Central Division
ConferenceEastern Conference
LeagueNational Basketball Association
SportBasketball
Inaugural season1970–71 season
No. of teams5
Most recent
champion(s)
Milwaukee Bucks
(12th title)
Most titlesMilwaukee Bucks (12 titles)

The Central Division is one of the three divisions in the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The division consists of five teams, the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Detroit Pistons, the Indiana Pacers, and the Milwaukee Bucks. All teams except the Cavaliers are former Midwest Division teams; thus, the Central Division now largely resembles the Midwest Division in the 1970s.

The division was created at the start of the 1970–71 season, when the league expanded from 14 to 17 teams with the addition of the Buffalo Braves, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Portland Trail Blazers. The league realigned itself into two conferences, the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference, with two divisions each in each conference. The Central Division began with four inaugural members, the Atlanta Hawks, the Baltimore Bullets, the Cincinnati Royals, and the Cavaliers.[1] The Hawks were moved from the Western Division, while the Bullets and the Royals were moved from the Eastern Division.

Thirteen NBA champions came from the Central Division. The Bulls won six championships, the Pistons won three, the Bucks won two, and the Bullets and Cavaliers won one each. All of the teams, except the 1977–78 Bullets and the 2003–04 Pistons, were division champions. In the 2005–06 season, all five teams from the division qualified for the playoffs. Overall, the Bucks have won twelve Central Division titles, followed by the Bulls and Pistons with nine division titles each.The Central Division has the highest percentage of teams that have won a championship, with four out of the five teams winning the NBA championship, with the Pacers being the only franchise in the division never to have won.

The Central Division previously existed for one season, the 1949–50 season, as one of three divisions in the NBA, along with the Western and Eastern divisions. The current Central Division that was formed in 1970 is one of three divisions in the Eastern Conference.

Since the 2021–22 season, the Central Division champion has received the Wayne Embry Trophy, named after Hall of Famer Wayne Embry.[2]

2023–24 standings

Main article: 2023–24 NBA season

Central DivisionWLPCTGBHomeRoadDivGP
Milwaukee Bucks3216.66721–511–119–748
Cleveland Cavaliers3016.6521.017–813–87–446
Indiana Pacers2722.5515.516–911–139–249
Chicago Bulls2326.4699.514–119–153–649
Detroit Pistons641.12825.54–212–201–1047

Teams

Team City Year From
Joined
Chicago Bulls Chicago, Illinois 1980 Midwest Division
Cleveland Cavaliers Cleveland, Ohio 1970 —†
Detroit Pistons Detroit, Michigan 1978 Midwest Division
Indiana Pacers Indianapolis, Indiana 1979 Midwest Division
Milwaukee Bucks Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1980 Midwest Division
Notes

Former teams

Team City Year From Year To Current division
Joined Left
Atlanta Hawks Atlanta, Georgia 1970 Western Division 2004 Southeast Division Southeast Division
Charlotte Hornets (19882002; 2004–present) Charlotte, North Carolina 1990 Midwest Division 2002* Southeast Division Southeast Division
Cincinnati Royals (19571972, now Sacramento Kings) Cincinnati, Ohio 1970 Eastern Division 1972 Midwest Division
(as Kansas City–Omaha Kings)
Pacific Division
Houston Rockets Houston, Texas 1972 Western Division 1980 Midwest Division Southwest Division
New Orleans Hornets (2002–present, now New Orleans Pelicans) New Orleans, Louisiana 2002* —† 2004 Southwest Division Southwest Division
New Orleans Jazz (19741979, now Utah Jazz) New Orleans, Louisiana 1974 —† 1979 Midwest Division
(as Utah Jazz)
Northwest Division
Orlando Magic Orlando, Florida 1989 —† 1990 Midwest Division Southeast Division
San Antonio Spurs San Antonio, Texas 1976 ABA 1980 Midwest Division Southwest Division
Toronto Raptors Toronto, Ontario 1995 —† 2004 Atlantic Division Atlantic Division
Washington Bullets (19741997, now Washington Wizards)
Capital Bullets (1973–1974)
Baltimore Bullets (19631973)
Landover, Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland
1970 Eastern Division 1978 Atlantic Division Southeast Division
Notes

