STH News - Basketball History

From Dr. James Naismith to Lebron James a Basketball History

Long before Michael Jordan and Dirk Nowitzki, peach baskets were hanging three meters above the ground. Basketball has come a long way - and has an eventful history. We bring you closer to the history of basketball, explain how it came about, and tell you how a less physical alternative to football became one of the most popular sports in the world.

History of Basketball #2

Basketball history: Important dates at a glance

Almost a hundred years have passed between the invention of basketball and the first three-point shot in history. However, the sport had already gained media attention long before then and had even found its place in the Olympics. Get an overview of the most essential milestones in basketball history:

  • 1891: Invention of the sport of basketball
  • 1892: First official basketball games in the USA
  • 1906: Introduction of the open net on the basketball hoop
  • 1910: Introduction of dribbling
  • 1936: Basketball as a medal discipline for the first time at the Olympic Games in Berlin
  • 1940: First basketball game broadcast on television
  • 1946: Foundation of the NBA
  • 1962: Wilt Chamberlain is the first and still the only player to score 100 points in an NBA game.
  • 1969: Bill Russell wins his eleventh NBA championship with the Boston Celtics and still holds the record today.
  • 1972: The Soviet Union defeats Team USA in a highly controversial final at the Munich Games, becoming the first non-US basketball team to win the Olympic gold medal.
  • 1979: The NBA plays its first season with a three-point line (distance of 7.24 meters).
  • 1984: FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball) introduces the three-point line (distance 6.25 meters).
  • 1992: The US association sends NBA professionals to the Olympic Games for the first time - the "Dream Team" is born and raises the basketball profile worldwide.
  • 2004: Team USA loses to Argentina in the semi-finals of the Olympic Games in Athens and fails to win the Olympic gold medal for the first time since NBA players were nominated.

By the way:

The US team was nicknamed the "Dream Team" at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. The team included NBA stars Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley, who, together with their teammates, beat their opponents by an average of 44 points on their way to the gold medal.

Fascinating facts about the history of basketball

When he invented basketball, Dr. James Naismith had nothing less than a pacifist sports revolution in mind for his hard-to-educate pupils. At first, however, there were obstacles. Years followed in which the ball had to be retrieved from the basket before the sport became world famous.

Who invented basketball?

In 1891, the Canadian doctor and teacher Dr James Naismith faced a dilemma. His students at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, loved tough sports like football. They ran around and sought physical contact. Naismith's brief was to develop a less robust alternative, a disembodied sport.

His idea is that if you're not allowed to run with the ball, you don't have to be stopped by a tackle - a tactical maneuver a player uses to stop his opponent. Instead, his pupils should pass the ball to work together on solutions and success. Sharing the ball has been one of the basic concepts of basketball ever since.

Naismith forbade contact with the shoulder, shoving, leg positioning - everything familiar from sports such as rugby or football. At the same time, he borrowed from the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas, who had already set the sporting goal of passing balls through rings a thousand years earlier.

The only difference was that the idea of the disembodied was not very popular at the beginning. Naismith's pupils were used to tackling and were not initially dissuaded by the new rules. They punched, wrestled, and knocked each other over. Dr Naismith remained patient, repeatedly interrupting the game and letting his pupils start again - until they liked sharing the ball. Basketball was born.

The original rules of basketball

Dr James Naismith wrote down 13 rules. Basketball should follow these basic rules. The most important of these was rule number three. It prohibited players from running with the ball and still applies today. The focus was on passing and throwing. Even dribbling did not find its way into basketball until 1910. Instead, the original nine players per team had fixed positions that they could not leave.

Number of players

Rule number 5, which prohibited holding and pushing, legging, hitting, and knocking over, was not well received initially. As players kept falling back into familiar physical patterns, they initially played with arm and leg guards and chest protectors. To create more space on the court (playing field) and minimize direct contact, the number of players was reduced relatively quickly from nine to five - and the idea of basketball as a disembodied sport became a reality.

Playing time: two halves with a five-minute break

Incidentally, although four quarters are standard nowadays according to FIBA and NBA rules, each game was originally divided into two halves. Each half lasted 15 minutes. The players could catch their breath during the five-minute break. You can also take a break and spin the slots. Visit and choose from an extensive collection of games.

Origin of the basketball hoop

Like the game in general, the basketball hoop has also undergone an evolution. The only thing that remained constant was the height - this is how the basketball hoop we know today came about.

Initially, peach baskets mounted on the hall wall served as targets.

To prevent too much physical contact near the basket, the baskets were hung at 3.05 meters from the start - something that has not changed today.

As a ladder was initially required to retrieve the ball from the basket after a successful throw, robust basket constructions made of heavy steel became established.

At the beginning of the 20th century, nets without a floor replaced the previously standard closed version - now, the ball fell to the floor, and the ladder had become obsolete.

The introduction of the board behind the basket was not primarily intended to give players a more prominent target; instead, it served as protection against sticks or other objects that spectators used to "defend" the basket.

