles for his third and fourth hits of the postseason in his second start. He had two hits in the NL Division Series against San Francisco.

Pujols has taken to greeting his much younger teammates with bear hugs in the dugout after home runs, and they kept him busy.

Pujols is among the 11 players with a three-homer game in the postseason. Ruth accomplished the feat twice.

“Watching Chris doing that, it was pretty special,” Pujols said. “I was actually rooting for four, but he ended up striking out. But he did a heck of a job out there.”

Los Angeles got a clutch performance from its bullpen, too, after opener Joe Kelly allowed a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the first and soon exited after 28 pitches with tightness in his right biceps that will sideline him for the rest of the postseason.

Evan Phillips, Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel and Kenley Jansen combined to allow just three hits the rest of the way.

Phillips struck out three in 1 1/3 innings and was credited with the win.

Atlanta's Eddie Rosario, who homered twice in his second four-hit game of the NLCS in Game 4, went 2 for 4 with a strikeout.

Pitching in his hometown, Fried gave up five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. The left-hander struck out three and walked two.

“I wasn’t executing on the corners like I normally do and when you leave the balls over the middle, normally damage happens,” Fried said.

In the feast-or-famine nature of the Dodgers' offense, Cody Bellinger went 3 for 4 with a strikeout and NL batting champion Trea Turner was 3 for 4 with an RBI single in a four-run eighth capped by Pollock's three-run homer. But Mookie Betts and Corey Seager were a combined 2 for 10.

“We’re up 3-2 and we’re going home,” Freeman said. “That’s a great position to be in. We’re going to be just fine.”

RECORD BOOK

Taylor set a Dodgers postseason record with 13 total bases, most by any major leaguer in an elimination game. He became the first player to hit three homers in a postseason game for a team facing elimination.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: OF Jorge Soler was activated after being out following his positive COVID-19 test. He struck out swinging as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.

Dodgers: Justin Turner was replaced on the NLCS roster by INF Andy Burns after straining his left hamstring while running to first in the seventh inning Wednesday. To make room on the 40-man roster, RHP Edwin Uceta was designated for assignment.

UP NEXT

RHP Ian Anderson goes for the Braves in Game 6. RHP Max Scherzer starts for the Dodgers.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eddie Rosario homered twice in his second four-hit game of the NL Championship Series and six Atlanta pitchers combined on a four-hitter, giving the Braves a 9-2 victory Wednesday over the Los Angeles Dodgers and a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff.

Adam Duvall and Freddie Freeman also homered for Atlanta, which bounced right back from blowing a late lead in an agonizing loss Tuesday and ended its 10-game losing streak at Dodger Stadium.

Game 5 is Thursday in Los Angeles, with the Braves one win from their first pennant in 22 years and the defending World Series champions facing elimination. Last year, the Dodgers trailed 0-2 and 1-3 against Atlanta in the NLCS before roaring back to win three straight games at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas.

They'll need to jump-start their offense to have a shot. Their first five hitters — Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, NL batting champion Trea Turner, Will Smith and Gavin Lux — were a combined 0 for 17.

Los Angeles, which had won 18 of 19 at home going back to the regular season, has won six straight postseason elimination games dating to last year.

“I feel good about it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We have a very resilient team, a very tough team, and it’s not going to get much tougher than facing Max Fried in an elimination game, but we’ve done it before.”

Rosario became the first player to have two four-hit games in a League Championship Series. He drove in four runs and scored three while continuing his torrid postseason hitting, finishing a double short of the cycle. He homered in the second inning, tripled in the third, singled in the fifth and clocked a three-run homer in the ninth.

“As soon as I hit that second one out, I go, `Oh well, there goes the double,'" Rosario said through a translator.

Rosario was acquired from Cleveland on July 30 as the Braves remade their depleted outfield before the trade deadline.

What a find he's been.

The left fielder has hit safely in every game of this postseason, piling up 14 hits so far — including a walk-off single in Game 2 against the Dodgers. He has struck out only once.

Rosario is 10 for 17 (.588) with two homers and six RBIs in the NLCS.

“He’s been looking so good at the plate, hitting balls hard,” Freeman said.

Atlanta's four homers tied a postseason franchise record.

Each of the series’ first three games was decided by one run in the last two innings. But when it got late this time, the wild-card Dodgers couldn't generate any comeback magic.

Atlanta opener Jesse Chavez combined with Drew Smyly, Chris Martin, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith to hold down the Dodgers' offense. Los Angeles didn't get a hit until the fifth and was limited to one the rest of the way. Smyly went 3 1/3 innings for the win.

