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. In an interview in 2022 with Fox 32 Chicago, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo stated he is willing and open to playing for fellow Central Division team the Chicago Bulls.
* The Charlotte NBA franchise was inactive from 2002 to 2004 upon the relocation of the Hornets to New Orleans. A new franchise, initially known as the Bobcats, began play in the 2004–05 season. In 2013, the New Orleans Hornets were renamed the Pelicans, and the following season, the Bobcats were renamed the Hornets, acquiring the history and records of the 1988–2002 Hornets while retroactively designating the Pelicans as an expansion team.
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.
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.
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.
a 12 Because of a lockout, the season did not start until February 5, 1999, and all 29 teams played a shortened 50-game regular season schedule.
b 12 Because of a lockout, the season did not start until December 25, 2011, and all 30 teams played a shortened 66-game regular season schedule.
†In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, the NBA canceled the April 16 game scheduled in Boston between the Celtics and the Pacers; the game was not rescheduled because it would have had no impact on either team's playoff seedings.