fast-paced game played on a rectangular court, generally indoors, by two
five-player teams. The primary objective of the game is to score more points
than the opposition by putting a round ball through a circular band, called
a rim. The two rims are at each end of the court, placed 10 ft (3.1 m) above
the ground and connected to a backboard, a rectangular board that hangs from
the ceiling or is supported in the air on a pole or some other structure.
One of the most popular sports in the world, basketball is played by men and
women of all ages and ability levels in more than 200 countries.
of the game differ when it is played in different countries. Unless
otherwise noted, this discussion concerns competition in the United States
dimensions of individual basketball courts vary, a playing area 84 ft (25.6
m) long and 50 ft (15.2 m) wide—predominantly used in recreational, high
school, and intercollegiate competition—is considered ideal for most
Professional basketball courts are slightly larger, 94 ft (28.7 m) long and
50 ft wide. In addition to size, courts can vary in other ways, such as in
the radius of the circle situated at the center of the court and in the
distance of the 3-point line (from beyond which a score counts for 3 points)
from the basket. For example, the 3-point line in high school and college
games is 19 ft 9 in (6 m) from the basket, while in international play it is
21 ft 6 in (6.6 m), and in the National Basketball Association (NBA) it
extends as far as 23 ft 9 in (7.2 m). The backboards were originally used to
prevent spectators from interfering with play. They are generally 4 by 6 ft
(1.2 by 1.8 m) and are connected to cast-iron rims, or baskets, that are 18
in (45.7 cm) in diameter. Each basket has a white, nylon-mesh net 15 to 18
in (38.1 to 45.7 cm) in length connected to iron loops on the rim.
In the early days of
its development, basketball was played with a
ball. Today, the standard basketball is generally orange or brown in color,
with an outer cover of leather or nylon and a pebbled (indented) surface to
help players grip and control the ball. In men's play, a basketball is 29.5
to 30 in (74.9 to 76.2 cm) in circumference and 20 to 22 oz (567 to 624 g)
in weight. In women's play the basketball can be slightly smaller and
lighter, 28.5 to 29 in (72.4 to 73.7 cm) in circumference and 18 to 20 oz
(510 to 567 g) in weight. The standard basketball uniform consists of
sneakers, socks, a tank-top shirt, and shorts. Uniforms are often
elaborately designed and manufactured from synthetic fabrics such as nylon,
rayon, and polyester. Each player's uniform has a number, for
identification, that is usually displayed on both sides of the shirt.
Sometimes the player's name is displayed on the back of the shirt as well.
basketball team is organized, guided, and instructed by a coach. The team
consists of five players—two guards, two forwards, and one center—all of
whom play offense and defense. The guards—the point guard (known in
basketball terminology as the 1 guard) and the shooting guard (2
guard)—comprise what is called the backcourt. The point guard is
generally the leader of the team on the court, acting as an extension of the
coach. The point guard must have exceptional ball-handling and passing
skills, as well as good vision (ability to see clearly what is
happening in all parts of the court). The shooting guard is generally a good
ball handler with excellent shooting and scoring talents. The small forward,
the power forward, and the center compose what is called the frontcourt. The
small forward (3 player) is usually a strong scorer from both near the
basket and at a distance. This player must have good fundamental skills,
including rebounding, ball handling, and passing. The power forward (4
player), who must be big and strong, primarily concentrates on defense and
rebounding. The center (5 player) is usually the tallest player on the team,
serving as the cornerstone of most play. Good centers score points on
offense and block shots on defense. Although there are specific positions,
players can play anywhere on the court, according to the team's strategy.
maintain orderly and fair play on the court and administer the rules of the
game to ensure that neither team has an unfair advantage.
appropriate calls, referees must be observant and have exceptional knowledge
of rules and playing styles. Referees must position themselves during play
to afford a clear view of the action without interfering. A referee will
cite rules infractions and stop play by blowing a whistle. After play has
stopped, referees signal what violation has occurred by using hand signals
and a verbal call. Most referees' decisions must be made very quickly.
During the game a referee can run several miles supervising the activity, so
exceptional physical fitness is important. Between games and during the
off-season, referees engage in a continuing study of all possible game
basketball is played informally on playgrounds or in organized fashion in
leagues, it is played with essentially the same set of rules, which have
stayed generally consistent since the game's invention in 1891. The game
involves two five-player teams that play both offense and defense. At the
completion of each game, the team that has scored the most points wins.
Recreational and high school games last 32 minutes (four quarters of 8
minutes each), college and international games last 40 minutes (two halves
of 20 minutes each), women's professional games last 40 minutes (either two
20-minute halves or four 10-minute quarters, depending on the league), and
men's professional games last 48 minutes (four quarters of 12 minutes each).
