The history of basketball can be traced back to one man. Most modern sports have a more storied or complicated history. Though basketball feels reminiscent of some ancient sports, its modern invention is clear and relatively recent.
Read on to learn about the history of this now ubiquitous American sport, including the motivations that founded it and the way it spread around the globe. The story may be simple, but the heart of the game is evident in even its first moments on the court.
The History of Basketball: Invention
In Springfield, Massachusetts, the Superintendent of Physical Education at his school asked coach James Naismith to devise a sport that would cause fewer player injuries than traditional American football. In 1891, he created an indoor game where teams of 9 competed on a court by shooting a ball into a basket.
Though the first game had only one successful score, the game was a hit. College teams picked it up and within 10 years, Naismith would be coaching basketball for the University of Kansas. This means that, unlike many of the most famous sports, basketball has a relatively recent and uncomplicated history. One man completed his task to invent a safer American sport. The result, with very few changes to bring it to the modern-day, is basketball.
Basketball’s Rise to World Fame
Though Naismith invented basketball for college athletes, the history of basketball as a worldwide hit relies on the US Army. They organized an international game as early as 1893 in conjunction with the YMCA. Games were held around the world in China, Japan, and even India.
University games followed. In 1898, 6 teams formed the first professional basketball league. By the early 1900s, most colleges were in on the action. However, the real clincher came in 1904 when basketball became an Olympic demonstration sport that year.
By 1936, FIBA (International Basketball Federation) had been formed and successfully got basketball on the Olympic roster. Then, basketball rose to international stardom. Now, most countries in the world participate in the sport, using a variation on Naismith’s original 13 rules.
Though the scoring changed (the original rules awarded one point per basket) and the rules refined, basketball remains surprisingly similar to its original form. Of course, we no longer shoot into peach baskets and dribbling has changed radically, but for the most part, basketball remains the sport that Naismith invented.
The history of basketball starts with a school’s desire to keep athletes safe. Gridiron football took a heavy toll on them and the school hoped to invent a sport that would produce fewer career-ending injuries. James Naismith obliged them with a form of the modern game of basketball.
While most sports have a storied history across multiple civilizations, this one begins with one Canadian PE teacher. His desire to invent an all-American classic to keep his students safe resulted in modern basketball. Whether you coach, play, or just watch this now globally recognized sport, the history of basketball is fascinatingly simple, for such a well-loved sport today.