The Braves wasted no time jumping all over 20-game winner Julio Urías, who gave up three homers in 2 2/3 innings. It was the second time he allowed that many in his career; the first time was in his second major league game in 2016.

Rosario drove an 0-2 pitch into the left-field pavilion leading off the second and Duvall followed with a shot to center, the first time the Braves homered back-to-back in the postseason since Oct. 3, 2002, against San Francisco in Game 2 of a Division Series.

Freeman went deep leading off the third. Two outs later, Rosario tripled to deep right on a two-strike pitch, sliding headfirst into the bag.

“He kind of smiled at me after he hit it in there just because it was one of those things where it just, a hot hitter and he kind of knows where he’s going,” Urías said through a translator.

Duvall was intentionally walked and Joc Pederson singled, scoring Rosario for a 4-0 lead against Urías.

“The plan was to try to get to him early, try to get some runs on the board, get pitches that we can handle, keep him in the zone, and let the barrel fly,” Duvall said.

The Dodgers closed to 5-2 in the fifth on pinch-hitter AJ Pollock’s two-out, two-run single. Justin Turner singled for their first hit of the game and Cody Bellinger followed with a single and stolen base.

Freeman's RBI double in the ninth made it 6-2 before Rosario went deep.

Urías didn't record a strikeout until the fourth, when Dansby Swanson and Freeman went down swinging back-to-back to end the left-hander's first clean inning. Urías gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked three.

Urías started on two days’ rest, having thrown an inning of relief in Game 2 at Atlanta. He gave up two runs and three hits in that outing, including a tying double to Austin Riley in the eighth.

Duvall robbed Lux of a home run with a leaping catch at the wall in center in the second. Duvall also went to the warning track in the seventh to catch a ball hit by Bellinger, who launched a tying, three-run homer in the Dodgers' eighth-inning rally that helped win Game 3 on Tuesday.

CONNECT FOUR

The only other player with a pair of four-hit games in a postseason series was Milwaukee Brewers Hall of Famer Robin Yount in the 1982 World Series against St. Louis.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: RHP Huascar Ynoa was scratched from his scheduled start with shoulder inflammation. He was replaced on the roster by left-hander Dylan Lee. Ynoa is not eligible to return for the World Series, if the Braves advance.

Dodgers: Justin Turner is done for the season after injuring his hamstring in the seventh, Roberts said. Turner screamed as he was retired on a double-play ball. He limped off the field and was replaced in the eighth.

UP NEXT

Fried starts Game 5 for the Braves in his Los Angeles hometown. The Dodgers planned a bullpen game, a strategy they've used twice this postseason, going 1-1 in those games.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cody Bellinger keeps erasing a forgettable regular season, with his latest big swing putting the Los Angeles Dodgers right back in the NL Championship Series.

Bellinger hit a tying, three-run homer and Mookie Betts then lined an RBI double in the Dodgers' eighth-inning rally, storming back to beat Atlanta 6-5 Tuesday and cutting the Braves’ lead in the series to 2-1.

“It's hard to remember a bigger hit, with what was at stake,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I'm kind of exhausted now.”

Some of the 51,307 fans had already left when the Dodgers were down to their final five outs and facing the daunting prospect of a 3-0 deficit in the series. Bellinger swung and missed two pitches down the middle for strikes, going to his knees in the dirt.

“Ball’s coming in hard, some shadows you’re dealing with, so I saw it well and I just tried to barrel it up,” Bellinger said. “Just continue to barrel up the ball and pass the baton.”

Bellinger drove a shoulder-high, 95.6-mph fastball from Luke Jackson into the right-field pavilion, igniting the blue towel-waving crowd and reviving the hopes of the defending World Series champions.

“Sad thing is I would do the same thing again,” Jackson said. “I was trying to throw a fastball up and away. I actually threw it better than I thought I threw it. Out of my hand, I was like, `Oh, that’s a ball. It’s too high.' And no, it wasn’t too high. Good player, put a good swing on it and pretty remarkable.”

Chris Taylor singled, stole second and moved to third on pinch-hitter Matt Beaty’s groundout. Betts followed with the double off Jesse Chavez to right-center.

“One of our strong suits is not worrying about what happened yesterday, focusing on right now,” Betts said.

Game 4 is Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

“We can do it, we’re confident,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “There is going to be no residual effects after this game.”

The Dodgers had lost all 83 previous postseason games — in both Los Angeles and Brooklyn — in which they trailed by three or more runs in the eighth inning or later.

