Basketball is a relatively new sport, invented in 1891. It has now grown into one of the most popular sports in the United States.
Keeping students fit
Basketball was invented in December 1891 by Canadian James W. Naismith. An instructor at the YMCA Training School in Massachusetts, he sought a suitable indoor game to keep his students fit and warm during the cold New England winters. He formulated 13 rules, most of which still apply today. In 1893, the first women’s game was played at the Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, USA.
Originally, basketball was played with peach baskets and balls had to be retrieved manually after each score. Subsequently, a hole was drilled into the bottom of the basket allowing the balls to be poked out with a long rod. In 1906, the peach baskets were finally replaced by metal hoops with backboards
Basketball was originally played with a soccer ball. The first balls made specifically for basketball were brown, and it was only in the late 1950s that Tony Hinkle, searching for a ball that would be more visible to players and spectators alike, introduced the orange ball that is now in common use.
Global popularity increases
In the early 1900s, students from abroad who had studied in Springfield, started to spread the game. In the 1920s, the first international games were played and by 1950 the first World Championship for Men was held in Argentina. Three years later, in 1953, the first World Championship for Women took place in Chile.
Basketball made its appearance at the Olympic Games in 1904 in St Louis as a demonstration sport, as the competition was held between only American teams and counted as an event of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU of the USA) Championships.
At the Games in 1936 in Berlin, basketball joined the Olympic programme, where it has remained to this day. Women’s basketball debuted at the 1976 Games in Montreal.
The USA dominates international basketball and won all the titles up to 1972, the year it was defeated by the Soviet Union at the Munich Games. In the women’s event, the Soviets took gold in 1976, 1980 and 1992, and were later dominated by the Americans between 1984 and 2008, except in 1992.
In 1992 at the Barcelona Games, famous players from the National Basketball Association (NBA) were allowed for the first time to represent the USA. This team, known as the “Dream Team”in the international media, was undoubtedly the best basketball team ever formed. It delighted the public and widely dominated the Olympic tournament in 1992.