History Of Basketball

History Of Basketball

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The game of basketball has evolved a great deal throughout the years. Basketball was invented on December 21, 1891. The inventor of the game was a Canadian clergyman, James Naismith (Joseph Morse, 1973).

The game of basketball was fashioned from fragments of other games, seeking to eliminate flaws of indoor rugby, soccer and lacrosse. Naismith also borrowed aspects from the children’s game “Duck-on-a-Rock,” in which children tried to knock off a rock from a boulder by tossing smaller rocks from about 20 feet away (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995).

There has been no question that basketball was first played in the United States. In fact, the first game was played at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School, now called Springfield College. (Joseph Morse, 1973) Naismith invented basketball as an alternative to the calisthenics and marching his students practiced to keep fit in the winters (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995).

Basketball was a simple game, which consists of a ball and a basket. The very first ball that was used was a soccer ball until 1894 when an actual “basketball” was invented. The basketball was slightly smaller, about 30 inches in diameter (William D.Halsey, 1975). While, the first baskets that were used were two peach baskets that were hung from the balcony of the gymnasium (Frank G. Menke, 1970). By 1906, the peach baskets were replaced by metal baskets with holes in the bottom. These holes were placed in the basket so a long pole could be used to poke the basketball out of the basket. This was better then in the early days, when a ladder was used to climb and fetch the ball out of the basket. Finally, in 1913 a hoop with a net was invented so the basketball could fall freely to the ground (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995). In my opinion, the invention of the hoop and net was a major step in the game of basketball. Due to the free falling ball the game’s tempo increased which allowed the game of basketball to develop even more.

In 1893, due to the overzealous spectators interfering with the basketball, the backboard was invented. The first backboard was constructed out of wire mesh, then wood and now it is made out of glass so the backboard does not interfere with the viewing of the game (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995).

Around this time, there was no name for this game. Students wanted to call the game “Naismith Ball,” but in did not take.

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In 1921, a man called Mahn named the game “basketball,” and it has been called basketball ever since (Frank G. Menke, 1970).

As the game of basketball was developing, Naismith introduced the 13 original rules for the game of basketball in which 12 out of the 13 original rules were still used up to 1934 (William D. Halsey). The only rule, which changed, was that a player was now allowed to dribble a basketball (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995). The rule of dribbling the basketball was first used in 1896 at a basketball game at Yale University. But at that time, the dribbler could not shoot a field goal (Joseph Morse, 1973). This rule change had many advantages because it allowed for more movement, which caused greater excitement in the game of basketball. But along with many advantages there were also disadvantages as well. The main problem from the rule was that teams would dribble the ball for periods of time while they were leading the game. This was called “stalling,” which accounted for many of the low scoring games in the early days of basketball (Frank G. Menke, 1970).

With the introduction of the 13 original rules, Naismith created four fundamental principals which stayed in the game from 1891to 1937. These four fundamental principals stated, players with the ball must not make progress, the goal is above the head of the players, roughness is eliminated and a player may not receive the ball by use of contact (Joseph Morse, 1973).

Through the years of 1891 to the 1940’s there were many rule changes as well as addition of rules to the game of basketball. In 1895, the free throw was introduced after a person was fouled. The problem with this rule at first was that a team had a “special shooter” to take the foul shots. It was not until 1923 that a player that had been fouled had to shoot the foul shots (Joseph Morse, 1973). In 1897, the number of players allowed on the court was reduced to five on each team. A team consisted of a center, two forwards and two guards. At the beginning, there were allowing six, seven and even eight player on each team (William D. Halsey, 1975). In 1908, the addition of the five foul rule was introduced into the game. It stated that a player who had exceeded the limit was not permitted to continue play of the game. One of the most important rules, which helped speed up the game, came in 1937. It was the elimination of the jump ball after any foul or stoppage in play. Since the standardization of rules in 1934, I believe that the game of basketball had changed for the best because it allowed for more speed and intensity.

By 1898, basketball leagues were starting to form in the United States. In 1898, professional basketball was being played. The league was called the National Basketball League (NBL). The National Basketball League was made up of four teams like New York, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and New Jersey (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995). The National Basketball League did not take hold until after World War II. Also, in 1898, the New England League was formed and they paid star players $150 to $200 a month. The New England League had a brief career and did not survive.

In 1925, the American Basketball League (ABL) which was the first real attempts to widen basketball to a worldwide sport (Lauren S. Bahr). The American Basketball League seasons were six months long and star players were paid $1500. The American Basketball was made up of a nine-team circuit.

By 1932 basketball was officially gaining international status with the founding of the International Amateur Basketball Federation in Geneva, Switzerland (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995).

At this time in 1927 basketball was drawing extraordinary popularity not only with the fans but also with its 20,000,000 players worldwide (Frank G. Menke, 1970).

The reason for this popularity at this time was because of the formation of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1927. The man that had created the team was Abe Saperstein. They were an all Negro team, which toured the world to promote basketball. There was no city too big or too small for the Globetrotters to play at. Throughout the years they attracted crowds of great capacity and shattered all time American attendance marks. In 1952, the attracted 35,548 and in 1953 they attracted 36,256 (Joseph Morse, 1973). I think the Harlem Globetrotters have changed the game of basketball because they realized that for basketball to grow you must entertain the fans. As everyone knows the Harlem Globetrotters are amazing athletes and they entertain people by their astonishing tricks and all around talent.