When a game is tied after regulation time has ended, the teams play overtime
periods until one team ends an overtime period with more points and is
therefore the winner.
begins with a jump ball at the center of the court. With one player
from each team lined up in the midcourt circle, a referee tosses the ball
high into the air, and the two players attempt to direct the ball to one of
their own teammates. The team that gains possession plays offense, and the
opposition plays defense, protecting its own basket until it regains
possession of the ball. The offensive team has a set time, usually 35
seconds or less (depending on the level of competition), to score by putting
the ball through the opposition's basket. (Scoring a basket is also known as
scoring a field goal or a hoop.) The time to shoot is measured by a shot
clock positioned in the arena for easy viewing from the court. An offensive
player cannot run or walk with the ball without dribbling (bouncing the ball
against the ground). The ball may also be advanced by passing it to a
teammate. Once a player stops dribbling, the ball must be shot, passed to a
teammate, or touched by another player before the first player can regain
the ball and dribble again.
offense can be sophisticated, involving specific diagrammed plays that are
intended to make offensive play more efficient and defensive play more
difficult. There are two ways an offensive team can score points. The first
way to score is to make a basket, which is worth 2 or 3 points, depending on
the distance of the shot. The second way to score is a foul shot, also
called a free throw. These are awarded to a player when the opposition
commits a personal foul (illegal contact such as pushing, holding,
charging, or tripping) or a technical foul (violation of the rules
without physical contact, such as unsportsmanlike conduct). When a foul
occurs during a shot, the referee blows a whistle and the player that was
fouled is awarded one, two, or three shots, depending on whether the shot
scored despite the foul and according to where the infraction occurred. Each
foul shot is taken from the free-throw line, 15 ft (4.6 m) from the basket,
without opposition, and is worth one point.
the ball alternates when the offense scores or when the defense is
successful in preventing a basket and regains the ball in the process.
Specific defensive game plans are often created to make scoring more
difficult. A good defense will often force the offense to miss a shot or to
lose possession of the ball—for example, by committing an offensive foul or
by failing to shoot the ball in the allotted time. Defenses can also gain
possession of the ball by intercepting a pass or by stealing the ball from
the dribbler. When an offensive team misses a shot, the ball is free, and
both teams have an equal opportunity to retrieve the ball. This is called
making a rebound. Play continues as the teams score and possession changes.
A time-out, when the game is stopped for a certain amount of time, allows
coaches to instruct players or to develop a new game strategy.
offense is perhaps the most prominent part of playing basketball, as it
allows players to demonstrate and improve upon individual skills necessary
to being successful. Many of basketball's best players have exceptional
talents on offense. Basic offensive skills are passing, ball handling,
shooting, and rebounding.
basketball is the fastest and often the most efficient way of advancing the
ball up the court. A team that passes well will be able to take uncontested
shots, to score easy baskets by moving the ball up the court quickly, and to
prohibit the defense from initiating its own game plan. There are five types
of passes: chest, in which the ball is thrown from chest height; bounce, in
which the ball is bounced on the ground on its way to the teammate;
overhead, in which the ball is thrown with both hands extended over the
head; baseball-style, in which the ball is thrown like a baseball; and
behind-the-back, in which the player throws the ball at waist height with
one hand whipping the ball around the back. All of these passing styles are
used during the course of a game.
basketball's best players are also adept at ball handling. To be a good ball
handler, a player must watch the action on the court, keeping the eyes
straight ahead and not focused down on the floor. The player must also keep
the ball low, protecting it from defenders and bouncing it no higher than
the waist. Good ball handlers can use either hand to dribble effectively and
can change directions quickly. There are five types of dribbling styles:
speed, in which the ball is dribbled while the player is moving; crossover,
in which the ball is bounced and crossed from one hand to the other in front
of the body; behind-the-back, in which the ball is bounced and crossed
behind the back; between-the-legs, in which the ball is bounced and crossed
between the legs; and spin, in which the ball is bounced and crossed while
the player spins away from the defender.
elementary school level to the professional leagues, shooting is the most
important part of basketball. There are many types of shooting forms, the
basic being the layup, the jump shot, the foul shot, and the hook shot. The
layup is the easiest shot in basketball, taken right under the basket using
either hand. Over the years, the dunk shot, a different style of layup in
which the ball is slammed forcibly through the basket, has become one of
basketball's most exciting shots. The jump shot is taken when the shooter
leaps in the air and at the top of the jump releases the ball toward the
basket. The foul shot is an uncontested shot taken from the free-throw line
following a foul. A hook shot is taken when the shooter turns sideways to
the basket, places his or her body between the ball and the defender, and
releases the ball over his or her head in a high arc toward the basket.
When a shooter
misses a shot, the team that retrieves the ball has recovered a rebound.
