The Sublime History of Basketball

Today, in 2015, more than 300 million people play basketball worldwide. What’s crazy to think about is that this worldwide phenomenon was invented as an alternative to the dangerous sport of football. In December 1981 James Naismith, a Canadian physical education instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts, created basketball when he was given instructions from the head of physical education at his school to create a safe indoor game that would provide an “athletic distraction” for a rambunctious class during the harsh New England winter. He tasked himself with creating a game for the students that involved skill as opposed to one that relied solely on strength.

After some trial and error basketball was created. However, the original game of basketball wasn’t basketball the way that we know it today. The first game of basketball included his entire class of 18 students. Nine players on each team used a soccer ball and peach baskets to play the game. The rules were vastly different from the ones used presently. Instead of dribbling and throwing the ball players batted the ball with their hands and had to throw it to their teammates while standing still. Additionally, they weren’t allowed to run while holding the ball. A foul occurred when a player struck the ball with their fist. While the rules of James Naismith’s game were obviously not exactly the same, many other rules were similar to the ones of present day basketball. A goal was made when the ball was thrown or batted from the ground into the peach basket, which was nailed to the lower railing of the gym balcony, and stayed there. The referee kept the time and was the judge of the ball; he decided when it was in play, and which team got possession. Whichever team scored the most amount of goals in the time allotted was declared as the winner. While many of the thirteen original rules of basketball were different from present day basketball’s rules, it is clear how present day basketball originated from James Naismith’s indoor game.

Since its creation in 1981 basketball has become one of the most popular sports worldwide. As early as 1893 the YMCA began to introduce basketball to many other nations. In 1936 it was included in the Berlin Olympics. On June 6th, 1946 the Basketball Association of America was founded in New York City. In 1949, after merging with the rival National Basketball League, the NBA was born. As of the early 21st century, the NBA is the most powerful professional league in the United States. It’s crazy to think that a sport that was created to keep a group of unruly students entertained quickly turned into a worldwide phenomenon.


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