The History of the Basketball Backboard

Basketball in net

Basketball was invented in December 1891 by James Naismith. He was a Canadian physical education professor from McGill University of Montreal and an instructor at the local YMCA. Throughout the years, as the rules of basketball changed, so did the backboard’s dimensions and composition.

Before Backboards

Before backboards, peach crate baskets were attached to a 10 foot pole and a ball was shot into the crate. But the fans would get involved by interfering with players’ shots. Also, without backboards, rebounding was not a part of the game.

First Backboards

By 1893, the first backboards were created to keep fans from interfering. They were originally made out of chicken wire, as were the baskets. With the addition of backboards, the game changed to include rebounding.

Wood and Glass

In 1904, wooden backboards became mandatory because of safety reasons; including injuries to the enthusiastic fans suffered from the chicken wire because they were apt to try and slap the ball out of the basket. By 1909, glass backboards were becoming common because of their aesthetic appeal. Modern regulated backboards are made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is harder to break and highly transparent.

Height and Width

The dimensions of earlier backboards have been lost in time. Now all levels of basketball -- including high school, NCAA, WNBA and the NBA -- have the same regulations: 6 feet wide and 3 1/2 feet tall.

Inner Square

It’s not exactly known when it was first used, but the backboard’s inner square must be 24 inches wide and 18 inches tall. The line must be painted white and have a thickness of 2 inches. The square is to be placed directly behind the rim and centered with 24 inches on each side. This inner square is to help the player improve their depth perception and to simply guide their aim.

Mounting the Rim

The orange rim must be mounted onto the backboard with a metal base. The metal base must extend the rim 6 inches from the backboard. The front part of the rim must be 24 inches from the backboard, leaving an 18-inch diameter for the rim.