A sports history: basketball

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A graphic showing several balls trying to get through the hoop. Pixabay

A look back at the high-octane game

Although the US attempts to take credit for everything that catches on and is popular, the only major sport that has a strictly US origin is basketball.

Basketball was invented by a man by the name of James Naismith in 1891. This took place at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) which is now known as Springfield College, located in Springfield, Massachusetts. Here, Naismith was a physical education instructor.

During the first ever game of basketball, Naismith opted to use 2 half-bushel peach baskets for teams to score in. This is where the sport originally got its name as the goal was to get the ball into a peach basket.

After this initial game, many associations requested copies of the rules. Soon after these requests were made, a copy of the rules was published in the Triangle, which was the YMCA’s Training School’s campus paper in 1892.

Although basketball is typically played competitively over the winter months, it can be played all year round. As long as there is a flat surface and somewhere for the ball to be shot into, you have the ability to play the game.

When we watch or participate in basketball, we are used to five players from each team being on the court at a time – but this was not always the case. Within the first few years of the game’s development, the amount of people on the court was directly related to the size of the playing field. Teams consisted of either five, seven, or nine players before it was decided in 1895 that 5 players per team on the court would be the standard.

Surprisingly, outside of the United States, the first country to adopt the sport of basketball was their lovely neighbours to the north, Canada. After that, basketball took the world by storm! By 1900, basketball had found its way all the way to Japan.

With this development also came an evolution of the uniforms that players wore as well. Originally, there were three different styles of pants that players could choose to wear. The first option players had were similar to the knee length football pants that we see those athletes wear today. The second kind of pants are known as jersey tights, which are commonly worn by wrestlers. The last option available were short, padded pants, which are the closest resemblance to the modern day shorts that athletes choose to wear.

Another piece of equipment that used to be worn by athletes as well, but has been phased out now that courts have been better developed, are knee guards. Courts were often irregularly shaped and came with various obstacles that players would have to be mindful of while playing. These obstacles include things like pillars and stairways among other potential hazards. Eventually, courts were made with straight boundary lines which lessened the need for this piece of equipment to be worn by players.

Also, backboards did not exist initially for nearly the first 20 years of the game. This caused many problems as the baskets were often mounted onto the stands that spectators were sitting in. Without the backboards in place to block the nets, fans were able to interfere with plays in order to favour their preferred team. Originally, they were a screen, before evolving into wooden ones and then the glass ones that we are used to seeing today, which were established in 1908. Although they were established, the shape and placement of them has continued to change over the years as well.

As the sport continues to grow in popularity, different aspects of it have evolved to fit the needs of those who choose to partake as athletes and as fans. Whether it’s the uniforms or the need for a protective board to prevent rowdy fans from interfering, the need for evolution has been evident within this sport. Like any sport, basketball has evolved to fit the needs of its people and will continue to do so as it sees fit. Whether you played during break in grade school, or competitively, everyone has had an opportunity to enjoy the finer details of this classic sport.

Sarah Nakonechny

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