But that's history now. And so are Bellinger's recent struggles.

The 2019 NL MVP, Bellinger batted a miserable .165 this year with a paltry .240 on-base percentage and 94 strikeouts in 315 at-bats. He helped redeem himself last week with a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning of the decisive Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the rival Giants at San Francisco.

“Fresh start," Bellinger said of the postseason. "At least for me this year it’s a fresh start. You know, a tough regular season but you know, I felt good towards the end of the season, and just try to continue that feel all the way through.”

“Just you know, staying simple," he said. "Crazy things are happening.”

Bellinger's done this before, too. After the Dodgers overcame a 3-1 deficit against Atlanta in the NLCS last year, his tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning won Game 7.

With the cheering, chanting crowd on its feet in the ninth, Kenley Jansen struck out the side to earn the save, the ninth pitcher used by the Dodgers. They ran through a combined 15 in the first two games.

Staggered with back-to-back walk-off losses in Atlanta, the Dodgers returned home, where they've dominated the Braves in recent years and were an MLB-best 58-23 during the regular season.

The Braves haven't won at Dodger Stadium since June 8, 2018. Going back to the 2013 NLDS, the Braves have dropped 20 of their last 23 in LA — they’ve lost 10 straight in Los Angeles overall.

It sure looked like they'd end that skid after leading 5-2 in the fifth.

After Corey Seager's two-run shot gave them an early lead, the Dodgers' offense stalled out from the second to eighth innings, with only five hits.

“It’s never going to just be easy and handed to us,” Bellinger said. “We got to fight for it.”

But the wild-card winner staged another improbable comeback late, just like the Dodgers have done so often this postseason.

They beat St. Louis in the NL wild-card game, then edged 107-win San Francisco in the NLDS.

Despite trailing the best-of-seven series, the Dodgers have grabbed the momentum. They’re at home for the next two games, knowing they overcame that 3-1 deficit against the Braves in last year’s NLCS at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas.

The Braves built their lead with a bunch of singles, pounding out 12 hits, and a dropped flyball by novice center fielder Gavin Lux.

Freddie Freeman broke out of his slump, going 3 for 4 with a walk and a run scored after he struck out seven times in eight at-bats in the first two games.

Adam Duvall went 2 for 5, driving in two runs and scoring another for the Braves. Every Atlanta batter got on base at least once.

Tony Gonsolin got the victory, recording one out in relief.

Jackson took the loss after getting hammered in the eighth.

Eddie Rosario and Freeman jump-started the Braves with back-to-back singles off Walker Buehler to open the game.

The Braves quieted the crowd of 51,307 while knocking around Buehler and taking a 4-2 lead in the fourth.

Atlanta got RBI singles from Joc Pederson, Duvall and Dansby Swanson, and Buehler walked Rosario on four pitches with the bases loaded to force in another run.

Swanson’s hit off his former Vanderbilt teammate went off the glove of shortstop Seager and rolled into left, allowing Pederson to score the go-ahead run as the Braves batted around.

Seager’s wasn’t the only miscue in the fourth. Lux chased Austin Riley’s double to the warning track in right-center only to have the ball go off his glove to keep the inning going.

Buehler got yanked after walking Rosario. Working on two extra days’ rest, Buehler allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander struck out three and walked three on 76 pitches.

Buehler pitched on short rest for the first time in his career in Game 4 of the NLDS. He didn’t the win, but the Dodgers tied the series and forced a deciding fifth game.

Atlanta extended its lead to 5-2 in the fifth on Duvall’s RBI single that scored Ozzie Albies, who walked and stole second.

The Dodgers had Charlie Morton on the ropes in the first, when he tied a postseason record with four walks on 34 pitches. The right-hander walked leadoff hitter Betts and Seager followed with a homer to center for a 2-0 lead.

Morton then loaded the bases on consecutive two-out walks to Justin Turner, Lux and Bellinger before Taylor lined out to short to end the inning.

Morton allowed two runs and three hits in five innings. The right-hander struck out five and walked six.

SOUND FROM SCULLY

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully gave the traditional pregame call of “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” via video from his Los Angeles-area home. He then tapped his fist on his heart, drawing cheers from the crowd. Scully, who turns 94 next month, retired in 2016 after 67 years calling games for the franchise in Brooklyn and LA.

UP NEXT

LHP Julio Urías starts for the Dodgers in Game 4 on Wednesday. The Braves were planning a bullpen game.

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