Basketball is one of the most
popular indoor played games ever. It can be thought of as the ‘indoor
soccer’ considering the game’s global following and familiarity
with it that rivalled soccer. Indeed, just like soccer has millions
of fans and a club that hosts national championships every five
years, played on a large field; basketball has its own association
governing and guarding it and contributing further to
its ever growing development. Several sources of data
suggest a huge following. The most reliable figure
perhaps is the 250 million figure that is
also approved by the NBA, considering that the game
is not just played in North America but nearly
every country in the world barring just an
exceptional few that have not really been
introduced to the sport. In light of this, it becomes very important
for laymen and sportspeople to know the beginnings behind a phenomenon and how it
went on to become such a global phenomenon. Several hundreds of
inventions and innovations take place on our planet
daily but only a fraction of those new developments
really evolve and occupy a permanent place
in our civilisation. In sports, be it something like
soccer or just tennis, each has its own journey that can be
traced back thousands of years, even if it may seem that
a new invention took place just a couple of
years or months ago. For basketball, the journey
is quite brief but immense. It laid the foundations of American
sports and let people of several cultures and communities to join
hands and compete for gold medals. Basketball indeed throughout
its past, has actively rallied against racism and
still continues to do so. In consideration, basketball
is more than just a sport. It’s a kind of ideology woven
in the form of a professional sport and presented in the most
colourful manner possible. The Inception Like all other sports that
exist in the world today, basketball has had its
own history and origins. It can be thought of as
an unlikely candidate when it comes to ancient
antiquity, as such other sports like football
or even cricket share, owing to their origins
in the Middle Ages. Not to forget the Olympic
sports of course, that have accompanied mankind
since almost 3 millennia. Considering the timeline
of all sports concerned, basketball is actually a
very recent addition, having been officially
attributed to being invented in 1891 by a sports
scientist and physiologist. This sport’s inventor was himself never
very sporty going by his usual looks, and several of his written documents or even
his black & white photographs will give anyone the realisation that basketball
could have been an accidental invention. But the story behind the sport’s origins
is itself very scientific in nature. Nearly every invention in
sports’ history has had some kind of logical or rationalistic
beginning behind it. Football for example, is
a simple contest between two teams whose objective
is to score as many goals as possible
by keeping the ball at the opposite goal for
as many times possible. It has its rules as any other sport has,
and the game itself is a pretty old one. There are hundreds
of even thousands of sports that are played
by individuals daily. We do not even know each and
every one of them, considering the regions that have long had
an association with sports. In Africa, nearly every
tribe plays its own sport, as part of entertainment
or mere simple tradition. Some of these sports
are of an antique origin and their play
style extremely rough. Bushmen in Africa compete in full
fledged wrestling competitions without any safety gear or
regulations for that matter. Such sports are seen
as pure entertainment during the time of local
festivities or even as traditions wherein certain
groups are required to carry out procedures
in the form of gameplay. Sport itself is a tradition
in its own manner. When discussing about
basketball, then one can easily conclude going by
some of its outline facts that it indeed is one of
the most recent additions in the world of sports
and physical testing. Basketball was basically invented
by Dr James Naismith in 1891. Dr James was by profession,
a physiologist and a sports scientist with
interest in philosophy. As a youngster too, Dr James was
fond of several ‘home’ sports; for example, his pet game during
his childhood that involved knocking away a duck relic
by tossing a stone on it. The duck used to get placed
on a pointy surface and participants had to take
aims on knocking it away. It was a local game played by school
toddlers, mostly known as duck-on-a-rock. The childhood game’s primary
concept got carried over several years ahead when Dr James invented
basketball in his middle age. During his school time, Dr James studied
in Canada and later moved to Springfield College, Massachusetts where he would
spend the rest of his life in. This is also the place where Dr James
invented modern day basketball. Like all other sports that
start with rudimentary steps, asketball started as a simple game with
two peach ball baskets as goals where teams needed to drop the ball in those
baskets; it was a simple invention. What Dr James never knew
was that the sport that he invented for local students
of Springfield College to play inside closed
rooms would fast become one of the most popular
sports in the world. Even during his lifetime,