When a member of the offensive team recovers the rebound, the offensive team
regains possession and the shot clock starts over. When the defensive team
recovers the rebound, it then plays offense. Strength, natural instinct, and
good positioning and timing are important to good rebounding.
offense requires strategic decisions. One style of offense is to use set
patterns to get uncontested shots. The most important technique of a
so-called slow-down offense is setting screens. This occurs when offensive
players position themselves in a way that impedes the defenders' movement.
The screen is often accompanied by the give-and-go, in which one player
passes to a teammate and then moves across the court, usually toward the
basket in a position to receive a return pass immediately. In comparison to
the slow-down offense, a fast-break offense involves quick shots as the ball
is either dribbled or passed up the court rapidly.
just as important to winning basketball games as offense. The goal of
defense is simple: to stop the opposition from scoring. The more times a
team stops an opponent from scoring, the more likely it is that a victory
will be secured. The basic defensive technique involves guarding the
opponent while keeping both feet at least shoulder-width apart, with one
foot slightly ahead of the other and the knees bent. When defending, a
player's weight should be placed on the balls of the feet to ensure quick
movement in any direction.
defensive positioning involves skilled movement. A defensive player should
take short, quick shuffle steps when moving side-to-side. Crossing one foot
over another is improper defensive technique. Defenders want to force
opponents away from the basket and limit the ability to dribble the ball
toward the basket. Good defenders use quickness to steal or intercept the
ball and are cautious not to foul. One part of playing strong defense is
blocking the opposition's attempted shot, because good shot-blocking teams
make opponents hesitate about shooting. When defending an opponent who
doesn't have the ball, the general rule is to stay between that player and
the basket being defended. Good defenders also play team defense, working
together and verbally communicating among themselves to ensure that the
offense doesn't obtain an easy shot.
There are two
types of basic defensive team play, man-to-man defense and zone defense. In
man-to-man defense, each player guards a specific opponent, usually one that
plays the same position, so that a guard defends a guard, a forward defends
a forward, and so on. In a zone defense, each player guards a specific area
of the court. The most widely used zone defense is called a 2-1-2 zone, in
which the two guards cover the forefront of the defense, the center guards
the middle portion of the court, and the two forwards defend the area
nearest the basket. A good 2-1-2 zone defense makes it difficult to pass the
ball from near the basket back outside, hampers teams from initiating a
smooth offense, and is effective in slowing down a fast-break style of
offense. Zone defense used to be illegal in the National Basketball
Association (NBA), but the league changed its rules in 2001 to allow it.
basketball gains much of its popularity through spectators watching
professional competition, the sport flourishes worldwide at amateur levels
for both men and women. Most organized amateur play takes place at the high
school and college level, where the season runs from November through March.
Organization of High School and College Play
basketball's governing body, the National Federation of State High Schools (NFHS),
is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The NFHS does not crown a national
champion. Instead, high school teams compete to win their state
championship, with each state having its own guidelines for determining
titles. Most states have several state champions, each in a category
determined by school size.
National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA), located in Indianapolis, is the most important organization
governing major college competition. The National Association of
Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, oversees
competition for smaller four-year schools. The National Junior College
Athletic Association (NJCAA), located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, governs
play for two-year and community colleges throughout the country. Under the
jurisdiction of these national governing bodies are individual conferences
and leagues. Well-known NCAA conferences include the Atlantic Coast and the
Big East, on the East Coast; the Big Ten, in the Midwest; and the
Pacific-10, in the West.
The NCAA, the
NAIA, and the NJCAA all sponsor postseason national championship
tournaments. The men's and women's NCAA national championship basketball
tournaments are the most high-profile of these tournaments. They are also
two of the premier sporting events in the United States. Both tournaments
are held in March and early April, using the same format to determine a
national champion. Each tournament involves 64 teams in a single-elimination
competition, meaning that one loss disqualifies a team from further play.
process for deciding which teams will participate in the tournament is
complex. Teams are invited to the tournament either as automatic qualifiers
or as at-large teams. Automatic qualifiers gain admission by winning their
conference tournament at the end of the season, or if the conference does
not hold a tournament, by finishing the season with the best conference
record. After the automatic qualifiers are determined, a special committee
fills out the 64-team field by choosing at-large teams, using a number of
factors. These include a team's final record for that season, its
performance in past championship tournaments, and the Ratings Percentage
Index (RPI), which uses statistics to analyze the team's strengths compared
to other teams. In some years, such as in 2001, the tournament will choose
several schools to play special qualifying games to fill out the field.
