Basketball is one of the few sports that actually takes place indoors and its creation was based on its ability to be played within a gym without worrying about damaging property and players alike. To compensate for rainy days and keep his gym class active, Dr. James Naismith of Canada dug and dug until he developed the game of basketball with its rules for safe play in the month of December in 1891. He actually used a peach basket as the goal for his new sport though this basket wasn’t the most efficient since it kept its bottom, making retrieval of the ball necessary. He later cut the bottoms out, allowing for easier removal with a dowel after each basket made.
With Naismith’s original concept, the game was played with soccer balls since the basketball hadn’t been invented yet. When they finally were, they weren’t orange and black like todays, but rather brown. Tony Hinkle wanted something that could be seen by all that either played or watched the game so he introduced the ball we see today in the late 1950s. As far as gameplay, the ball’s movement up and down the courting was usually made through passes between teammates until one could toss the ball into the basket since dribbling wasn’t part of the game as of yet. The 1950s were the magical years for dribbling as well since the ball’s manufacturing was improved and allowed for better control as one dribbled the ball on the court.
Metal hoops and backboards eventually replaced the peach baskets in 1906 with improvements made to allow the ball to flow through the hoop without getting stuck. The backboards were brought into the game to prevent spectators from intervening in shots since the hoops were initially attached by nails to the balconies of the playing courts. Rebound shots were also a result of the backboard, making points easier to achieve. As the game became popular, the first official game wasn’t recorded until 1892 in Albany, New York at a YMCA with a total of nine players. Within a few years, the five-man team became the standard for the game.
As it grew within the network of YMCA’s in the United States, it also began to venture into areas of Canada. Though the YMCA would denounce the sport within a decade of developing it, the sport had already spread to many other locations, such as sports clubs, colleges, and even professional clubs. Within the college realm, this sport quickly gained ground thanks in large part to Naismith, helping to create some of the first leagues or unions that fought for the right to create and maintain the sport’s rules and regulations. 1901 brought about colleges sponsoring the games for men from the University of Chicago to Yale University. The creation of the NCAA in 1905, in response to injuries maintained in American football, was developed and soon became the governing body for all sports played at the collegiate level.
In 1937, we see the first men’s national championship, which is later called the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) with other tournaments forming over the next couple of years. However, gambling scandals would soon rock the sport at the collegiate level from 1948 to 1951 as many players were accused of match fixing and point shaving. In response, one tournament soon lost favor with the NCAA tournament.
Basketball was a favored sport at the high school level due to its low costs in equipment and requirements on personnel to play and referee the game. Since television coverage wasn’t so widespread at the time, high school basketball was able to gain such popularity that one team was able to take the nation by storm, especially within its own state of origination in the 1920s. As the popularity remained strong with this sport, the numbers for the season of 2003 and 2004 reached an estimated 1 million players of both boys and girls as they represented their schools in competition with other schools. The film Hoosiers was created as an in-depth look into the meaning of basketball within the communities of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.
While there is no standard to prove a high school level champion, it’s not from lack of trying with efforts spanning from 1917 to 1930, but the tournament buckled under pressure of losing accreditation.
At the professional level, teams were so abundant that there was little organization among the hundreds through the United States. To counteract this, the Basketball Association of America was created in 1946 with the first game played between the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knickerbockers in Canada. Within three seasons, the National Basketball Association was formed from a merger of the BAA and the National Basketball League. As it gained ground in the 1950s, it saw the emergence of its hall of fame in 1959 at the site of its first game in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The NBA maintains its highest level of popularity within the world, but that hasn’t stopped the international growth of basketball as a popular indoor sport with the creation of FIBA, or International Basketball Federation, in 1932 by eight nations, making basketball eventually part of the Olympics in 1936. It also saw growth expand into the realm of women’s basketball at Smith College in the same year as the men’s. While it was created at Smith, it wasn’t Smith that played in the first women’s matchup, but rather University of California and Miss Head’s School. As women’s college basketball gained ground, it didn’t gain a professional league until 1997 with the WNBA though its popularity isn’t nearly as high as the men’s league.
As it moved itself through history, the gameplay for this sport hasn’t changed as dramatically as other sports, but its rules and regulations are the very structure to this highly popular sport.