The game of basketball is one of the most popular sports in the United States. According to Fact Monster, basketball originated in Massachusetts. In 1891, a physical education instructor wanted a sport that was not as brutal as football and could be played inside. The teacher wanted to create a sport the young athletes could play during the winter months.
The Canadian, James Naismith, who was the P.E. teacher at a YMCA training school in Springfield, Mass., was a 30-year-old interested in sports physiology. He was born in Ontario, Canada, and graduated as a physician at McGill University in Montreal.
Assigned to find an appealing indoor activity, Naismith combined the elements of soccer, lacrosse, and some game that he had played in childhood, called Duck on a Rock. Then, using a soccer ball and two peach baskets, the physical education professor started to improve his sport. He developed the first 13 rules of the game of basketball and arranged the court (54 feet by 35 feet), which was half the size of a modern field.
The first basketball game, which originated in Massachusetts, had not included dribbling. Moreover, the first baskets used maintained their bottoms, and every time a point was scored the game stopped, as the janitor had to come and retrieve the ball.
The first basketball game was played in December 1891, between two teams of nine players. The final result of the match was 1-0; William Chase scored the only goal from 25 feet. A few months later in March 1892, Springfield, Mass., hosted the first public basketball game.
The Game Spread Quickly
As the graduates of the YMCA school traveled broadly, the rules of basketball were disseminated and the sport caught on. In 1893, numerous players had organized matches all over the world. Later, during World War I, the U.S. Army spread the sport wherever they went.
In 1898, the first professional basketball league was formed. Years later, a former player of Naismith’s, Forrest Allen became “the first great college basketball coach.” Allen not only won 771 games as a coach in Kansas, he also coached Wilt Chamberlain, who was one of the first professional basketball superstars.
The U.S. schools quickly formed teams and college leagues, motivating players to compete with other institutions. In 1939, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was founded and soon developed into what it is called March Madness, a major sports event that takes place every year in the U.S.
In 1946, the Basketball Association of America was established in New York City. Three years later, it merged with the rival National Basketball League and adopted the modern name, National Basketball Association (NBA).
The International Growth of the Sport
During the interwar period, the game of basketball became popular in Europe and South America. In 1932, in order to coordinate the existing national tournaments Argentina, Switzerland, Portugal, Romania, Italy, Greece, Latvia, and Czechoslovakia founded, in Geneva, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). FIBA’s contribution was fundamental for the inclusion of Naismith’s sport in the Olympic Games. In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the U.S. national team won the first Olympic title.
Afterward, some other basketball competitions were founded. The World Cup, continental and intercontinental championships, challenges and cups, between national or club teams, continue to draw attention.
The sport that originated in Massachusetts is now an international game. According to FIBA’s statistics, over 450 million people play basketball, at some level, all over the world. Both men and women are attracted to one of the most popular sports around the world.
By Bianca-Ramona Dumitru
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Fact Monster: Basketball in America: A History
SPORTSKnowHow: Basketball History
The Basketball World: Basketball History: Origin of the Sport
Image Courtesy of Mike Boening Photography’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License