Team timeline

Denotes team that currently in the division
Denotes team that has left the division
New Orleans PelicansToronto RaptorsCharlotte HornetsOrlando MagicMilwaukee BucksChicago BullsIndiana PacersDetroit PistonsSan Antonio SpursUtah JazzHouston RocketsCleveland CavaliersCincinnati RoyalsWashington WizardsAtlanta Hawks

Wayne Embry Trophy

Beginning with the 2021–22 season, the Central Division champion has received the Wayne Embry Trophy. As with the other division championship trophies, it is named after one of the African American pioneers from NBA history. Wayne Embry became the NBA's first African American general manager when he was hired by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1972. The Embry Trophy consists of a 200-millimetre (7.9 in) crystal ball.[3]

Division champions

^ Had or tied for the best regular season record for that season
Season Team Record Playoffs result
1970–71 Baltimore Bullets 42–40 (.512) Lost NBA Finals
1971–72 Baltimore Bullets 38–44 (.463) Lost conference semifinals
1972–73 Baltimore Bullets 52–30 (.634) Lost conference semifinals
1973–74 Capital Bullets 47–35 (.573) Lost conference semifinals
1974–75 Washington Bullets^ 60–22 (.732) Lost NBA Finals
1975–76 Cleveland Cavaliers 49–33 (.598) Lost conference finals
1976–77 Houston Rockets 49–33 (.598) Lost conference finals
1977–78 San Antonio Spurs 52–30 (.634) Lost conference semifinals
1978–79 San Antonio Spurs 48–34 (.585) Lost conference finals
1979–80 Atlanta Hawks 50–32 (.610) Lost conference semifinals
1980–81 Milwaukee Bucks 60–22 (.732) Lost conference semifinals
1981–82 Milwaukee Bucks 55–27 (.671) Lost conference semifinals
1982–83 Milwaukee Bucks 51–31 (.622) Lost conference finals
1983–84 Milwaukee Bucks 50–32 (.610) Lost conference finals
1984–85 Milwaukee Bucks 59–23 (.720) Lost conference semifinals
1985–86 Milwaukee Bucks 57–25 (.695) Lost conference finals
1986–87 Atlanta Hawks 57–25 (.695) Lost conference semifinals
1987–88 Detroit Pistons 54–28 (.659) Lost NBA Finals
1988–89 Detroit Pistons^ 63–19 (.768) Won NBA Finals
1989–90 Detroit Pistons 59–23 (.720) Won NBA Finals
1990–91 Chicago Bulls 61–21 (.744) Won NBA Finals
1991–92 Chicago Bulls^ 67–15 (.817) Won NBA Finals
1992–93 Chicago Bulls 57–25 (.695) Won NBA Finals
1993–94 Atlanta Hawks 57–25 (.695) Lost conference semifinals
1994–95 Indiana Pacers 52–30 (.634) Lost conference finals
1995–96 Chicago Bulls^ 72–10 (.878) Won NBA Finals
1996–97 Chicago Bulls^ 69–13 (.841) Won NBA Finals
1997–98 Chicago Bulls^ 62–20 (.756) Won NBA Finals
1998–99[a] Indiana Pacers 33–17 (.660) Lost conference finals
1999–00 Indiana Pacers 56–26 (.683) Lost NBA Finals
2000–01 Milwaukee Bucks 52–30 (.634) Lost conference finals
2001–02 Detroit Pistons 50–32 (.610) Lost conference semifinals
2002–03 Detroit Pistons 50–32 (.610) Lost conference finals
2003–04 Indiana Pacers^ 61–21 (.744) Lost conference finals
2004–05 Detroit Pistons 54–28 (.659) Lost NBA Finals
2005–06 Detroit Pistons^ 64–18 (.780) Lost conference finals
2006–07 Detroit Pistons 53–29 (.646) Lost conference finals
2007–08 Detroit Pistons 59–23 (.720) Lost conference finals
2008–09 Cleveland Cavaliers^ 66–16 (.805) Lost conference finals
2009–10 Cleveland Cavaliers^ 61–21 (.744) Lost conference semifinals
2010–11 Chicago Bulls^ 62–20 (.756) Lost conference finals
2011–12[b] Chicago Bulls^ 50–16 (.758) Lost First round
2012–13 Indiana Pacers 49–32 (.605)† Lost conference finals
2013–14 Indiana Pacers 56–26 (.683) Lost conference finals
2014–15 Cleveland Cavaliers 53–29 (.646) Lost NBA Finals
2015–16 Cleveland Cavaliers 57–25 (.695) Won NBA Finals
2016–17 Cleveland Cavaliers 51–31 (.622) Lost NBA Finals
2017–18 Cleveland Cavaliers 50–32 (.610) Lost NBA Finals
2018–19 Milwaukee Bucks^ 60–22 (.732) Lost conference finals
2019–20 Milwaukee Bucks^ 56–17 (.767) Lost conference semifinals
2020–21 Milwaukee Bucks 46–26 (.639) Won NBA Finals
2021–22 Milwaukee Bucks 51–31 (.622) Lost conference semifinals
2022–23 Milwaukee Bucks^ 58–24 (.707) Lost First round

