The sport of basketball has a rich history that brought it from a simple game using fruit baskets to the sport watched by
millions! Basketball is the only major sport that is completely American in origin, and has grown into a national pastime
that is as popular as baseball and apple pie. Each year, as basketball season begins, millions tune in to watch
spectacular games played by their favourite basketball stars. But there is more to basketball than just good game...
In 1891, Dr. James Naismith, (a Canadian minister on the faculty of a college for YMCA professionals in Springfield,
Massachusetts) was looking for an indoor game to keep his students busy during the long New England winters. Naismith
thought back to his boyhood in Canada, where he and his friends had played "duck on a rock," which involved trying to
knock a large rock off a boulder by throwing smaller rocks at it. He also recalled watching rugby players toss a ball into a
box in a gymnasium. Legend has it that, after rejecting other ideas as either too rough or too poorly suited for
gymnasiums, he wrote the basic rules, and nailed a peach basket onto the gym wall. The first official game was played in
the YMCA gymnasium on January 20, 1892. "Basket ball," the name suggested by one of his students, was popular from
the beginning, and with Dr. Naismith's students being dispatched to YMCAs throughout the United States, the game was
soon played all over the country.
Interestingly, while the YMCA was responsible for initially developing and spreading the game, it soon discouraged the
new sport. It was seen as rough play, and rowdy crowds began to detract from the YMCA's primary mission. Other
amateur sports clubs, colleges, and professional clubs quickly filled the void. In the years before World War I, the
Amateur Athletic Union and the Intercollegiate Athletic Association (forerunner of the NCAA) vied for control over the rules
of the game.
Basketball was originally played with a soccer ball. The first balls made specifically for basketball were brown, and it was
only in the late 1950s that Tony Hinkle introduced the orange ball that is now in common use. Mr. Hinkle was searching
for a ball that would be more visible to players and spectators alike.
At each end of the court (usually about 92 ft (28 m) long and 50 ft (15 m) wide) is a bottomless basket made of white cord
net and suspended from a metal ring, 18 in. (46 cm) in diameter, which is attached 10 ft (3.05 m) above the floor (usually
hardwood) to a backboard made of fibreglass, wood, or other material. Players may throw, dribble (bounce), or shoot the
basketball (an inflated ball usually made of leather or rubber) but may not run with it or kick it.
Teams try to advance the ball and shoot it through one basket (the ball must enter from above) and to keep the opposition
from scoring through the other. Each field goal, or basket, scores two points, or three points if shot from beyond a
specified distance (21 ft/6 m in U.S. Colleges, slightly longer in international and professional play). Teams must shoot
the ball within a prescribed time limit (24 sec in the National Basketball Association; 30 sec in international games and in
most women's play; 45 sec in men's collegiate play).
Any player making illegal body contact with an opposing player is assessed a foul; the opposing team may be given
possession of the ball, or an opposing player awarded free throws at the basket from the foul line. Each made foul shot is
worth one point. Players who exceed the foul limit (usually five, but six in the NBA) are disqualified from the game.
International and collegiate basketball games have two 20-min halves, professionals play four 12-min quarters, and high
schoolers play four 8-min quarters.
Professional basketball began (1896) in New York City and was at one time played on courts enclosed by wire mesh
(basketball players are still occasionally referred to as "cagers"). Until the 1950s it languished in popularity behind college
basketball and such touring black teams as the Harlem Globetrotters and the New York Rens.
The merger (1949) of the National Basketball League and the rival Basketball Association of America into the National
Basketball Association (NBA) led to greater popularity. The appearance of stars like George Mikan, the signing of black
players beginning in 1950, the temporary disrepute of the college game owing to gambling scandals in the early 1950s,
and the adoption of the 24-sec shot clock in 1954, further boosted the NBA.
Its success inspired the formation of several competing leagues, among them the American Basketball Association
(ABA), founded in 1967 and merged into the NBA in 1975. In the 1980s the emergence of charismatic players like "Magic"
Johnson (Johnson, Earvin), Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan, combined with aggressive marketing, made the NBA hugely
successful, so that basketball often seemed the premier U.S. professional sport.
The College Scene
Basketball is a major sport in U.S. Colleges. Post-season tournaments, first the National Invitation Tournament (begun
1938) and then the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships (begun 1939), soon attracted enough
attention to fill large arenas like New York's Madison Square Garden. Point-shaving and game-fixing scandals unsettled
college basketball in both 1950-51 and 1961, but did not diminish fan loyalty for extended periods.
The NCAA championship tournament, once secondary to the NIT, grew enormously from the 1960s into the 1990s. Large
live audiences, national television coverage, and competitive parity have helped to make the NCAA's "March Madness"
and Final Four (the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament) one of the most popular of all U.S. Sporting events.
Women's basketball has grown rapidly since the 1970s. Until then, women and girls had been allowed to play only a
six-player game in which offensive and defensive players were rooted to one half of the court. Today full court action in
women's college competition and in the Women's National Basketball Association (since 1997) exhibits advanced skills
and fast-paced play, and has attained wider popularity than many other women's sports.
Lesson Plan - How to Build a Court
Build a Court First
Alphabet Flash Cards
Days of the Week
Write the Definition
Basketball Number Pattern Activity
Grade K-6 Thematic Unit
75 Pg - Send summer fun into extra
innings with these basketball activities
for kids. But for you, the parent, a little
about the history. Of course you will
explain, describe and debate with your
children in a manner which is
appropriate to their age.
This thematic unit is suitable for early
and more advanced learners, and for a
theme within your homeschool
classroom. Use the activities to
enhance inter alia alphabet and
number skills, motor skills, reading,
writing and word recognition.