History of Basketball

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An alternative to football: Football has been and still is the most popular sport since time immemorial. It is accepted that football is an injury prone sport. Moreover football being an outdoor sport cannot be played during extreme winter. These two factors were the main reasons behind the invention of a totally new sport called basketball. The credit for this invention has to go to a Canadian physical education instructor by the name of James Naismith.

Early days: One has to go back in history to the winter months of December in the year 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts for a new game to be invented. James Naismith was working on conditioning football players to adjust themselves to the cold wintry climate. He found out that football was an injury prone game and any injury sustained during winter used to take a long time to heal.

Idea conceived: A new game had to be invented. The prime condition was that the game should be played indoors. Suddenly he remembered a game called “Duck on the Roof” which he used to play in childhood that required players to knock a duck off a large boulder by throwing stones at it. With this primitive game as an inspiration he went about his task of inventing a new indoor game.

Game has taken shape: He had a vision of a new game which used peach baskets and a soccer style ball. He divided his class of students into two teams of nine players each. The object of the game was to throw the ball into the basket which was nailed to the lower rim of the balcony. Initially every time the ball was thrown into the basket, it required a janitor to get a ladder and retrieve the ball. Subsequently the bottoms of the basket were removed which allowed the ball to fall down freely.

How it derived its name: Now, this game had to have a name. Many names were suggested, but Naismith felt that as the game was played with a basket and a ball, the name should be basketball and thus the name stuck which is in use till today. Rules were imperative and Naismith formulated a set of thirteen rules, most of which have stood the test of time and are applicable even today.

The rules are explained in brief:

  • The ball must be thrown in any one direction using only the hands.
  • The ball must be batted in any one direction using only the hands.
  • No player can run with the ball in his hands.
  • No other part of the body should be used for touching the ball except the hands.
  • Physical contact with fellow players is a strict No-No.
  • Striking the ball with the fist is a foul.
  • In case of three consecutive fouls by a team, the opponent team gets a goal.
  • For a goal to be scored the ball must be thrown into the basket and stay there.
  • Any ball which goes out of the field will be thrown back and the player who touches the ball first can start playing.
  • An umpire has to be appointed to judge and count the fouls.
  • A referee is a person who will judge whether the goal is legitimate or not.
  • There will be two halves of fifteen minutes each.
  • The team scoring the most goals is deemed to be the winner.

Professionalism sets in: The first official game of basketball was played on December 21, 1891. In the year 1906, metal hoops, nets and backboards were introduced. The first professional league was formed in 1898. It was predominantly an American sport and is still one of the most popular sports of America. The premier basketball club, “The National Basketball Association” was formed in 1949.

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