Titles by team

^ Denotes team that has left the division
Team Titles Season(s) won
Milwaukee Bucks 12 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1984–85, 1985–86, 2000–01, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21, 2021–22, 2022–23
Detroit Pistons 9 1987–88, 1988–89, 1989–90, 2001–02, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08
Chicago Bulls 8 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2010–11, 2011–12
Cleveland Cavaliers 7 1975–76, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18
Indiana Pacers 6 1994–95, 1998–99, 1999–00, 2003–04, 2012–13, 2013–14
Baltimore / Capital / Washington Bullets^ (now Washington Wizards) 5 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1973–74, 1974–75
Atlanta Hawks^ 3 1979–80, 1986–87, 1993–94
San Antonio Spurs^ 2 1977–78, 1978–79
Houston Rockets^ 1 1976–77

Season results

^ Denotes team that won the NBA championships
+ Denotes team that won the Conference finals, but lost the NBA Finals
* Denotes team that qualified for the NBA Playoffs
× Denotes team that qualified for the NBA play-in tournament
Denotes team that did not qualify for the 2020 NBA Bubble season restart
Season Team (record)
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
1970–71 Baltimore+ (42–40) Atlanta* (36–46) Cincinnati (33–49) Cleveland (15–67)
1971–72 Baltimore* (38–44) Atlanta* (36–46) Cincinnati (30–52) Cleveland (23–59)
1972–73 Baltimore* (52–30) Atlanta* (46–36) Houston (33–49) Cleveland (32–50)
1973–74 Capital* (47–35) Atlanta (35–47) Houston (32–50) Cleveland (29–53)
1974–75 Washington+ (60–22) Houston* (41–41) Cleveland (40–42) Atlanta (31–51) New Orleans (23–59)
1975–76 Cleveland* (49–33) Washington* (48–34) Houston (40–42) New Orleans (38–44) Atlanta (29–53)
1976–77 Houston* (49–33) Washington* (48–34) San Antonio* (44–38) Cleveland* (43–39) New Orleans (35–47) Atlanta (31–51)
1977–78 San Antonio* (52–30) Washington^ (44–38) Cleveland* (43–39) Atlanta* (41–41) New Orleans (39–43) Houston (28–54)
1978–79 San Antonio* (48–34) Houston* (47–35) Atlanta* (46–36) Detroit (30–52) Cleveland (30–52) New Orleans (26–56)
1979–80 Atlanta* (50–32) Houston* (41–41) San Antonio* (41–41) Indiana (37–45) Cleveland (37–45) Detroit (16–66)
1980–81 Milwaukee* (60–22) Chicago* (45–37) Indiana* (44–38) Atlanta (31–51) Cleveland (28–54) Detroit (21–61)
1981–82 Milwaukee* (55–27) Atlanta* (42–40) Detroit (39–43) Indiana (35–47) Chicago (34–48) Cleveland (15–67)
1982–83 Milwaukee* (51–31) Atlanta* (43–39) Detroit (37–45) Chicago (28–54) Cleveland (23–59) Indiana (20–62)
1983–84 Milwaukee* (50–32) Detroit* (49–33) Atlanta* (40–42) Cleveland (28–54) Chicago (27–55) Indiana (26–56)
1984–85 Milwaukee* (59–23) Detroit* (46–36) Chicago* (38–44) Cleveland* (36–46) Atlanta (34–48) Indiana (22–60)
1985–86 Milwaukee* (57–25) Atlanta* (50–32) Detroit* (46–36) Chicago* (30–52) Cleveland (29–53) Indiana (26–56)
1986–87 Atlanta* (57–25) Detroit* (52–30) Milwaukee* (50–32) Indiana* (41–41) Chicago* (40–42) Cleveland (31–51)
1987–88 Detroit+ (54–28) Chicago* (50–32) Atlanta* (50–32) Milwaukee* (42–40) Cleveland* (42–40) Indiana (38–44)
1988–89 Detroit^ (63–19) Cleveland* (57–25) Atlanta* (52–30) Milwaukee* (49–33) Chicago* (47–35) Indiana (28–54)
1989–90 Detroit^ (59–23) Chicago* (55–27) Milwaukee* (44–38) Indiana* (42–40) Cleveland* (42–40) Atlanta (41–41) Orlando (18–64)
1990–91 Chicago^ (61–21) Detroit* (50–32) Milwaukee* (48–34) Atlanta* (43–39) Indiana* (41–41) Cleveland (33–49) Charlotte (26–56)
1991–92 Chicago^ (67–15) Cleveland* (57–25) Detroit* (48–34) Indiana* (40–42) Atlanta (38–44) Milwaukee (31–51) Charlotte (31–51)
1992–93 Chicago^ (57–25) Cleveland* (54–28) Charlotte* (44–38) Atlanta* (43–39) Indiana* (41–41) Detroit (40–42) Milwaukee (28–54)