The 64 teams
are placed into four regional tournaments: East, West, South, and Midwest in
men's play; East, Mideast, Midwest, and West in women's play. The 16 teams
assigned to each regional draw are a mix of colleges and universities from
across the country. In each region they are seeded, or ranked, from 1 to 16
according to their strength and season schedule (with the 1 seed the
strongest team). A seeded team assigned to a specific region should be on
par with its corresponding seed in the other three regional draws. For
example, a team ranked as the 10 seed in the Midwest regional draw should be
of equal strength to the 10 seed in the East regional draw.
region, the higher ranked teams play the lower ranked teams: the 1 seed
plays the 16 seed, the 2 seed plays the 15 seed, and so on. Winning teams
advance and continue to play until only one unbeaten team remains. This team
then advances to the Final Four, the national semifinals. There is no
seeding in the Final Four. Instead, it is predetermined which two regional
winners will meet in each semifinal game. The championship game pits the
victors of these two games against each other. The team that triumphs in the
Final Four is crowned the national champion.
Fan support is
intense throughout the tournament, and visiting fans provide an economic
windfall for the various cities hosting tournament games. Cities therefore
bid for the right to host games, and the sites are chosen several years in
advance to allow the cities time to prepare for the tournament. The
tournament has produced a unique vocabulary over the years. The excitement
generated is referred to as March Madness, while the entire event is
often called the Road to the Final Four or the Big Dance.
In the men's
tournament, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has won the
championship 11 times, with
coaching UCLA to 10 of those victories. The University of Kentucky has 7
championships, and Indiana University has 5. Other teams that have had a
significant impact during the tournament's history include the University of
North Carolina, the University of Louisville, and Duke University. The
University of Tennessee has dominated the women's NCAA tournament. Coached
by Pat Summitt, Tennessee has won six titles since the women's tournament
began in 1982. Several other schools—the University of Southern California (USC),
the University of Connecticut, Stanford University, and Louisiana Tech
University—have won two titles each.
NCAA tournament is the most widely recognized of collegiate postseason
tournaments, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is the oldest and was
originally the most prestigious. The NIT was first held in 1938, with Temple
University winning. At first, college teams could compete in both the NIT
and the NCAA tournament. Beginning in the 1950s, however, teams began
participating in either the NIT or NCAA tournament, based on their season
record, with the better teams generally accepting invitations to the NCAA
tournament. This tendency became stronger over time, and now the NCAA
tournament winner is regarded as the national collegiate basketball
champion. The NIT, however, remains an important postseason activity for
teams that do not qualify for the NCAA tournament. The City College of New
York (CCNY) is the only school to win both the NIT and the NCAA tournament
in the same season, accomplishing this feat in 1950. Shortly after this the
rules were changed to make it impossible for a team to play both
level of professional play takes place in the United States and Canada, and
players from all over the world strive to play in North America. But
professional basketball is also played in more than 20 other countries.
Brazil, Japan, Germany, France, and Spain are among the nations that support
leagues that develop the skills of international players. Some players from
the United States and Canada play professional basketball in other countries
if they fail to make teams in their own countries.
National Basketball Association
National Basketball Association (NBA), with teams from the United States and
Canada, is the major professional basketball league in the world.
NBA teams are divided into two conferences, the Eastern and Western, each of
which has two divisions. Each NBA team conducts a training camp in October
to determine its 12-player roster. Training camp allows each team to
evaluate players, especially rookies (first-year players), to assess the
team's strengths and weaknesses, and to prepare players for the upcoming
season through a series of on-court drills and practice of offensive and
defensive strategy. After a series of exhibition games, the NBA begins its
82-game regular season in the first week of November.
February the NBA interrupts its season to celebrate the annual NBA All-Star
Game, featuring the game's best players as selected by the general balloting
of fans throughout the United States and Canada. After the NBA season
concludes in April, a total of 16 teams qualify for the playoffs (8 teams
from each conference). In each conference the two division winners are
guaranteed a playoff spot. The remaining playoff spots in each conference
are awarded on the basis of win-loss records to the six next-best teams,
regardless of division. The playoffs start with the teams with better
records playing the teams with worse records in a best-of-five series, in
which the winner is the first team to win three games. In subsequent rounds
best-of-seven series are played, with the first team to earn four victories
winning the round. The playoffs continue in this elimination scheme until a
conference champion is crowned. The champions from the Eastern and Western
conferences then meet in a best-of-seven series to determine the NBA
June the league conducts its amateur draft, in which teams obtain the rights
to the best available players in the world. Any player whose high school
class has graduated and who is at least 17 years old qualifies for the NBA
draft if that player renounces his collegiate eligibility by mid-May.
Generally, players attend at least one year of college before turning
professional, although beginning in the 1990s a few high school players have
entered the draft each year.
the draft order the NBA uses a draft lottery, introduced in 1985. Those
teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs the previous season are
eligible for the lottery. The lottery determines the first three teams to
select in the draft. The remaining teams, including those that qualified for
the playoffs the preceding season, draft according to their win-loss record
of the previous season, so that teams with poorer records draft earlier than
those with better records. Teams may trade draft picks with each other,
either for different picks or for players. The NBA draft consists of only
two rounds, with a total of 58 players chosen. Those players not selected in
the draft can be invited to try out for a team and are sometimes signed as
players go straight from college or overseas leagues into the NBA, the
league also supports developmental leagues that allow players, coaches,
executives, and referees to hone their skills. One such minor league was the
Continental Basketball Association (CBA), founded in 1946 as the Eastern
Professional Basketball League. The CBA was financially unstable, however,
and folded in early 2001 after NBA executives decided to start their own
minor league. The National Basketball Development League (NBDL) is scheduled
to begin its first season in November 2001 and will consist of eight teams
based in small cities throughout the southeastern United States.
