The origins of many sports get lost in the murk of time. Traditional games are adapted, embellished, and codified – sometimes by more than one governing body – over many years, until they evolve into the games we know today. Basketball, however, isn't one of those sports. It was invented by one man, on this day 124 years ago.
Dr James Naismith was a Canadian PE instructor who was working at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was asked by the school's principal to come up with a game that was easy to learn, could be played indoors in a relatively confined space, and that would keep the students active during the harsh winters.
As a boy at school, Naismith had played a game he called duck-on-a-rock, which involved knocking a small stone off the top of a larger stone by throwing a third stone at it. It was this game that he morphed into basketball. And on 15 January 1892, he published the sport's 13 rules. The rules have undergone some changes since they were published, however. Originally, there was no dribbling – that was introduced in 1901. The free throw was introduced in 1895. And the number of players per side wasn't stipulated – the first game had teams of nine a side.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
But after being adopted by many colleges in America, the game took off remarkably quickly. By the 1920s there were hundreds of professional teams in the US. It became an Olympic sport in 1936, and now, it is decidedly big business – especially in the USA. The world's biggest league, America's National Basketball Association (NBA), was formed as the Basketball Association of America in 1946, and became the NBA in 1949. A national league wasn't formed in the UK until 1972, after a few abortive attempts in the 1960s. The current British Basketball League started in 1987, and boasts 11 professional teams.
Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.
Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.
Nvidia becomes the fourth biggest company in the world - should you invest?
Chipmaker Nvidia is riding the AI wave, and has overtaken Alphabet and Amazon in terms of market capitalisation. Have new investors missed the boat, or will the share price soar higher?
By Ruth Emery Published
Savings market heats up as providers boost rates - should you switch now for a better return?
In a surprising twist, more and more banks are now hiking their savings rates. Is it a good time to move your money and grab a better rate?
By Vaishali Varu Published