1993–94 Atlanta* (57–25) Chicago* (55–27) Indiana* (47–35) Cleveland* (47–35) Charlotte (41–41) Milwaukee (20–62) Detroit (20–62)
1994–95 Indiana* (52–30) Charlotte* (50–32) Chicago* (47–35) Cleveland* (43–39) Atlanta* (42–40) Milwaukee (34–48) Detroit (28–54)
1995–96 Chicago^ (72–10) Indiana* (52–30) Cleveland* (47–35) Atlanta* (46–36) Detroit* (46–36) Charlotte (41–41) Milwaukee (25–57) Toronto (21–61)
1996–97 Chicago^ (69–13) Atlanta* (56–26) Detroit* (54–28) Charlotte* (54–28) Cleveland (42–40) Indiana (39–43) Milwaukee (33–49) Toronto (30–52)
1997–98 Chicago^ (62–20) Indiana* (58–24) Charlotte* (51–31) Atlanta* (50–32) Cleveland* (47–35) Detroit (37–45) Milwaukee (36–46) Toronto (16–66)
1998–99[a] Indiana* (33–17) Atlanta* (31–19) Detroit* (29–21) Milwaukee* (28–22) Charlotte (26–24) Toronto (23–27) Cleveland (22–28) Chicago (13–37)
1999–00 Indiana+ (56–26) Charlotte* (49–33) Toronto* (45–37) Detroit* (42–40) Milwaukee* (42–40) Cleveland (32–50) Atlanta (28–54) Chicago (17–65)
2000–01 Milwaukee* (52–30) Toronto* (47–35) Charlotte* (46–36) Indiana* (41–41) Detroit (32–50) Cleveland (30–52) Atlanta (25–57) Chicago (15–67)
2001–02 Detroit* (50-32) Charlotte* (44–38) Toronto* (42–40) Indiana* (42-40) Milwaukee (41–41) Atlanta (33–49) Cleveland (29–53) Chicago (21–61)
  • 2002: The Charlotte Hornets relocated and became the New Orleans Hornets. The New Orleans franchise, now known as the Pelicans, were retroactively designated as an expansion team in 2014, when the current Charlotte Hornets acquired the historical records of the 1988–2002 Hornets, while the Pelicans kept records of the Hornets after relocation to New Orleans.
2002–03 Detroit* (50–32) Indiana* (48–34) New Orleans* (47–35) Milwaukee* (42–40) Atlanta (35–47) Chicago (30–52) Toronto (24–58) Cleveland (17–65)
2003–04 Indiana* (61–21) Detroit^ (54–28) New Orleans* (41–41) Milwaukee* (41–41) Cleveland (35–47) Toronto (33–49) Atlanta (28–54) Chicago (23–59)
2004–05 Detroit+ (54–28) Chicago* (47–35) Indiana* (44–38) Cleveland (42–40) Milwaukee (30–52)
2005–06 Detroit* (64–18) Cleveland* (50–32) Indiana* (41–41) Chicago* (41–41) Milwaukee* (40–42)
2006–07 Detroit* (53–29) Cleveland+ (50–32) Chicago* (49–33) Indiana (35–47) Milwaukee (28–54)
2007–08 Detroit* (59–23) Cleveland* (45–37) Indiana (36–46) Chicago (33–49) Milwaukee (26–56)
2008–09 Cleveland* (66–16) Chicago* (41–41) Detroit* (39–43) Indiana (36–46) Milwaukee (34–48)
2009–10 Cleveland* (61–21) Milwaukee* (46–36) Chicago* (41–41) Indiana (32–50) Detroit (27–55)
2010–11 Chicago* (62–20) Indiana* (37–45) Milwaukee (35–47) Detroit (30–52) Cleveland (19–63)
2011–12[b] Chicago* (50–16) Indiana* (42–24) Milwaukee (31–35) Detroit (25–41) Cleveland (21–45)
2012–13 Indiana* (49–32) Chicago* (45–37) Milwaukee* (38–44) Detroit (29–53) Cleveland (24–58)
2013–14 Indiana* (56–26) Chicago* (48–34) Cleveland (33–49) Detroit (29–53) Milwaukee (15–67)
2014–15 Cleveland+ (53–29) Chicago* (50–32) Milwaukee* (41–41) Indiana (38–44) Detroit (32–50)
2015–16 Cleveland^ (57–25) Indiana* (45–37) Detroit* (44–38) Chicago (42–40) Milwaukee (33–49)
2016–17 Cleveland+ (51–31) Milwaukee* (42–40) Indiana* (42–40) Chicago* (41–41) Detroit (37–45)
2017–18 Cleveland+ (50–32) Indiana* (48–34) Milwaukee* (44–38) Detroit (39–43) Chicago (27–55)
2018–19 Milwaukee* (60–22) Indiana* (48–34) Detroit* (41–41) Chicago (22–60) Cleveland (19–63)
2019–20 Milwaukee* (56–17) Indiana* (45–28) Chicago† (22–43) Detroit† (20–46) Cleveland† (19–46)
2020–21 Milwaukee^ (46–26) Indiana× (34–38) Chicago (31–41) Cleveland (22–50) Detroit (20–52)
2021–22 Milwaukee* (51–31) Chicago* (46–36) Cleveland× (44–38) Indiana (25–57) Detroit (23–59)
2022–23 Milwaukee* (58–24) Cleveland* (51–31) Chicago× (40–42) Indiana (35–47) Detroit (17–65)

