The History of Basketball for Kids

Father and his son smiling holding a basketball

Basketball is one of the most popular and known sports globally. Yet the invention of this competitive and enjoyable game tells its own tale of how the simple idea of one man could grow into a worldwide phenomenon with the support and love of many others.

The Invention of Basketball

Although basketball is now a very popular and complicated game, its beginnings were rather humble. In 1891, James Naismith, a Canadian-American sports teacher invented this simple sport. In New England winters, it was difficult to manage classes since coldness kept students indoors. To confront the lack of activities, James was challenged to create a sport that would stimulate athletic interactions. So, James came up with three key ideas: first, the ball was made soft and big, to prevent injuries; second, to decrease the amount of violent contacts like those in football, passing was the only way to transfer the ball; third, the goal was placed out of reach to encourage exercise. With these in mind, he created thirteen basic rules of basketball and nailed two peach baskets to opposite sides of a gymnasium, around 10 feet off the floor. The first basketball court was born

Reception of the New Sport

James Naismith published the thirteen rules of basketball on December 21, 1891. And it was very different. For example, early basketball did not include dribbling and most fouls were tackling or carrying the ball. When first introduced, it was received with little enthusiasm, but interest grew quickly. By 1892, basketball was played by many schools as the 'New Game'. Many proposed to call the game "Naismith Ball," but James insisted that since they had a ball and a basket, they should call it basket ball.

Basketball was introduced to the YMCA in 1893. In 1906, a backboard was added to the game, along with hoops and nets. The first European match was played in Paris in 1893, while other people brought the sport to China, Japan and India. During WWI, as U.S soldiers fought overseas, the game spread, paving a way for easy acceptance of the sport.

The National Basketball Association

In 1946, owners of ice hockey arenas in the U.S and Canada founded the Basketball Association of America, or NBA. The first game was played at the Maple Leaf Gardens, where the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers. Ossie Schectman made the first basket in NBA history. In 1947, Wataru Misaka became the first Asian to play in the NBA. Later, in 1950, Harold Hunter became the first African American to enter the NBA.

The NBA's popularity grew over time. In 1979, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson joined the league, drawing international attention. In 1984, Michael Jordan, one of the most celebrated player since the league's creation, signed with the Chicago Bulls. The Dream Team was formed in 1992. In 1995, the Vancouver and Toronto joined the NBA.

Women's Basketball

Basketball for women began at Smith College in 1892, when Senda Berenson taught the sport to her students, to promote physical activities. She also divided the court into three areas and created the positions of guard, center and forward. Women's basketball became an official sport in the Olympic Games in 1976, which led to a massive increase in popularity. In 1982, the National Collegiate Athletic Association began sponsoring the sport, an important milestone for women's basketball.

On April 4, 1896, the first intercollegiate game of women's basketball was played when Stanford and California faced off with teams of nine players. The game ended as a 2 - 1 victory for Stanford. In 1895, Clara Gregory Baer published the first book of women's basketball rules. Many countries around the world have since established professional women's basketball leagues, including the United States, Japan, England and Australia.