1990s women's basketball became increasingly popular in North America, and
two professional women's leagues started play. The now-defunct American
Basketball League (ABL) was founded in 1996, and the Women's National
Basketball Association (WNBA) was founded in 1997. One major reason these
leagues were formed was to bring the nation's top female players back to the
United States. With no professional league in the United States, many of the
former college stars had been competing in foreign leagues.
The ABL began
play in the fall of 1996 with eight teams divided between two conferences.
The addition of expansion team franchises in 1997 and 1998 brought the
league to a total of ten teams. The ABL played a 44-game regular season from
October to February, followed by playoffs and a championship series. The
won the league championship in the first two years of ABL competition
(1996-97 and 1997-98). In December 1998, midway through the ABL's third
season, the league filed for bankruptcy, ended its season, and disbanded its
franchises. Some ABL players were absorbed into the WNBA through a draft.
women's league in the United States is the WNBA. It was founded by the NBA
and is collectively owned by the 29 NBA franchises. All WNBA teams are
located in cities that also house NBA teams. In addition, some of the team
names are related to the names of NBA teams. For example, the
play in Washington, D.C., home of the NBA's
play in Salt Lake City, home of the NBA's
In 2000 the
WNBA added four expansion team franchises—the
brought the league to a total of 16 teams, divided between two conferences.
The league plays a 32-game regular season during the summer, and eight teams
qualify for the playoffs. The Houston Comets won the first four WNBA
championships, in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. The league sponsors a yearly
All-Star Game and holds an annual player draft in April.
basketball is extremely popular in the United States, it is also growing in
other countries. There are more than 200 national federations that belong to
Fédération International de Basketball Association (FIBA; French for
“International Basketball Federation”), an independent organization that
governs international basketball. FIBA, established in 1932 and
headquartered in Munich, Germany, divides the world into five sections,
called zone commissions. These commissions—Africa, Asia, the Americas,
Europe, and Oceania—govern basketball within their regions and conduct their
international basketball both men and women compete on club teams in leagues
within their national federations. The top professional league in each
country is called the first division, and teams in the first division
compete for several national and international championship titles. Most
international leagues allow two foreign players on their rosters. The
international game is similar to American basketball, with some exceptions.
For example, the size and shape of the key (the area underneath the basket
bordered by the free-throw line and the foul lanes) is in a trapezoidal
shape, wider near the baseline. This makes it distinct from the rectangular
shape in American basketball.
international basketball stars have been inducted into the Basketball Hall
of Fame, including Sergei Belov of Russia, Uljana Semjonova of Latvia, and
Kresimir Cosic of Croatia. Players from anywhere in the world are eligible
to play in the NBA, and European players were first drafted by NBA teams in
1989. In the 1990s many foreign players, such as Vlade Divac and Toni Kukoc
from the former Yugoslavia and Arvydas Sabonis of Lithuania, had success in
years, the worldwide basketball community gathers for competition at the
Olympic Games. Olympic play for men was first introduced as a demonstration
sport (with no medal awarded) at the 1904 games in St. Louis, Missouri. The
first official Olympic basketball tournament was held at the 1936 Games in
Berlin, Germany. The 1936 contests were held outdoors in a tennis stadium on
courts of clay and sand. The United States team won the Olympic gold medal
that year, defeating the Canadian team by a score of 19-8 in the final
round. The score was so low because the courts were soaked from rain, making
it difficult for the players to maintain footing and to dribble.
States dominated early Olympic basketball competition, winning the first
seven gold medals. In 1972, however, the team from the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics (USSR) snapped the 62-game Olympic winning streak of the
United States to capture the gold medal on a controversial basket at the
buzzer. Subsequently, the United States remained strong, using teams of
primarily college stars to win in 1976 and 1984. But teams from the USSR,
which won in 1988, and Yugoslavia, which won in 1980 and finished second in
1976 and 1988, were also successful in Olympic competition.
professional players were first allowed to compete in the Olympics, and USA
Basketball (the governing body of Olympic basketball in the United States)
assembled a national team made up of the NBA's best players. Known as the
Dream Team, this squad overwhelmed its competition, winning the gold medal
easily. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, the American professional
players again dominated competition, and the United States took another gold
medal. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, the United States also won
gold but did not dominate play as thoroughly as before.
