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A History of Basketball

By Charles Hopkins Published 08/1/2007 | Sports

There is much speculation about the humble beginnings of the now ever-popular game of basketball. Many believe that missionaries in China invented it. Others think that it is just a game that gathered most of its concepts from other goal-oriented games such as soccer.

But it was actually in 1891 that a Canadian physician working as one of the staff in a college who brought this sport into light. A minister at a college for young professionals, he was looking for a sporting activity that might keep the students busy, warm and healthy during the wintertime. At the time, he looked over a few sports that were suited for an indoor gymnasium but found that none of them fit his preferences. So instead of looking on for another sport, he created one of this own with a basic set of rules and two peach baskets. The peach baskets were nailed 10 feet high on opposite ends of the gym and he used sacks for nets. Of course, the problem was that the ball had to be poked out of the basket with a long stick every time a ball went in it. They used soccer balls to carry the game out.

More of an innovation than an invention, the game had many similarities to team handball, which required two teams of seven players trying to throw a ball into a goal on the ground. Team Handball was also invented in the 1890s. However, no close associations between the two were ever made and thus they each took their own evolutions in modern sports.

The first official basketball game to be played was in a YMCA gym on January 20, 1892. It involved 9 players and a court that is half the size of a regular present-day basketball court. With a quick rise to popularity, women also began to play the sport in the same year, the games rules changing as the months passed. For a while, credit was given to the YMCA for the creation and spreading of the fame across the country. After a few years, they began to discourage it because it attracted rowdy crowds and rough behavior from the players within the missions.

For a long time, soccer balls were used to play the games. After a while, a brown ball was designed to replace the soccer ball. It was only in the 1950s that an orange ball with better bounce was introduced into the game. This helped make the ball more visible to the players and to the hundreds of spectators that the game began to draw in. At first, bouncing the ball around the court was not a part of the game, except when passing the ball from player to player or what is called a "bounce pass". With the release of the newly improved and rounder orange ball in the 1950s, the rules quickly changed and players were required to dribble the ball.

Today, basketball is one of the most popular games on the planet, rivaling the popularity of soccer itself, which is enjoyed worldwide. Basketball has become part of American culture and is one of the games that were invented by North Americans. Other sports invented by North Americans include netball, volleyball and lacrosse.