basketball became a global sport with its first Olympic entry in
the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Dr Naismith’s purpose for inventing
such a sport was very clear. He wanted a game that played
and looked very similar to football but inflicted lesser
injuries on the players. Contrary to what we see in modern
day football, back in those days when technology allowed only
simple equipment to be produced, the play style of this game was typically
characterised as extremely rough. Football shoes wore during the Victorian
era were characterised as extremely hard, made up of pure leather and
capable enough of inflicting the most damaging of injuries,
even disabling at times. Refereeing was not as developed
as its now owing to absence of cutting edge technologies judges
follow during a soccer match, and that allowed for a lot of
foul play to go unnoticed. Soccer equipment and standards
to make the game more playable came only during the
last of the 20th century when technological advances allowed
referees, professionals and equipment manufacturers to observe
better standards and play styles. Dr Naismith thus wanted a game that resembled
soccer but was characterised as being lighter and putting less pressure on the
physical aspect of competing teams. Although basketball has its own unique
injuries and disabilities, it can well be said that in some instances, it
does indeed seem lighter than soccer. Dr Naismith was also faced
with another problem; the extreme cold of Canada and the
college where he later taught. Dr Naismith intended to invent
a soccer styled game but one that could be played indoors
in much smaller spaces. And thus, basketball was born. The first known basketball court was thus
designed in Springfield College involving a simple wood-planked surface with two wooden
baskets on either ends of the playing area. Rules were also formulated, with 13
of them provided by Naismith himself. These rules were as follows: 1. The ball may be thrown
through any of the hands. 2. The ball may be batted with
any hands but never the fist. 3. The player must
compulsorily throw the ball to one of his teammates and
not run with the ball. 4. Never to be used for holding
the ball are arms and the body. Always hold the ball between the hands. 5. No shouldering or striking
or pushing in whatever manner an opposing player as that
would amount to a foul play. Persisting behaviour would
amount to a disqualification. 6. Fist striking the ball
is to be counted as a foul. 7. Three consecutive
fouls by one team is to be counted as a goal
for the opposing team. 8. A goal shall be counted
only when one team bats the ball into the
opponent team’s basket, provided that the opponent team does not
move the ball once its in the basket. The goal is also to be counted
if the ball rests on the edge of the basket and the
opposing team moves the basket. 9. If the ball goes out
of bounds, then it shall be thrown in by the
first person touching it and the umpire will
deal with the situation in case there is a dispute
between two teams. The thrower is allowed only five
seconds to throw the ball, failing upon will result in a player of the
opposing team handling the throw. If either team continues
to delay the throw-in, the umpire shall call
it as foul play. 10. Time allowed is to
be 15 minute, divided into two halves with
5-minute break in-between. 11. The winning side
is to be decided upon which one of the teams
scores the most goals. 12. The umpire shall be the judge
of the whole match and shall record the goals both teams score and
notify any foul play to the referee. He will also issue fouls
and everything other duty that is performed/expected
by a referee. 13. The umpire is also expected to
note the time of the match while deciding without influence or
bias when a goal has been made. With these 13 rules, the sport of
basketball was ready to be played between leagues and teams that soon
starting flooding basketball courts. Nostalgically, these
very same 13 rules still form the basis of proper
basketball play style. In the years that would come, basketball
would soon emerge as one of the leading sought after sports in schools and
institutes across the eastern states. And it would only be a
matter of time when it finally transforms itself
into a global phenomenon. Nascent Evolution Perhaps the Mayans and Aztecs
would have thought that one day their basketball like sport
would become a global one. In the 1500s, the Spanish
travellers and conquistadors noted a strange sport
the natives played. It involved a ball tossed by several
players that had to be tossed inside ‘goals’ that resembled
baskets of modern day basketball. These ancient people might
have played the game even earlier, which makes
basketball an ancient game! However, being of such
coincidence, it was Dr Naismith who ‘introduced’
this sport to the world. Basketball got its first
recognition in 1896, just five years after its
inception when two teams, the Trenton YMCA and Brooklyn YMCA were
sponsored and competed against one another. Early game style of basketball was very
rough and actually got banned by the YMCA. Early charges in those times
used to be a couple of dollars, that in today’s time
might go into thousands. On every win, each player got his
