Basketball is an extremely popular all around the
world. The object is to put a ball through a hoop, or basket, and thus score
more points than the opposing team. Teams comprise of ten players, with a
maximum of five on court at any one time. Substitutions are unlimited during
the course of the game. Although basketball can be played outdoors, it was
invented to serve as an exciting indoor exercise for the winter months in a
northern climate. It quickly became a spectator sport, however, and now
attracts large audiences to gymnasiums and arenas, especially in the United
States, South America, and Europe.
The sport is played on the amateur level by schools,
colleges, other groups, and, since 1936 by national teams in the Olympic Games.
It also is played by professional athletes, notably in the United States and Europe.
The foremost American championships contended for are
those of the National Basketball Association (NBA) for professionals, the
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for colleges. Britain has
National Associations for each country and the English Basketball Association
(EBBA) runs amateur national competitions, the National Basketball League (NBL)
is run by Basketball League Ltd for professionals. International competion is
organised by the Federation of International Basketball (FIBA).
The Early Days..
It all started with two peach baskets in a YMCA in
Massachusetts. In 1891 James A Naismith (1861-1939), a leader of the
Springfield YMCA, was thinking about ways of providing exercise for the young
men in his care. As a physical education instructor he taught gymnastics,
however he was looking for something new. He had the idea of nailing peach
baskets onto the balconies as goals, at either end of the gymnasium and
throwing a soccer ball into it from below. So a National and International game
was born. In 1892 he published the first booklet containing the basic rules,
almost unchanged today (although expanded upon considerably!). These rules were
adopted by the YMCA and the Amateur Athletic Union. Word spread quickly amongst
YMCA's in the Eastern United States about this new game. It took off so rapidly
that the first intercollegiate game was played in 1897, and the first
professional league in the following year. The Eastern Intercollegiate League
was formed shortly afterwards, in 1902. Women also took up the game before
1900. The growing popularity of basketball resulted in improvements in
equipment and skills. The metal hoop was introduced in 1893, and backboards in
1895. The soccer ball was replaced by the first basketball. As playing skills
also became more sophisticated, the game attracted more and more spectators.
Until the late 1930s, scores were low, sometimes in single digits. After each
score, opposing centers (one of the five positions, the others being two guards
and two forwards) lined up in the middle of the court and jumped for the ball.
Then the team that got the ball would pass or dribble until a player was about
3 m (10 ft) from the basket before trying a shot. The slow pace did not inhibit
the growth of the game, however. By the 1920s, basketball was being played all
over the United States, and tournaments were being conducted in high school and
college gymnasiums. Most states held high school championships for boys.
The Rise of the Modern Game
Several events in the 1930s spurred the growth of the
game as a spectator sport and at the same time made basketball more exciting
for the players. The first of these came in the 1932-33 season (basketball
seasons tend to run from Autumn through to Spring) rules designed to speed up play
were adopted. It became mandatory, under penalty of losing possession, to move
the ball past midcourt in less than ten seconds. In addition, no player was
permitted to remain within the foul lanes for more than three seconds. Then in
1934 a New York sportswriter, Ned Irish, persuaded the promoters at New York's
Madison Square Garden, a large arena, to schedule doubleheaders between college
teams. These events proved successful, and similar promotions followed in other
cities. Before long, colleges began building their own arenas for basketball.
Another significant advance occurred in 1936, when a Stanford University team
traveled from California to a Madison Square Garden promotion to challenge the
eastern powers in the "cradle of basketball." Opponents and fans were
stunned by the Stanford style of shooting--one-handed while jumping, which
contrasted to the prevalent method of taking two-handed shots while standing
still. One Stanford player, Hank Luisetti, was so adept at the "jump
shot" that he could outscore an entire opposing team. The new style gained
universal acceptance, and basketball scores rose remarkably. In the 1937-38
season the center jump following each field goal was eliminated. At the end of
the next season, Madison Square Garden brought in college teams from around the
nation for the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), a postseason playoff that
was adopted (1939) on a wider scale by the National Collegiate Athletic
Association (NCAA). Although the NIT is still held annually, the NCAA tournament
serves as the official intercollegiate championship. The University of Kentucky
(coached, 1930-72, by Adolph Rupp), St. John's (in New York), the University of
North Carolina, Western Kentucky, Kansas University, and Indiana University
have been among the leading college basketball teams for years. From 1964 to
1975 the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), coached by John Wooden
and led by the centers Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, dominated the
intercollegiate play-offs, winning the title an unprecedented 10 times in 12
years. The 1,250 college teams in the United States now draw about 30 million
spectators per season. Although women have played the game since the 1890s, and
even though a few states (Iowa, for instance) have shown great participatory
and spectator interest in secondary-school women's basketball for some decades,
significant growth and serious recognition of women's basketball in the United
States and elsewhere did not occur until the 1970s. Almost all U.S. states now
hold girls' high school tournaments, and basketball is the fastest-growing
women's intercollegiate sport.
From 1898 on, many attempts were made to establish
professional basketball as a spectator sport-but success did not come until 1946.
The best of the early efforts was made by the Harlem Globetrotters, an
all-black team that toured first only the United States and then
internationally to play local professional or semi-professional teams. The
Globetrotters, founded in 1926, were not affiliated with a league. Their style
was and is often showy because, at least into the early 1950s, they could
dominate all opponents. In 1946 serious professional basketball had acquired a
following among American sports fans, who wanted to see the former collegians
in action. That year the Basketball Association of America, with teams from the
United States and one from Toronto, began competing in large arenas in the
major cities. Another professional league, the National Basketball League, was
already in existence, with many franchises in medium-sized midwestern cities.
The two leagues merged in 1949 as the National Basketball Association (NBA) and
pared away the weaker franchises.
With the signing of the country's best collegians
through what was called a player draft, the NBA could display both talent and
balance. The NBA's greatest spurt of growth occurred in the 1960s and '70s.
Although the Boston Celtics, led by Bill Russel, Bob Cousy, and John Havlicek
and coached by Red Auerbach, won 11 of 13 NBA titles beginning in 1957, fans
also closely followed such stars as Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain,
Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson, and Los Angeles's Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
The NBA of the 1970s and 1980s exhibited a welcome balance of power: from 1970
until 1988 no team won consecutive NBA titles, though the New York Knicks (with
Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, and Bill Bradley) won twice; the Boston Celtics, 5
times (3 with Larry Bird); and the Los Angeles Lakers, 6 times (5 with Magic
In the 1970s the NBA expanded from 9 teams to 22. Some
of the new franchises were acquired when the American Basketball Association
(1968-76) merged with the NBA. Also, a Dallas franchise was added in 1980;
Charlotte, Carolina, and Miami, in 1988; and Minnesota and Orlando, in 1989.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s several women's professional leagues were
begun; all of them failed financially. Women in the USA are currently under the
WNBA. The NBA today enjoys a massive worldwide following, and European
basketball is fast emerging. to challenge the domination of the Americans.
Watch this space...!
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