Rivalries

Main article: National Basketball Association rivalries § Central Division

Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons

Main article: Bulls–Pistons rivalry

Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Main article: Bulls–Cavaliers rivalry

1949–50 season

It has been suggested that this section be split out into another article titled Central Division (NBA, 1949–1950). (Discuss) (February 2021)

Before the 1949–50 season, the BAA merged with the NBL and was renamed NBA. The number of teams competed increased from 12 teams to 17 teams and the league realigned itself to three divisions, creating the Central Division. The division consisted of five teams, the Chicago Stags, the Fort Wayne Pistons, the Minneapolis Lakers, the Rochester Royals and the St. Louis Bombers. All five teams joined from the Western Division. The Minneapolis Lakers won the Central Division title. The division was disbanded before the 1950–51 season, after six teams folded and the league realigned itself back into two divisions. The Stags and the Bombers folded, while the other three teams returned to the Western Division.

^ Denotes team that won the NBA championships
* Denotes team that qualified for the NBA Playoffs
Season Team (record)
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1949–50 Minneapolis^ (51–17) Rochester* (51–17) Fort Wayne* (40–28) Chicago* (40–28) St. Louis (26–42)

Notes

See also

References

General
  • "NBA & ABA League Index". Basketball-Reference.com.
Specific
  1. ^ "1970–71 Season Overview: Kareem Rules the League". NBA.com. Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. Archived from the original on November 19, 2010. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  2. ^ "NBA unveils new trophies for division winners named after 6 NBA legends". NBA.com. Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. April 11, 2022. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
  3. ^ "NBA Unveils Division Winner Trophies Named After Black Pioneers from League History". Bleacher Report. April 11, 2022. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
  4. ^ Donovan, John (February 4, 1999). "Let the semi-season begin: Expect injuries, intensity and a new champion in '99". CNN Sports Illustrated. Time Warner Company. Archived from the original on June 22, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  5. ^ Jenkins, Lee (December 5, 2011). "'tis The Season". CNN Sports Illustrated. Time Warner Company. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  6. ^ "NBA cancels game between Celtics and Pacers after Boston Marathon blasts | the Point Forward - SI.com". Archived from the original on April 19, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2013.