Olympic basketball competition began at the 1976 Games in Montréal, Québec,
Canada, with the Soviet team winning. The U.S. team captured its first gold
medal at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. The success of the
gold-medal-winning American squad at the 1996 Olympics generated increased
interest in women's basketball in the United States. All of the players from
that squad went on to play in the ABL or WNBA. The United States repeated as
gold medal champions at the 2000 Olympics. Other countries with successful
traditions in Olympic women's basketball include Australia, Brazil, China,
and the former Yugoslavia.
In addition to
the Olympics, other international championships include the world
championships, played every four years; the European championships, held
annually; the championships at the
Pan American Games,
played every four years; and the Jones Cup, held annually for the top club
teams from around the world.
December 1891, Luther Gulick, chairman of the physical education department
at the School for Christian Workers (now Springfield College) in
Springfield, Massachusetts, instructed physical education teacher
to invent a new game to entertain the school's athletes during the winter
season. With an ordinary soccer ball, Naismith assembled his class of 18
young men, appointed captains of two nine-player teams, and introduced them
to the game of Basket Ball (then two words). Naismith, who had outlined 13
original rules, dispatched the school janitor to find two boxes to be
fastened to the balcony railing at opposite sides of the gymnasium, where
they would serve as goals. The school janitor, however, only found two
half-bushel peach baskets, and the game was played with these.
soccer ball and the peach basket soon gave way to specialized equipment.
example, in the early days the peach baskets were closed at the bottom,
meaning that someone had to climb on a ladder to retrieve the ball after a
made basket. The peach basket was later replaced by a metal rim with a net
hanging below, and in 1906 people began opening the netting to let the ball
fall through. The first basketballs were made from panels of leather
stitched together with a rubber bladder inside. A cloth lining was added to
the leather for support and uniformity. The molded basketball, introduced in
about 1942, was a significant advancement for the sport. The molded ball, a
factory-made ball that had a constant size and shape, offered better
reaction and durability, making play more consistent and the development of
individual skills easier. In Naismith's original 13 rules, the ball could be
batted in any direction with one or both hands, but it could not be dribbled
because players could not move with the ball. Beginning in 1910 a player
could dribble the ball, but could not shoot after dribbling. It was not
until 1916, following heated debate, that players were allowed to shoot
Throughout basketball's history, no part of the game has been more monitored
than the act of fouling an opponent. In basketball's early days, a player's
second foul would mean removal from the game until the next field goal was
made. If a team committed three consecutive fouls, the opposition would be
awarded a field goal. Beginning in 1894 players were given a free throw when
fouled. Beginning in 1908 players who committed five fouls were disqualified
from the game. Based on the severity of the foul, the rules were soon
amended so that players were awarded either two shots or one shot plus a
bonus shot, which was attempted only if the first shot was made. The rules
also determined that an offensive player could commit a foul by playing too
1892 Lithuanian-born physical education teacher Senda Berenson Abbott
introduced basketball to women, at Smith College in Northampton,
Massachusetts. Because it was believed that Naismith's version of the game
could be too physically demanding for women, Berenson Abbott made the
following changes to the game: The court was divided into three equal
sections, with players required to stay in an assigned area; players were
prohibited from snatching or batting the ball from the hands of another
player; and players were prohibited from holding the ball for longer than
three seconds and from dribbling the ball more than three times.
growth spread in the United States and abroad through
Young Men's Christian Associations
(YMCAs), the armed forces, and colleges.
Due to its simple equipment requirements, indoor play, competitiveness, and
easily understood rules, basketball gained popularity quickly. In May 1901
several schools, including Yale and Harvard universities and Trinity, Holy
Cross, Amherst, and Williams colleges, formed the New England
Intercollegiate Basketball League. The development of collegiate leagues and
conferences brought organization and scheduling to competition, and formal
league play created rivalries. More importantly, collegiate leagues became a
critical training ground for officials.
By the early
1900s basketball was played at about 90 colleges—most of them located in the
East and Midwest. In 1905 teams from the University of Minnesota and the
University of Wisconsin traveled to New York to challenge Eastern League
champion Columbia University. Columbia's “Blue and White Five” defeated both
Midwestern teams, and the idea of an intercollegiate championship was born.
By 1914 more than 360 colleges offered basketball, and the sport had spread
heavily into the Midwestern states.
In 1915 the
Amateur Athletic Union of the United States
(AAU), the NCAA, and the YMCA formed a committee to standardize rules, and
during the next ten years a number of regional conferences were formed.
Games between top regional teams were sometimes awarded national champion
status by the press, but an official championship tournament was still many
years away. Travel and scheduling difficulties and continued regional rule
differences slowed the organization of a tournament that could impartially
produce a national champion.
national collegiate tournament was held in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1937.
The teams in this tournament, however, were all from the Midwest. New York,
with a large fan base that generated travel funds, was the site of the NIT
tournament, which was the first truly national collegiate tournament. The
first NIT was held at the end of the 1937-38 season.
