The history of basketball

By George Garza
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Man shooting basketball
The game of basketball has grown into an internationally loved sport because it has produced outstanding players and legends to compete with the best players from golf, baseball and football
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Basketball has come a long way from the peach basket.

Dr. James Naismith is the inventor of basketball. After serving as McGill University's Athletic Director James Naismith moved on to the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA where, in 1891, the sport was born. He also created a set of thirteen rules to play basketball.

Shooting into a Peach Basket

Significant in the early days was that when you made a basket you had to climb a latter to retrieve the ball. At that time the basket was a peach basket; it did not have an opening. Open rims eventually replaced baskets.

Nets were added to slow the ball down and help officials determine if the ball had actually gone through the rim. Another change was just as important. The original rules did not specify how many players could appear on the court. So in 1897 the standard five players limit was introduced.

Early baskets also had no backboards so there was no rebounding. Wooden backboards were added in 1896 to prevent fans in the balcony from interfering with the ball.

The First Leagues are Born

In 1898 the first league was formed. It was impromptu and many players played for multiple teams; this was the era of barnstorming. Players went to different cities to play local teams. Other changes were made to the game. For instance in 1906 rims with open nets were standard. In 1908 another player rule was introduced which was that a player is ejected after five fouls. This helped reduce the physical contact on the court.

In the area of league growth, however, three corporations, Goodyear, Firestone and General Electric formed the National Basketball League in 1937. They created the league with companies that sponsored teams and other independent teams. Most teams were from the Midwest.

Then after World War II, there was an effort to establish a nationwide league. The Basketball Association of America was founded in 1946. But it folded in 1949 and the remaining teams joined the Basketball Association of America. The new league was formed and called the National Basketball Association—the NBA.

Important Changes in the NBA

Another important development occurred shortly after the NBA was formed. In 1950 three black players, Nat Clifton, Charles Cooper and Earl Lloyd, entered the NBA. More change was occurring on the court itself.  In 1954 the 30-second shot clock was introduced, meaning that a team could not hold on to the ball by passing it back and forth to other team members. They had to shoot a basket.

College Basketball

Colleges began to take an interest in the game by the 1920's. Many Ivy League schools formed teams and played each other. Then in 1937, basketball writers in New York decided to have a tournament to name a national college champion. It was held in Madison Square Garden in New York in 1938 with Temple University becoming the first national champion.

A year later college basketball coaches formed a different invitational which the NCAA took over and the March Madness Tournament (held in the month of March) was born. Here 16 top teams are invited into a playoff scheme to determine the National Collegiate championship.

Olympic and International Basketball

Not content to play only in the U.S., the league took the game international. It made an Olympic appearance starting in 1904. In 1932 eight nations formed the International Amateur Basketball Association. The popularity slowly rose but in the 1936 Olympics, the U.S. beat Canada. There were 21 teams in the competition.

Outstanding Players

The game has grown because it has produced outstanding players and legends to compete with  the best players from golf, baseball and football. Kareem Abdul Jabar, Wilt Chamberland and Michael Jordan have left their mark on the game. Yao Mings from China plays for the Houston Rockets and his career is followed religiously in China.

Today, there are over 200 national basketball federations and leagues. The history of basketball has been one of growth and international acceptance.

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