It may not rank with soccer on the worldwide popularity scale, but do not underestimate the ongoing appeal of basketball. Whether you just enjoy an occasional pick-up game or play in a local league, basketball is a regular part of many people’s health regime. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturer’s Association, more Americans play basketball than any other sport: over 26 million. Even America’s National Pastime, baseball, doesn’t come close to that number!
Here is a brief history of basketball, with a connection to Canada you might not know about.
19th Century Origins
Compared to many sports, basketball is relatively new. The game as we know it was not only invented less than 150 years ago, but also by a Canadian! That’s right, one of America’s favourite pastimes is actually the work of a Canadian.
Dismayed by the number of injuries he was seeing, Ontario native Doctor James Naismith decided to create a game that offered excellent physical benefits without the risks that come from sports featuring physical contact. He also saw the value in a pastime people could play inside, thus allowing participants to enjoy it throughout the year.
Basketball: The Basics
Naismith created what came to be known as basketball in December of 1891, while he was in Springfield, Massachusetts. The nets consisted of peach baskets nailed ten feet above the ground and the ball was closer to one used for soccer.
Naismith’s game included 13 rules and two teams of nine players. The object of the game has remained the same: each team tries to throw the ball into the opposing squad’s basket. Eventually, someone decided to speed things up by putting a hole in each basket, thus allowing easier retrieval of the ball (the more familiar basketball hoop followed at the turn of the century).
The first official match occurred on December 21, 1891 and only a single basket was scored. Despite the fact it took place in the United States, 10 of the 18 players were students from Quebec.
Basketball Starts to Take Off
Fortunately, players soon got the hang of the game and the ball made it into the basket much more often. Basketball established itself as an exciting and physically enhancing sport both gifted athletes and common folk could enjoy.
The sport’s profile continued to grow. It became a demonstration event in 1904 and joined the Olympic roster in 1936, but for men only. Sadly, Women’s Basketball did not become an Olympic perennial until four decades later.
Surprisingly, it took a while for basketball to catch fire as an American league sport. The National Basketball Association was founded on August 3, 1949, the result of the competing Basketball Association of America (established in 1946) and the National Basketball League (established in 1937) joining forces. Even with this merger, however, the game struggled in popularity and did not begin gaining ground until the mid-50s, when the 24-second clock was added. This made basketball faster paced and more exciting, and attendance grew steadily.
Many Canadians enjoy playing basketball outside during the warmer months, but don’t let winter temperatures stop you from shooting hoops. Basketball is just one of many sports played year-round in air-supported domes! Many multi-sport facilities would be amiss to not include a couple of basketball nets.