At this point basketball reached its present eminence in the United States through efforts of “Ned Irish,” a top executive of Madison Square Gardens. In 1934, he persuaded the president of Madison Square Gardens to hold a double header game between Notre Dame and New York University. This was a success because it drew crowds of maximum capacity. But a little time after, between 1935 to 1936 the game of basketball was dimmed due to bribes within the game. College players were accepting bribes from gamblers to win games by less then the quoted point (William D. Halsey, 1975).

In 1946, the Basketball Association of America was formed but it did not far well because it was competing against the National Basketball League. But in 1949, the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League joined together.

They changed their name to the National Basketball Association (NBA). The first season of the National Basketball Association was in 1949 and it consisted of a 17-city circuit, which was divided up into three divisions. The schedule called for 550 games (Joseph Morse, 1973). By the second season the league was cut to 10 teams and two divisions.

The first team to win the National Basketball Association championship was Philadelphia. The first president of the league was Maurice Podolalf (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995).

Throughout the formation of the league there were many aspects and rules that were added to the game of basketball. In 1930’s, Kenny Sailor invented the jump shot. He realized that he could shoot over taller player if he jump while he was shooting. In 1946, Bob Kurland, a seven-foot center from Oklahoma was believed to make the first dunk shot. Although the dunk shot was permitted in the National Basketball Association it was banned from the NCAA until 1976 season (Barbara A. Chenow, 1993). Also in the 1940’s, Bob Kurland use to block shots which led to the rule of “goaltending.” In 1952 the foul lane was widened and the three-second rule was put into affect so centers could not station themselves in front of the basket all the time (Ralph Hickok, 1977). In 1954, the 24-second shot clock was introduced to eliminating the “stalling technique” used by teams so that they could keep the lead in the game. The three-point line was introduced in 1967 (Barbara A. Chernow, 1993).

During the 1950’s the National Basketball Association was on the rise. The league had players like Wilt Chamberlain, who played for the Harlem Globetrotters and then went on to play in the NBA. While in the NBA, he set many records like scoring 100 points in a single game (John Arlott, 1975). Also there were players like Jerry West, who they called “Mr. Clutch.” West went on to make the All-Star Team 14 times in his career (John Arlott, 1975).

During the 1960’s, basketball was being dominated by the Boston Celtics. They won eight straight titles from 1959 to 1966. Their great success was because of player like Bill Russel and Bob Cousy (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995). Bill Russel, who was a defensive specialist, led Boston to 11 NBA championships during his 13-year career. Bob Cousy, who joined the Celtics in 1950, excited crowds with his creative playmaking (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995).

For six years the NBA had operated with an eight-team league. These teams included the Boston Celtics, New York Knickerbockers and the Philadelphia Warriors. By the early 1960’s the NBA expansion began with such teams as the Chicago Bulls, Seattle Supersonics and the Phoenix Suns (Barbara A. Cherow, 1993).

During the 1970’s and 1980’s the expansion of the NBA had gone wild. It went from eight teams to whopping 27 teams. In the 1980’s a rival had begun, it was between Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson of the LA Lakers. Between these years Larry Bird and Magic Johnson both captured three MVP awards. At this time, Magic Johnson went on to nine finals between 1980 and 1990 and won five titles while Bird only captured three titles (Barbara A. Chernow, 1993).

In the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s Michael Jordan, who was one of the greatest players in NBA history, dominated the game and took it to a whole new level. Michael went onto set many scoring records and he became one of the NBA’s prolific scores (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995).

At this time, basketball was increasing in popularity. In the 1991 and 1992 season, which was the 100th anniversary of basketball, there were 176 nations involved in basketball.

In the late 1990’s, the final two teams joined the league. They were the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies, which are the only two Canadian teams in the NBA. The addition of these two teams brought the total to 29 teams. With the increasing teams, the league was divided into the Atlantic, Central (Eastern Conference) Midwest and Pacific division (Western Conference) (Lauren S. Bahr, 1995).

Today the game of basketball is becoming more and more financially oriented. Some of the best players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Kevin Garrnet want to be paid multi-million dollar contracts and will not play until they get their contract. Because the players were not getting paid what the thought they should get paid, there were walkouts and strikes in the 1990’s. The strikes and walkouts caused many fans to turn away from the game because of the selfish nature of the players and owners.

The game of basketball had changed drastically through the years. Basketball has changed in the size of the salaries and endorsements. The players use to play for the love of the game but now players play for the money aspects of it also. Which I think is ridiculous, for a player to be getting paid millions of dollars for a single season. But on the other hand I would not mind getting paid millions for playing basketball. Even though basketball is becoming more commercialized and money oriented, I still would play and watch the game of basketball. I still believe that there still playing basketball for the right reason, which is for the love of the game.


William D. Halsey. Merit Student Encyclopedia New Jersey: Macmillian Co.,Inc., 1975.

Joseph Morse. Funk &Wagnalls New Encyclopedia New York: Funk & Wagnalls, Inc., 1973.

Lauren S. Bahr. Collier’s Encyclopedia Connecticut: P.F. Collier, Inc., 1995

Frank G. Menke. Encyclopedia of Sports London: A.S. Barnes & Co., Inc., 1970.

John Arlott, The Oxford Companion to Sport and Game (New York: Oxford University, 1975)

Barbara A. Chernow. The Columbia Encyclopedia New York: Columbia University Press, 1993

J.A. Cudden The International Dictoionary of Sport and Game (London: J.A. Cudden, 1979)

Ralph Hickok. New Encyclopedia of Sports Toronto: McGraw-Hill Co., Inc., 1977
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