Curious History

Curious History

The Birth of Basketball

Basketball: Where It All Started

We can say basketball started on the year 1891: James Naismith, a Presbyterian minister, was asked to take a physical education class at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) school in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since it was winter, Naismith was asked to invent an indoor game within two weeks to keep the “unruly” young boys occupied.

Naismith remembered his growing up years in Canada, where he used to play ‘duck on a rock’ – a large rock placed on a larger stone would be knocked off by throwing smaller rocks at it. He also remembered rugby players in the gym tossing a ball into the box. So, he thought of nailing up some boxes where the players would make an attempt to throw in the ball. Since he couldn’t find the boxes, he stacked peach baskets that were nailed at a height of 3.05 meters. Thus, peach baskets and a soccer ball were used to play the first basketball on December 21, 1891. Whenever a player scored a point, the game would be paused for a few minutes while someone climbed a ladder to get the ball. Since, climbing became quite annoying, they started using a wooden dowel to push the soccer ball out of the basket.

Basketball Fundamentals

Among his 13 rules, there was no dribbling, only passing and the person holding the ball had to remain in one place. If the player caught the ball while running, he was given some freedom to move and slowly come to a halt. Naismith came up with this rule to avoid injuries. The first game comprised of 9 players in each team, 30 minutes of play and the lone player, William R. Chase scored the point, 25 feet away from the basket.

The YMCA graduates traveled widely and the game caught on within 3 years. Naismith’s legacy included player like Forrest “Phog” Allen, who later recorded a 771 win as a coach at the Kansas University. One of Allen’s star players, Wilt Chamberlain, became an overnight professional basketball superstar, when he scored 100 points in a 1962 game. The early basketball was brown in color and changed to orange in the 1950s, making it easier for fans to see.

The first basketball league was established in 1898 where players earned $2.50 per game and $1.25 for playing a road trip game. The basketball in 1920s gained immense popularity and saw the formation of many minor leagues. It was featured in the 1936 Olympics. During World War II, a group of arena owners started the Basketball Association of America in 1946. The idea was to pit college athletes against each other.

After few seasons and popularity of teams from another league, the National Basketball Association (NBA) was formed in 1948. They played second to the college teams, but a match fixing scandal in 1949 helped the NBA gain popularity. And with the emergence of stars in each generation like Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, etc. basketball is now played all over the world.

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