prize with Fred Cooper winning $16 (approximately greater than
$1000 in today’s reference) and earning the first highest paid
basketball player in history. Such were the humble beginnings
of this simple sport. The earliest basketball teams were
also locally sponsored groups mostly done by popular colleges and
educational institutes of those times. Since sports itself had been an integral
part of the education curriculum, basketball thus found its entry into several
of the eastern colleges and states. During much half of the late 19th century,
U.S was being ‘unified’ after the civil war had ended and the southern states
had agreed on the union’s conditions. Since that era was a turbulent
period for Americans, it was only during the 1880s and 1890s that the
real unification work kicked off. Railways were laid down
in southern states that bordered Mexico that
had seen absolutely no urbanisation and development
except lawlessness and legendary tales of
outlaws and cowboys. There were no institutes here. America then existed only in some of
the northern and eastern regions, most notably of them being New
York, Philadelphia and Boston. Boston and New York share much credit
to basketball’s early launches as these were one of the first cities
to host major basketball matches. Basketball also witnessed
much popularity even during Dr Naismith’s time
when he still breathed. Shortly after the sport’s inception
and its debut in the local sports world, the NBL (National
Basketball League) was formed. This league could be thought
of as the precursor to the modern National
Basketball Association (NBA), although there is a vast
time gap between the former’s terminations and
the latter’s formation. The NBL was very
helpful in further popularising the sport
in the whole country. The year 1901 marked another
landmark period for the game. Prior to the new century, basketball
was played only by local collegiate and student teams and this got changed
as the new century turned in. Several new teams now started signing
up for professional basketball matches although the sport itself remained
a very local entertainment means. Teams like the New York Celtics,
Original Celtics, SPHA, Buffalo Germans, etc. were one of the
first formed basketball teams. Now almost a century
later, all these teams have vanished except the
Harlem Globetrotters, an all African American team
that still plays today, making it one of the oldest basketball
teams still in existence. There were other teams that were active. Professional teams like Buffalo Germans
and SPHA have already been listed above. During early 1900s, a new
concept in basketball took over, what is known
as ‘barnstorming’. Since basketball as a sport
did not categorise itself as one of the professionally
recognised sport, several of the teams that existed then
were more like play-for-cash teams whose main purpose was to attract
crowds and play for cash prizes. Top teams of those times
like Original Celtics and Buffalo Germans dominated the
arenas wherever they went. The Original Celtics won several basketball
matches but their win streak had become so common that their players
lost interest and the team had to disband
after several years. This was also pretty much
the same story with Buffalo Germans and SPHA (South
Philadelphia Hebrew Association). These teams joined several leagues that
existed then but because of basketball’s local recognition, its leagues
existed only for a tentative period. Most notable leagues of the 1900s were the
Eastern League and Philadelphia League. All teams noted above
joined any of these leagues according to the situation
that prevailed. If one league became
more popular, winning teams would join that
league and vice versa. Here, the Original Celtics
introduced their addition to the game that became an
integral part of the sport. Since several players used to leave as
and whenever required, mostly for money, the Original Celtics introduced
contracts to the game to prevent anytime-anywhere
movement of players. Through contracts,
players were bound to remain with teams for a
fixed period of time, thus preventing biased matches
where one team could possess better players because of
its higher monetary value. However, World War 1 turned
itself in and that inflicted certain damage to the ever
increasing popularity of the sport. The world was at war and basketball’s rise
towards globalism saw a grinding halt. People had shifted their
focus from playing and enjoying sports to defending
their homes and families. Although the U.S remained out of
the war for much if its time, it diverted a lot of its resources
in aiding the allied powers. During the late years of the
war, several American garrisons in thousands were sent to
the battlefields of Europe. Young men who enjoyed playing basketball in
their backyards got themselves enlisted. A lot of them died in Europe. The circumstances of the
Great War were such that the 1920s were seen as a
downfall for basketball. The game had become very common
in the early years and there were no legal associations or
leagues governing the sport, making it look like just another
local American entertainment. Basketball became a second
tier sport that could be enjoyed only when there was
no hockey match or soccer. This was soon to change
in the coming years. In 1925, the American
