Layups, Point Guards, and Hook Shots: A History of Basketball

While baseball has long been considered America's favorite pastime, the fast-paced game of basketball is undeniably a crowd-pleaser, with endless edge-of-your-seat action from start to finish. As Bobby Joe Hill from Glory Road infamously said, “Having the ball in your hand...is like making sweet music with your game.” Unlike other sports, basketball is a game that can be played anywhere, at any time - whether you’re teaching your son how to dribble in your driveway or hitting up a local court with a group of guys to play ball.

Have you ever considered how basketball originated? It’s one of those prized activities that seems like it’s just always been in existence. However, that’s not the case. Let’s delve into the history of one of the most popular and lucrative games in the world.

Fast Stats:

  • Basketball was invented in 1891
  • Basketball originated in Springfield, Massachusetts by Canadian physical education instructor, James Naismith.
  • Basketball was originally intended to be played indoors and considered a less injury-prone sport than football.
  • The first official game was played in 1892.
  • William R. Chase is the infamous first “goal” titleholder.
  • The NBA was established in 1946.

Now that you’ve gained a quick overview of the noteworthy stats surrounding basketball’s origins, let’s probe a bit deeper into the nitty-gritty of this beloved sport.

history of basketball

The Basketball Baseline: Where and When

On December 21, 1891, James Naismith, invented a new game, publishing thirteen rules surrounding the logistics of how to play. One of his students proposed calling the sport “Naismith Game,” but James pointed out the obvious - there’s a basket and a ball, so why not name the game “basketball?” James developed the game as a safer, indoor alternative to football. After all, at the time, football was played without the hard helmets that safeguard today’s players.

The following thirteen rules were originally implemented by Naismith and observed during the first official game in 1982.

  • You may throw the ball in any direction with one or both hands.
  • You can bat the ball in any direction with one or both hands.
  • You cannot run with the ball. You have to throw the ball on the spot where it’s caught. However, there’s an exemption to this rule for any individual who catches the ball while “running at a good speed.”
  • You can only hold the ball in or between your hands, you may not use your arms or body to hold it.
  • Shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking is prohibited. First offense is a foul, the second will disqualify the player until the next goal is made. If injury is evident on the player, the offender is required to sit out for the remainder of the game.
  • You cannot strike the ball with your fist.
  • Three consecutive strikes on one side means a goal for the opposing team.
  • A goal can be made by either throwing or batting the ball from the ground into the basket; it must stay in the basket. If the basket is moved while the ball rests on the edge of the basket, it’s counted as a goal.
  • An out of bounds ball shall be thrown into the field and played by the first person who touches it. If a dispute arises, the umpire shall throw it into the field. The “thrower-in” is allowed five seconds, but if he holds it past the time limit, the ball will go to the opponent. An umpire may call a foul on any side that purposely delays the game.
  • The umpire is the judging power over the players and potential fouls. They will notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made.
  • The referee holds the ruling power over the ball and dictates when the ball is in play, in-bounds, and which side it belongs to. He will also keep the time and decide when a goal has been made, as well as keep count of the goals scored.
  • The time will be fifteen-minute halves and with five-minute rests in between.
  • Whoever makes the most goals within the allotted time frame is the winner. If there is a draw, the game may be played further, if agreed upon by the captains, and will continue until another goal is made.

Historically, when basketball was first born, no open net was used. Therefore, each ball dunked into the net had to be retrieved manually. Which, ultimately sounds very time consuming, but a great game always starts from humble origins.

Swish: The YMCA and War

Arranged by Mel Rideout, the first European game of basketball was played in Paris in 1893.

The YMCA was a key pioneer in bringing the game of basketball to the rest of the United States, Canada, and the world. After the first World War broke out, U.S. troops would regularly play the game wherever they found adequate space. This not only had an influential impact on fueling the popularity of the game, but it also gave troops a moment of psychological peace during a time of chaos and distress.

It was in 1936 that the first game of basketball was played at the summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

Court Vision: National Basketball Association

Basketball Association of America was established in New York City on June 6, 1946. The league later rebranded to the National Basketball Association in 1949 after they merged with the National Basketball League, their old rival. Today, the NBA dominates any other professional basketball league in regard to widespread popularity, salaries, talent, and competition. One of the most profitable markets in the world was created by using a peach basket and a soccer ball; now the NBA is wildly successful and is an international language that everyone speaks.

Whether you are spending long days at the office, traveling the world, or spending time with your family, this athletic pastime can be enjoyed by all walks of life around the globe. While you’re passing the ball or dribbling it to your next win, you can think about the history that brought an everyday activity to the forefront of mainstream culture.

June 20, 2019 Published by Paul Cunningham

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