Origin of basketball: the evolution of the ball

For the first few chapters of their history, basketball players had to make do with leather footballs. It was not until 1894 that they received their first custom-made basketballs. These were also made of leather, were laced, and thus resembled a volleyball. They also had a large seam, as seen on a football today.

Since the 1940s, basketballs with strings have had their day. However, the lines of the strings around the individual panels served as a model for today's design.

Today, the lines help players to find the right-hand position for the shot. In this way, they can give the ball the important backward spin for a stable trajectory.

The first basketball teams

The "Dream Team". The Chicago Bulls around Michael Jordan. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks, of course. Basketball history has produced countless legendary teams. There were also pioneers - some of whom are still active today:

In 1892, the first official basketball game in the USA occurred at Springfield College.

In 1936, basketball players played in the Olympic Games for the first time, followed by women's teams in 1976.

In 1946, the National Basketball Association (NBA) played its first season with eleven teams - including the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia Warriors (now the Golden State Warriors), who are still active today.

Development of basketball into one of the most popular sports in the world

The ascent of basketball from an unforeseeable future to one of the planet's most renowned and beloved sports was not immediate. Even after the first TV broadcast of a game in 1940 and the establishment of the NBA in 1946, basketball's trajectory gained significant momentum in 1967. The American Basketball Association (ABA) played a pivotal role in this evolution, striving to merge with the established NBA. The ABA's inaugural season focused on entertainment, introducing a red, white, and blue ball in contrast to the NBA's standard orange color. Notably, the ABA pioneered the introduction of the three-point line and embraced a more relaxed, offense-heavy style of play.

The turning point came in 1976 with the merger of the ABA and NBA. Athletic luminaries like Julius "Dr J" Irving added elegance and spectacle to the game, even amid occasional chaos on and off the court. The merger incorporated four ABA teams – San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets, and Denver Nuggets – into the NBA, where legends such as Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell had left their mark.

1979 marked another significant chapter with the emergence of Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird. Having displayed brilliance in college, both players joined iconic NBA teams – Johnson with the Los Angeles Lakers and Bird with the Boston Celtics. Their rivalry and compelling performances on the court rejuvenated fan interest and brought new life to the sport.

The 1980s witnessed basketball's meteoric popularity, fueled by memorable matchups such as Lakers versus Celtics and the contributions of rising stars like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon. The era gave birth to the "Dream Team," a powerhouse ensemble that significantly elevated basketball's global appeal during the 1992 Olympic Games.

Today, the NBA is the premier basketball league globally and ranks among the most popular sports leagues. Renowned players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant have transcended the boundaries of their sport, achieving international icon status. Basketball's widespread popularity extends to social media, with captivating highlight clips and European leagues like the Turkish Airlines Euroleague and the easyCredit Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) are gaining traction. The sport's close connection to pop culture continues to fuel its ever-growing popularity beyond geographical confines.

The most famous basketball players of all time

Every decade has its formative players. Some have become the greatest legends in the history of basketball:

  • Bill Russell won eleven championships as a player and player-coach with the Boston Celtics (a record) and actively campaigned for civil rights throughout his life.
  • Wilt Chamberlain is considered one of the most dominant players in the NBA and holds the NBA record for points in a game with 100.
  • Kareem-Abdul Jabbar won six championships with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers, held the record for the most points in NBA history for a long time, and is also a committed civil rights activist.
  • Earvin "Magic" Johnson led the "Showtime Lakers" with his spectacular style of play and is partly responsible for the renaissance of the NBA in the 1980s - including five championships.
  • Larry Bird won three championships with the Boston Celtics and is regarded as one of history's best players and shooters.
  • Michael Jordan won six championships in eight years with the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s and is considered by many to be perhaps the best player.
  • Kobe Bryant left his mark on basketball with his ambition, which brought him five titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. He died in a helicopter crash in 2020.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is the best German player. He was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2007 and won the championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
  • LeBron James overtook Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 2023 and has held the record for the most points in NBA history ever since. He has also won four titles with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers.


Sports Team History is your ultimate destination to explore the rich heritage and iconic logos of professional sports teams across MLB, MLS, NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, Premier League, WNBA, XFL, ABA, AAF, and USFL. Immerse yourself in the captivating tales and memorable moments that have shaped each team's legacy.

But that's not all! At Sports Team History, we believe in celebrating the exceptional talents that have graced the sports world. That's why we're thrilled to announce our upcoming "Greatest Player Poll" where fans like you can cast your votes and have your say in determining the greatest players of all time in various sports.

Our partner site, Sports Logo History, offers a vibrant community of logo enthusiasts who appreciate the evolution of team visual identities. Dive into detailed analysis and discussions surrounding logos representing the teams we love. Stay updated with Sports News History, providing 24/7 sports news coverage to keep you informed and engaged with the latest developments. Lastly, explore the premier sports team marketplace at Sports Market History, where you'll find a wide selection of jerseys, caps, and collectibles to showcase your team spirit. Embark on a journey through time, celebrate team logos, stay informed with the latest news, and discover unique sports memorabilia to enhance your collection. Let Sports Team History fuel your passion for sports.