Basketball League (ABL) was formed, one of the first
precursors to modern day NBA. The ABL was a league owned by
several corporations of the time and they sponsored teams and
matches through the country. Basketball was now gaining
real popularity in America. Basketball with the coming of the ABL changed
its characteristics from being a second tier sport to again become one of the primary
attractions in colleges and schools. Several teams that played
prior to the great war were still playing and actively
seeking to get into the ABL now that the league had
formed and called teams from all across the U.S. teams
like the Original Celtics, Cleveland Rosenblum and
even the SPHA started playing league matches
instead of barnstorming. The Original Celtics changed
their name to Brooklyn Celtics while other teams
remained the same. The 1920s thus saw an overwhelming
development in basketball history. Several new leagues were formed up,
associations sprouted up and newer, younger teams were now beginning to march on the
basketball field never before noticed. During 1890s and the subsequent 1900s,
basketball was a sport for just local student teams and leagues that were
interested in winning college championships. Now, basketball was gaining
international attention. In the coming decades, as
shall be seen in the next chapters, associations like
the FIBA and NBA were formed, the former being the foremost
European association for basketball while the latter is the only
governing body in North America. The making of basketball as an
international sport has its credit to the American soldiers who went to Europe
during the last stages of the great war, and of course the founding teams,
most notably the Original Celtics described as the ‘founding fathers
of basketball competition’. It is probably because of them
that nearly 250 million people still play the sport today, or
perhaps even more than that. In 1917, American soldiers aiding
the British and French on the battlefields of western Europe
introduced the American sport. In that context, the
YMCA too shares a lot of credit in making the
sport globally renowned, since it was none other than YMCA
schools who encouraged basketball to be played throughout the country
while popularising it into Europe through its several YMCA branches
and centres that operated there. The sport’s ease of play style
and quick conduct made it a fine break-time for the tireless
soldiers fighting the war. Soon, basketball would
become an Olympic sport too. In Europe, the sport had
already been introduced by several YMCA
students and members. In 1909, one of the first basketball
matches was conducted in St. Petersburg and during the same time, basketball
was getting played by Italians too. Italian players like Arrigo,
Marco Muggiani, Baccarini, Giuseppe Sessa, Falestra,
Pecollo and Bagnoli were indeed one of the first Italian
players to enter the field of basketball. They wore a white shirt with an imprint of
the coat of arms of the House of Savoy. Similar such teams were formed
up in rest of Europe while the game was being introduced
elsewhere in the world as well. Duncan Patton introduced
basketball to India while travellers and servicemen
serving in overseas regions like Japan and Indonesia
introduced the game over there (like C. Hareek who introduced
the sport to Persia). In 1932, the first international
governing body for basketball was formed with
Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Latvia,
Portugal, Romania and Switzerland being its
founding members. It was only a matter of
years that basketball would get introduced as
an Olympic sport as well. The Federation de Internationale
de basketball amateur or FIBA was formed in 1932 as the primary governing
body of basketball in Europe. The FIBA allowed sponsored matches
and championships to be held in landmark centres of Europe, with the
first FIBA match held in Paris. Basketball’s recognition in the
Olympics however, would change the sport’s international face forever,
as will be seen in the next chapter. Transformation Starting from mid 1920s, basketball had
been gaining international attention. In 1932, the first Pan-European
basketball governing body was formed up that looked into proper conducting of
basketball championships in Europe. However, the Berlin Olympics of 1936
altogether changed the cards of the sport. The debut of basketball in the global arena
was received with acclamation and applause. A number of countries (21 in
total) competed for the gold medal and U.S., its original birth
land came out as the winner. The U.S national team comprising
of Sam Balter, Joe Fortenberry, Ralph Bishop, Tex Gibbons,
Carl Knowles, Francis Johnson, Frank Lubin, Donald Piper, Art Mollner, Jack
Ragland, Willard Schmidt, Duane Johnson, Carl Shy, Bill Wheatley and their trainer,
James Needles, successfully won the gold. Basketball would continue to develop
further with several international leagues and associations being formed, several
of them now non-existent and unknown. In the U.S alone, hundreds of
leagues and associations that once governed school and college championships
existed that are now defunct. In its land of origin, several all
American African teams also existed and have become an inspiration for
modern day African Americans, since the latter constitute a considerable
