It started in 1891 when James Naismith, a PE teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts needed to keep his students entertained inside during the winter. He put up two hoops at either end and used a soccer ball for shooting. Dribbling became the only way to move forward. Fouling led to brawls. Naismith called the game “Basketball.” 🏀
Below are some of the key milestones outlined in this fascinating podcast on the origins of basketball from 99% Invisible.
1891: The first basketball game. Naismith makes an arbitrary decision to make the hoop 10 feet.
1936: The first slam dunk in an organized basketball game. Big men or “goons” dominate the game.
1945: Goaltending gets banned.
1966: NCAA Texas Western beats Kentucky. The Texas Western plays were all black, Kentucky all white. Pat Riley played for Kentucky.
1967: The game gets political. The dunk becomes “the black power manifest.” NCAA bans the dunk for 10 years, a racist decision. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is in disbelief. Without the dunk, basketball becomes boring.
1970s: The ABA introduces the three-point shot, an egalitarian shift that gave smaller players new opportunities.
1976: The ABA merges with the NBA.
Flash forward through the years of Bird, Magic, the Bad Boys, Jordan, Shaq/Kobe….
And Steph Curry, a skinny guard at 6’3, dominates the league today by shooting lights out. The young generation wants to play like Steph Curry. The NBA game becomes about quickness and traditionalists (e.g. Greg Popovic) fear the game is getting out of control. What’s next: a 4-point shot?
Whatever happens to the dunk or the 3-point (or 4-point), there will always be the layup.