The NIT was
promoted by members of the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association—a New
York City sportswriters' group. In 1939 a group of coaches from the National
Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), fearing Eastern bias, organized
and sponsored the first NCAA national tournament. In this tournament the
University of Oregon defeated Ohio State University. The NCAA took sole
control of the organization of its tournament after that first year. For the
next decade, the NCAA and NIT tournaments competed to become the universally
recognized national championship tournament, with the NCAA eventually
tournament's original format, used for its first 12 years, divided the
country into eight districts, each with a regional selection committee
sending a team to the eight-team tournament. As the tournament gained
importance, the field gradually enlarged to its present size of 64, made up
of champions from a number of conferences, in addition to other successful
basketball began in 1896 at a YMCA in Trenton, New Jersey. A dispute between
members of the YMCA team and a YMCA official led to the players forming a
professional team and playing for money. In 1898 a group of New Jersey
newspaper sports editors founded the National Basketball League (NBL). The
NBL consisted of six franchises from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Stars of
this league included Ed Wachter, who played in about 1,800 professional
games, and Barney Sedran, who played on 10 championship teams in 15 years.
Germans, a team that won 111 straight games between 1908 and 1911, and the
Original Celtics, a team that pioneered many tactics in basketball,
including the development of the zone defense, were extraordinarily
successful professional teams in the early 20th century. The first
successful national professional league was the American Basketball League (ABL),
which lasted from 1925 to 1931. The New York Renaissance, a team made up of
black players, dominated the 1930s. The Rens, as the team was called, were
the best team of the era, winning 88 consecutive games during one stretch.
Another all-black team with similar success was the
The Globetrotters were founded in 1927 as a competitive team, but through
the years they became known for their basketball acrobatics and humorous
basketball players were men, 37 states offered high school varsity
basketball for women by 1925, and in 1926 the AAU formed a national
tournament for women's teams. This enabled women to showcase their
basketball skills after scholastic play was finished, and also to gain
employment at companies that sponsored their own AAU teams. Notable players
from this era of women's basketball include
Alline Banks Sprouse, and Nera White, who was one of the first two female
players elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1938 the three-court game
was changed to a two-court game, with six players on a team (three on
offense and three on defense). Players were still prohibited from straying
from their assigned areas.
mid-1930s another professional league called the National Basketball League
(NBL) was founded, taking the same name as the earlier NBL, which had ceased
operation some years before. In 1946 a group of executives in New York City
formed yet another new professional basketball league, known as the
Basketball Association of America (BAA). This new circuit was a direct
competitor with the new NBL, with teams in New York City; Boston,
Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; and Detroit,
Michigan. Just before the 1948-49 season, the four strongest teams in the
NBL—those from Minneapolis, Minnesota; Rochester, New York; Fort Wayne,
Indiana; and Indianapolis, Indiana—joined the BAA. The following season, the
NBL's six surviving teams also joined the BAA, forming a three-division
league that was renamed the National Basketball Association (NBA). After the
1949-50 season the NBA reduced its size and established two divisions, the
forerunners to the Eastern and Western conferences that were established
after the 1969-70 season.
In the late
1940s and early 1950s, the Minneapolis Lakers, led by center
and coached by John Kundla, won five NBA championship titles (1949, 1950,
1952-1954). In the 1950s guard
and forward Bob Pettit had the greatest individual impact on professional
basketball. Cousy, nicknamed the Houdini of the Hardwood because of his
ball-handling skills, led the NBA in assists eight straight years
(1953-1960) and guided the Boston Celtics to six NBA titles (1957,
1959-1963). Pettit finished his career with a remarkable 26.4 points per
game (ppg) average while leading the St. Louis Hawks to appearances in the
NBA championship finals in 1957, 1958, 1960, and 1961, with the Hawks
winning the title in 1958.
dominated the NBA from 1957 to 1969. During this 13-season period, the team,
coached mostly by
won 11 NBA titles (1957, 1959-1966, 1968, 1969), including 8 consecutively.
The Celtics had many stars, but center
was arguably the greatest. In his 13-season career Russell averaged 15.1 ppg
and 22.5 rebounds per game (rpg). Another dominant center of the time was
Chamberlain played for the Philadelphia Warriors, San Francisco Warriors
(the team moved west in 1962), Philadelphia 76ers, and Los Angeles Lakers.
He scored 100 points in a single game in 1962 and averaged 50.4 ppg for the
1961-62 season. Neither record has ever been approached by another player.
Top guards of the 1960s included
of the Milwaukee Bucks,
of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Walt Frazier of the New York Knicks.
of California, Los Angeles dominated college basketball from 1963 to 1975.
