Like with many sports, basketball has evolved significantly since it was invented some 130 years ago back in Springfield, Massachusetts. There are now 2.2 billion players and fans around the world, and as participants push the boundaries of the sport, we will see more changes as the story of basketball continues to be written.
Here are 12 fascinating facts in the story so far.
- Baskets were really baskets
Back in 1891 when Phys Ed teacher James Naismith was looking for another sport for his students to play during the colder months, he hung actual peach baskets from the balcony of the gym. Each time someone scored a goal, they had to pull out a ladder and climb up to retrieve the ball. That’s likely would have meant for some extra stoppages in play!
- Olympic Sport
The first time basketball was ever played as an Olympic sport was at the Summer Games in Berlin, Germany in 1936. Twenty-one different countries competed, and America ended up winning the Gold.
- Two leagues became one
The NBA was originally formed in 1949 when the National Basketball League (NBL) and the Basketball Association of America (BAA) merged together. In 1967, a rival league, the ABA, commenced, but folded nine years later. The ABA attempted some variations on the rules. Some of these ended up being adopted and are still used in the game today.
- Most points for a player in a game
The most points ever scored in an NBA game was by Wilt Chamberlain who finished one night against the Knicks in March 1962 with 100 points.
- Three pointers
The three-pointer now plays such a huge part of modern-day basketball. But it actually wasn’t a thing in the NBA until the 1979-80 season, where they borrowed the idea from the ABA.
- Dribbling wasn’t allowed
When the game was first invented players had to pass the ball from where they caught it. Luckily this rule didn’t stick around for too long and dribbling became a part of the sport from about 1897. Netball has kept this tactic and it still remains one of the most popular sports among all ages.
- Fouls were originally permitted
For the first 20 years of the game fouls were actually permitted. From 1910 players were then permitted to commit 4 fouls, which was updated again in 1946 to the five fouls as we now know it. In 1989, the NBA updated this to 6 but FIBA rules still only allow 5 before the player is sent off.
- Basketball Sneakers had to be partially white.
Basketball sneakers have always been a point of interest for players as well as a part of fashion for many years. League policy mandated that each player “must wear shoes that not only matched their uniforms, but matched the shoes worn by their teammates.” Thanks to Michael Jordan back in 1984, who decided to accept a fine each time he wore his signature Jordans, which were originally black and red. The NBA eventually changed its stance and now any colour is acceptable.
- Why is a Basketball orange
Basketball originally started the game using a soccer ball. This progressed to a brown leather ball, but quite often it would be too hard to see blending with the floor or players uniforms, so was eventually dyed to be the orange colour many of us now use.
- Most points for a team in a game
The most points ever scored in an NBA game by one team is 186. This was by the Detroit Pistons against the Denver Nuggets in December 1983. It was a triple overtime thriller with Denver losing by 2 points. This match also ended up being the most combined points scored by both teams in a game with a total of 300 points.
- The First Slam Dunk
There’s no denying that dunking is one of the most exciting parts of the game. The first person to dunk was in 1944, a 7ft tall center who played for Oklahoma, who was pinned by defenders under the ring and accidentally stuffed the ball in the basket. Dunking actually ended up becoming banned in the 1960’s for about 10 years, mostly because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was dominating with this move. Luckily this ban didn’t last!
Our founder Brett Rainbow won 3 straight NBL Slam Dunk titles in the 1990s. If you’d like to slam it like him, check out our basketball jump program.
- Most points in total for a player in the NBA
The title of the most total points in the NBA goes to “The King” Lebron James who currently has 38469 total points, and counting! He only recently took this title from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the 7th February 2023.
As basketball continues to grow in popularity, the rules will likely keep evolving. To make sure you always know the game inside and out, and be the very best you can, spend time training.