In early December 1891, Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physician from McGill University and minister on the faculty of a college for YMCA professionals (today, Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, sought a vigorous indoor game to keep his students occupied and at proper levels of fitness during the long New England winters. After rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, he wrote the basic rules and nailed a peach basket onto an 10-foot (3.05 m) elevated track. In contrast with modern basketball nets, this peach basket retained its bottom, so balls scored into the basket had to be poked out with a long dowel each time. A soccer ball was used to shoot goals. His handwritten diaries of the time indicate that he was nervous about this invention, which incorporated rules from a Canadian children’s game called “Duck on a Rock”, as many had failed before it.
Naismith’s new game is quite similar to the game of team handball, which had already been invented in the early 1890s.
The first official basketball game was played in the YMCA gymnasium on January 20, 1892 with nine players, on a court just half the size of a present-day National Basketball Association (NBA) court. “Basket ball”, the name suggested by one of Naismith’s students, was popular from the beginning.
Women’s basketball began in 1892 at Smith College when Senda Berenson, a physical education teacher, modified Naismith’s rules for women.
Basketball’s early adherents were dispatched to YMCAs throughout the United States, and it quickly spread through the USA and Canada. By 1895, it was well established at several women’s high schools. While the YMCA was responsible for initially developing and spreading the game, within a decade it discouraged the new sport, as rough play and rowdy crowds began to detract from the YMCA’s primary mission. However, other amateur sports clubs, colleges, and professional clubs quickly filled the void. In the years before World War I, the Amateur Athletic Union and the Intercollegiate Athletic Association (forerunner of the NCAA) vied for control over the rules for the game.
Basketball was originally played with a soccer ball. The first balls made specifically for basketball were brown, and it was only in the late 1950s that Tony Hinkle, searching for a ball that would be more visible to players and spectators alike, introduced the orange ball that is now in common use.
Dribbling, the bouncing of the ball up and down while moving, was not part of the original game except for the “bounce pass” to teammates. Passing the ball was the primary means of ball movement. Dribbling was eventually introduced but limited by the asymmetric shape of early balls. Dribbling only became a major part of the game around the 1950s as manufacturing improved the ball shape.
Basketball, netball, volleyball, and lacrosse are the only ball games which have been identified as being invented by North Americans. Other ball games, such as baseball and Canadian football, have Commonwealth of Nations, European, Asian or African connections.
The Original 13 Rules of Basketball As written by Dr. James Naismith
1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with a fist).
3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to made for a man who catches the ball when running if he tries to stop.
4. The ball must be held by the hands. The arms or body must not be used for holding it.
5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, tipping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule y any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.
6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of Rules 3, 4 and such as described in Rule 5.
7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls it shall count as a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).
8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the base key and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play by the person first touching it. He has a right to hold it unmolested for five seconds. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds; if he holds it longer it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on the side.
10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.
11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the account of the goals, with any other duties that are usually performed by the referee.
12. The time shall be two fifteen minute halves, with five minutes’ rest between.
13. The side making the most goals in the in that time shall be declared the winner. In the case of a draw, the game my, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.