UCLA won ten national championships during this time (1964, 1965, 1967-1973,
1975), including seven consecutively. From 1971 to 1974, UCLA won 88
consecutive games, an NCAA record. Wooden's UCLA teams featured great
players such as center
guard Gail Goodrich, forward Jamaal Wilkes, and forward Marques Johnson. The
best player to emerge from UCLA was center
who was born Lew Alcindor. Abdul-Jabbar led UCLA to three straight NCAA
titles from 1967 to 1969. As a professional he led the Milwaukee Bucks to an
NBA title in 1971, and he led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles in
the 1980s (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988). Known for his famous sky-hook
shot, Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons in the NBA and retired as the league's
leading career scorer, with 38,387 points.
decades after its founding, the NBA was the only major professional
basketball league. But in 1967 the American Basketball Association (ABA) was
formed. The league became known for the flashy playing style it encouraged
and the distinctive red, white, and blue basketballs it used. The ABA
convinced several NBA players to switch leagues, often for lucrative
contracts. Probably the best player in the ABA was guard and forward
who later starred in the NBA. The ABA disbanded in 1976, with several of its
teams joining the NBA.
In the late
1970s, the NBA experienced difficulty: The game was perceived as dull, the
league's ticket sales decreased, revenue declined, and television ratings
were as low as they had ever been. In March 1979, however, two collegiate
of Indiana State University and guard
of Michigan State University, helped revive public interest in basketball.
The two players, the stars of their teams, faced each other in the 1979 NCAA
championship game, won by Michigan State. Both players went on to have
distinguished NBA careers. In the 1980s Bird helped revitalize the Boston
Celtics franchise, leading the team to three NBA titles (1981, 1984, 1986).
Johnson did the same in Los Angeles, as he and Abdul-Jabbar guided the
Lakers to five NBA championships.
In the late
1980s the Detroit Pistons emerged as a powerhouse team, featuring stars such
and forward Dennis Rodman. Detroit reached the NBA Finals in 1988, 1989, and
1990, capturing the title during the latter two years. Increased interest in
the professional game carried over to collegiate basketball as well, as the
NCAA tournament became more popular than ever.
changes in women's basketball occurred in the late 1960s. In 1966 unlimited
dribbling became legal, and in 1969 the first five-player full-court game
was played. The five-player form became the official game in women's
basketball in 1971. Women's basketball is now played with virtually the same
rules, regulations, and styles as men's basketball, although the women use a
slightly smaller ball at many levels, including college. With the changes of
the late 1960s, women's basketball began a period of tremendous growth, and
in 1971 the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was
founded, offering a national college basketball tournament for women.
game gained strength in the late 1970s after a law called Title IX was
increasingly enforced, helping strengthen women's basketball programs. The
law, passed as part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, prohibited
discrimination on the basis of gender in educational institutions receiving
federal aid, meaning that women's athletic programs had to be treated as
equal to men's programs. In 1978 the AIAW championship was televised, and
the same year a professional league called the Women's Basketball League (WBL)
made its debut. Featuring eight teams, the league lasted three years. The
AIAW disbanded in 1982, but that same year the NCAA held its first national
championship for women. Three years later, in 1985, the Basketball Hall of
Fame began inducting female coaches, players, and contributors. These
inductees include important pioneers such as
who was the first woman to receive a collegiate athletic scholarship; Carol
Anne Donovan; and Nancy Lieberman-Cline.
In the 1990s
interest in basketball at all levels continued to grow. The most important
figure in this growth was guard
who is considered by many to be the greatest player ever. Jordan's
exceptional basketball skills and flair for entertainment helped keep
basketball in the forefront of American culture as he led the
to six NBA championships (1991-1993, 1996-1998) and led the league in
scoring a record ten times. Other great players of the 1990s included
Star players of the women's professional leagues included Cynthia Cooper,
Teresa Edwards, Lisa Leslie, and Jennifer Azzi.
the late 1980s, it became increasingly common for the best male collegiate
players to leave college before graduating, as they chose to enter the NBA
draft hoping to play professionally for large sums of money. The NBA, while
affording young players this opportunity, has tried to curtail this
practice. In 1995 the league enacted a limit on the amount of money a rookie
could earn, called a rookie salary cap, hoping to discourage players from
1997-98 season NBA owners and players could not agree on rules regarding a
salary cap and several other issues, and the NBA owners instituted a player
lockout. The dispute cancelled all league play until an agreement was
reached in January 1999, resulting in a strike-shortened, 50-game season
followed by a regular playoff schedule and championship series. Jordan
announced his retirement from professional basketball after the labor
dispute was resolved. The San Antonio Spurs, led by David Robinson and Tim
Duncan, won the 1999 NBA title. The Los Angeles Lakers, featuring Shaquille
O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, won the 2000 league championship. Duncan and Bryant
are part of the next generation of superstars that the league hopes will
carry on the legacy of past heroes such as Bird, Johnson, Barkley, and