portion of basketball player base in U.S. Two of the first teams, the New
York renaissance and the still existing Harlem Globetrotters
have already been listed above. In 1946, the Basketball Association of
America was formed as a result of the international fame the sport had gained in
its whole lifetime starting from the 1890s. Basketball had by this time
become a phenomenon among African Americans against
emancipation and discrimination by their white counterparts
in that the former players entered teams and leagues
to win thousands in cash and convince the world
that anyone irrespective of origin or nationality
can win the top. African Americans would also
continue to enlist in almost all of the major U.S national
teams competing in the BAA. The Basketball Association
itself was the first basketball governing body in the history
of American basketball in the sense that prior
to its formation, basketball used to be a
mere barnstorming sport carried out by colleges and leagues all the
way till the end of the Second World War. The BAA formed up several ‘seasons’ for
the sport to be carried out periodically. Maurice Podoloff, the president
of the already existing American Hockey League was also appointed
as the president of the BAA, making him the first
person to simultaneously govern two professional leagues. The BAA would go on conducting successful
championships across the U.S and would later on merge with the NBL (National
Basketball League) to form the NBA, the association that would start
characterising itself as the premium basketball governing
body in the decades to come. One of the first matches the BAA
held was at Madison Square Garden. The league started off with
11 matches, divided into two divisions, the Eastern
Division and Western Division. Each team played a number of matches
per season, around 60 or 61 and the best three of them were selected for
each division advanced to the playoffs. Within each division, the
teams that received first rankings qualified directly
to the semi-finals while the second and third
ranking teams contested a best-of-3 quarterfinal
and semi-final. In the history of the BAA, there are
primarily three seasons that the NBL regards it as the foundation
years of the currently existing NBA. The first season started
in 1946 and saw several teams competing
for prizes and cups. The second season started in
1947 and lasted till 1948, until the last and the third
season of BAA ended in 1949. During this time, the National Basketball
League had also started functioning and performed as the rival league for
BAA before their mergence as the NBA. During this time, several new
additions were made to the sport with three-second lanes added to the
court while the association itself kept changing on the frequency of matches
that needed to be played during a season. The NBL was no different and
attracted an equally large sum of money and revenue
from onlookers and audiences through its approaches of
increasing and decreasing number of matches and sponsoring the most
suitable team when possible. However, the leagues still remained
very localised and were not able to attract the thousands of
basketball players who played abroad. There was a considerable
lack of coordination when it came to attracting
overseas players. In addition, most teams
were never very financially robust to compete or perform
a basketball streak. In such situations, the leagues that governed
the sport required additional funds to sponsor existing teams
so as to keep continuing and maintaining
popularity for the sport. Since most teams remained
financially weak and the leagues themselves started
recording poor revenue growth in addition to lack of
proper instalment of courts and the equipment required
to maintain healthy courts, the decision was
taken to merge the two dominant leagues of the
1940s – the BAA and NBL. On 3rd August, 1949, the merging
of BAA and NBL finally took place that gave way to the National
Basketball Association (NBA) which is the primary basketball
governing body the world over. The NBA in modern times holds
international championships, aids Olympics in setting
up basketball courts and ensuring matches take place in
a normal manner and holds itself responsible for registering teams
and players from around the planet. Like FIFA, the NBA is the staff
holder of basketball and has since then been governing
each aspect of this sport. It is also the only governing
basketball body that has existed for more than 50 years in a row without
being declared as non-functional. During its early years,
the NBA thus had all the teams that were once
part of the BAA and NBL. A total of 17 teams from
the U.S alone was more than enough to amplify
the sport even further. The last known match
recorded by the BAA took place on 21st March, 1949,
prior to the merging; this was the last one of the
league matches, after which the NBA took over and replaced
basketball as a professional sport. The coming of the NBA is
thus regarded as the next chapter in the history
of basketball evolution. Permanent Establishment Prior to the origins of NBA, the NBL and the
BAA contributed greatly to the development of basketball as a professional sport and
its further popularising in sports history. The National Basketball League
