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 tasked by the school’s principal with coming up with an indoor game that was easy to learn, could be played indoors in a relatively confined space, 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.
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.
The top-valued team in the NBA, according to Forbes, is the New York Knicks, valued at £1.4bn, with annual revenue of $287m.
The NBA’s top-paid player, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, earns $23.5m a year, according to ESPN. The average player’s salary is $4,189,306.
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 13 professional teams.