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.

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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, basketball 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.

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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.

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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.

Would you like to read more about this topic? This book might interest you: History of Basketball.