The Origination and Rise of American Basketball

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Many people follow the sport of basketball without knowledge of its rich history. Basketball, like all other sports, has a unique story of origination. James Naismith created this lively and active sport to provide children and adults with something to play inside during the cold winter months. James was a teacher at a Christian Association training school. While there, he was asked to create an indoor game that could be used for both entertainment and physical education. He began his work in the winter of 1891 by comparing sports he played as a child. One particular game had a major influence on what would later be called basketball. This game was called “Duck on a Rock” and it consisted of an individual guarding his “duck” from others. Naismith also took ideas from earlier religious traditions created by the Mayans and Aztecs. These cultures used a rubber ball and a ring for one of their inside games. The ring resided on a pole and the shots were made vertically. After extensive studying, he formulated the game of basketball.

Basketball originally had thirteen rules that were easy to understand and follow. The ball itself could be thrown multiple directions, batted, and had to be held with the player’s hands. Players could not run around with the ball. It had to be thrown between players. Dirty tricks such as tripping, pushing, and holding were not allowed. Fouls were defined as violations of the above rules and by using a fist to hit the ball out of a player’s hand. Three fouls received consecutively by a team awarded the other team a point. Baskets could be made by throwing the ball or by batting it out of the player’s hand. An out of bounds ball was thrown back into play and belonged to the first player to have contact with it. Umpires would take note of fouls and judge the overall play of the game. Referees decided when the ball was in play, out of bounds, kept track of time, and determined which team had possession of the ball. Naismith laid out time keeping in the form of two halves lasting fifteen minutes. A five minute break was allowed between halves. Whoever made the most goals during these time periods was the winner of the game. Basketball still follows most of these same basic rules today.

The first game was held on December 29, 1891. A soccer ball and peach baskets were used for the festivities. Basketball spread in popularity throughout the world largely with the help of the US Army and teachers. As Americans were fighting in Europe during the First World War, they picked up on the sport and began to play it wherever they went. Physical education teachers also started using basketball in their courses and the game became a well known sport. The National Basketball Association was not founded until June of 1946. Many small championships and leagues were formed before this time, but most disbanded fairly quickly. Racial integration into the league began in 1942. Afterwards the sport became what we now know today.

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