was a major contributor in attracting African American
players to the court, and perhaps the only organisation
that allowed veteran African Americans to leave their imprint
in an era of a divided country. A considerable portion of the
American basketball teams that play today have African
Americans players in them, owing to the contribution made
by the NBL during the 1940s. The NBL, much like its rival BAA, was
similar in size and ownership structure. Both leagues were owned by leading industrialists
of those times, with the NBL being owned by three of the major companies –
General Electric, Goodyear and Firestone. Leo Fischer acted as the league’s
first president from 1940-44 (which also happened to be the
peak period of World War 2). The NBL carried out
several games and seasons in its own schedule
similar to the BAA and happened to be a major attraction point for
veterans and players in the armed forces. In 1942, two NBL clubs signed
in that had a major impact for black players to sign
in the decades to come. These clubs, the Toledo Jim
White Chevrolets and the Chicago Studebakers filled their
teams with black players. Both teams never fared well but had long
lasting impact on the black community. The former club resigned and disbanded
in 1943 owing to financial difficulties, in spite of hiring Bill Jones who
starred at the University of Toledo. The Chicago Studebakers would
continue to play matches, hiring in players from
the Harlem Globetrotters but eventually resigned during
the same period after an 8-15 match that resulted in the club
declaring their withdrawal. NBL’s legacy in basketball
history was immense owing to the number of
black players who joined and passionately played
their sport and the clubs the league left behind
that still exist today. Five of these clubs that existed
back then – Minneapolis Lakers, Rochester Royals,
Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, Buffalo Pistons and the
Syracuse Nationals still exist today and play
in the NBA framework. Their names have changed but
their history remains old. Minneapolis Lakers changed
their name to Los Angeles Lakers, Rochester Royals
to Sacramento Kings, while Zollner Pistons got changed to
Detroit Pistons with Buffalo Bisons changing to Atlanta Hawks and Syracuse
Nationals to Philadelphia 76ers. In 1946, the successful merger
of NBL and BAA took place that resulted in the formation of the
National Basketball Association. By this time, basketball had
become one of the most popular and sought after American
sports after baseball or rugby. In fact, basketball is one
of the defining American sports after their
contemporaries listed above. The merger of BAA and NBL took place at a
time when several basketball teams were going financially down and were thus
looking to eagerly get back into business. The NBA was instantly recognised as the
main governing body of basketball in North America including Canada and bids were
placed for teams to start signing in. Since Canada too mattered, teams
from there signed up for the NBA. Modern day basketball as we
know it today is defined by NBA and its existence that has
prevailed for the last 70 years. It is only the longest surviving
league in basketball history. Throughout NBA’s existence, several
championship leagues have existed and developments of new sub
branches of NBA keep continuing. In the 1980s, European branches of NBA
were set up to conduct matches in Europe. From 1987 to 1999, NBA partnered with FIBA
to carry out the McDonald’s Championship. This tournament was dominated
by NBA invitee every year. Its current commissioner
is Adam Silver and has seen more than 50 legendary
players in basketball with a lot of them like Sarunas
Marciolllionis from Lithuania, 2014 inductee into the Naismith
Memorial basketball Hall of Fame. He was the first player from the
Soviet Union to join the NBA and helped the league to achieve
internationalisation in the 1990s. Arvydas Sabonis, another
plyer from Lithuania who won the championships of 1984,
1985, 1988, 1995 and 1999, making him European Player of the Year for
the last year while being an Olympic gold medallist for the Soviet Union and bronze
medallist in 1992 and 1996 for Lithuania. He was an active member of
the NBA and been remembered as among 50 of the greatest
Euro-league contributors. Several such names fill the long list
of NBA players who have contributed their part in keeping the sport alive
and NBA as its primary governing body. This included several key
players of non-American origin like Hakeem
Olajuwon from Nigeria who studied in the U.S to
get drafted in 1984 and becoming a 2-time champion
and a 12-time star; Rik Smits from Netherlands, Steve
Nash from Canada, so on and so forth. Currently, the Boston Celtics hold the
most won titles, numbering to 13. It started off with 11
teams and currently has 30 teams in it, 29 from the
U.S and 1 from Canada. It has its own demographic division set; most teams are in the eastern half of the
country while 13 come from the Eastern Time Zone, nine in central, three in the
Mountain and five from the Pacific. This concludes the
Pan-American influence NBA has on basketball and
the sport in general.

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Dennis Veasley

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