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History of Basketball: Origin and Invention

Basketball began in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts when Canadian physical education instructor James Naismith invented it. Take a look in details about the history of basketball, it’s origin and invention.

Last updated: 08.09.2021
History of Basketball | Sports Social Blog

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Basketball began in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts when Canadian physical education instructor James Naismith invented it. Naismith was a 31-year-old physical education graduate student at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, which is now Springfield College. Naismith wanted to make a game that was simple to learn, yet sophisticated enough to keep players interested. Indoors, the game had to be playable, and it had to be able to handle multiple players at the same time. The game had to provide the pupils with lots of exercises while avoiding the violence of football or rugby, which could cause more serious injuries if played in a restricted setting. This is how the idea of basketball came into Naismith’s mind.

Naismith was told by his supervisor to build an indoor sports game to help athletes stay in condition over the winter. Naismith addressed the school janitor hoping to locate two square boxes that could be used as goals. Instead, the janitor returned from his search with two peach baskets. Naismith attached the peach baskets to the gymnasium balcony's lowest rail, one on each side. The lowest balcony rail occurred to be 10 feet in height. Students would form teams and compete to get the ball into their team's goal. A person was assigned to retrieve the ball from the basket and return it to play at each end of the balcony. 

For the new game, Naismith published 13 rules. He divided his eighteen-student class into two teams of nine players each and began teaching them the fundamentals of his new game. The goal of the game was to toss the basketball into the fruit baskets affixed to the gym balcony's lower railing. The game was stopped every time a point was scored so the janitor could bring out a ladder and grab the ball. The bottoms of the fruit baskets were removed after a period. On March 11, 1892, they held the first public basketball game in Springfield, Massachusetts. The first game, in which baskets were used as hoops, turned into a brawl.


“The boys began tackling, kicking, and punching in the crunches, they ended up in a free for all in the middle of the gym floor before I could pull them apart,” Naismith said during a January 1939 radio program.

Following are the 13 rules Naismith introduced in 1892:

1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.

2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist).

3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.

4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.

5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule by any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.

6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of Rules 3,4, and such as described in Rule 5.

7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).

8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.

9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds; if he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.

10. The umpire shall be judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.

11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made, and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.

12. The time shall be two 15-minute halves, with five minutes' rest between.

13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner. In case of a draw, the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.

Other discrepancies existed between Naismith's original concept and the game that is now played. The peach baskets were closed, and balls had to be physically retrieved until a small hole was drilled in the bottom of the peach basket and a stick was used to prod the ball out. Metal hoops, nets, and backboards were not adopted until 1906. The soccer ball was replaced in 1894 with a ball designed by Naismith and manufactured by Spalding.

Smith College gymnastics coach Senda Berenson introduced the game to women's athletics in 1892, less than a year after Naismith devised it. In 1896, Stanford University and the University of California in Berkeley played the first recorded intercollegiate game between women. In 1898, the first professional league was established. The Trenton Nationals were the first champions of the National Basketball League, followed by the New York Wanderers, the Bristol Pile Drivers, and the Camden Electrics. In 1904, the league was disbanded. The American Expeditionary Force brought basketball with them wherever they went during World War I. Hundreds of physical education teachers, in addition to the military, were basketball experts. During that time, Naismith also worked for the YMCA in France for two years.

Mayak Saint Petersburg defeated a YMCA American team in the inaugural international match, which took place in Saint Petersburg in 1909. The International Basketball Federation (Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur, FIBA) was created in Geneva in 1932 by Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland. Its efforts were instrumental in the inclusion of basketball in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. The United States national team won the inaugural Olympic gold medal. The games were held on an outdoor clay court, and Canada came in second. The Basketball Association of America (BAA) was established in New York City on June 6, 1946. After combining with the rival National Basketball League in 1949, the league became known as the National Basketball Association (NBA). The rest, as they say, is history. This is how the game progressed from peach baskets in Springfield to become a worldwide phenomenon.

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