From playgrounds to stadiums, Basketball has long been a popular and well-loved sport around the world. What began as a way to entertain a P.E. class is now a sport that draws millions of viewers. Over the years, icons like Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan helped to elevate the sport to what we know today. Let's take a trip down basketball's memory lane.
James Naismith was a physical education instructor looking for a new activity to entertain his class at a local Springfield, MA, YMCA. The winter forbade the class from going outside to exercise. Naismith was at a crossroads and had to think quick on his feet to create an activity that would garner the attention of his restless and "disorderly" young men. While sitting in the gymnasium Naismith thought back to his childhood and remembered playing something called "duck on a rock" back in Canada. The game revolves around knocking a big rock off of a wall by throwing small rocks at it. He also recalled rugby players practicing their hand-eye coordination in the gymnasium by throwing a ball into a box on the floor.
Naismith believed he could combine the two games by raising the box and using a ball instead of rocks to create a new sport. He wrote up the first set of rules of Basketball in under one hour and then settled for peach baskets for the targets, when he couldn't find any spare crates. On that day Basketball was born.
After decades of being played professionally and on the collegiate level, basketball was added to the Olympic program, and first played in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. In the first Olympic championship, the United States played Canada on a converted tennis court made of clay and sand. The United States won the first Olympic medal for basketball in a 19-8 win. James Naismith was present that day, and assisted in handing out the medals to both teams.
On February 7th, 1945 a seemingly insignificant regular season game between Columbia and Fordham was used as a test game for one of the biggest changes in basketball since its invention, one that would forever change the game. Renowned high school basketball coach Howard Hobson suggested players be rewarded for the distance of their shots. From this idea, the three-point line was born. The new invention was only introduced in the NBA in the 1979 season.Nowadays, NBA teams focus a lot of their offense on the three point line, and there are players who specialize on consistently making three-point shots. That said, it can certainly be said that the invention of the three point line is one of the most important changes in basketball's history.
In 1954 Danny Biasone, owner of the NBA franchise Syracuse Nationals invented the 24-second shot clock. The league was suffering because teams were playing a slow paced and low scoring type of basketball, and would hold the ball a lot in order to run the time out. The solution was invented and presented by Biasone to the league. The shot clock was implemented that same year, and it remains a part of basketball to this day.
On March 2nd, 1962 the world saw the ceiling for basketball skills reach new heights. Wilt Chamberlain had been in the NBA for two years and had been playing professionally for three. Chamberlain was having a record-breaking season with the Philadelphia Warriors. In a regular season game against the New York Knicks Wilt Chamberlain had the highest individual scoring game ever, scoring 100 points in a 169-147 victory. The 100 points are until this day the most points ever scored by a single player in NBA history. Kobe Bryant was the one who got the closest to that mark, scoring 81 points during the 2006-07 NBA season.
In this year the Boston Celtics' championship streak ended. In the previous season, the Celtics had won their 8th consecutive national title. The team's success was largely attributed to Bill Russell, the single most dominant player in basketball by that time. After losing the championship in the 1966-1967 season to the San Francisco Warriors, the Boston Celtics went on to win the championship in the 1968-1969 season. This is often regarded as the most dominant era by one team in the history of professional basketball.
In 1976 the two major national basketball leagues, the NBA and the ABA, merged, the merge is considered the beginning of the NBA as we know it today. The leagues were rivals, as the ABA was created to fill a void in small markets, where the NBA did not have any franchises. Although it was considered to be successful, a series of financial wrongdoings lead the ABA to near bankruptcy. A deal was negotiated, and four of the seven ABA teams joined the NBA (Spurs, Nets, Pacers, and Nuggets) and players from the rest of the team were incorporated into the "new" NBA.
The 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona was the first edition where NBA players were allowed to play for their national teams. Basketball was flourishing as a game, the number of basketball fans across the world was at an all-time high, the NBA had become flooded with talented players in the previous years and it seemed as if the U.S. had elevated their skills to the next level. It did make sense anymore that the greatest basketball players in the world could not take part in the biggest sporting event in the world, and the rule was revoked. While creating the Olympic basketball team, the United States gathered the best players in the NBA and NCAA to compete in Barcelona. This squad is often referred to as "The Dream Team" because of how easily they dominated their competition, and won the gold medal. This team had many of the greatest players in history, like Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and many more. The Dream Team is remembered dearly by basketball fans around the world.
The 1984 NBA draft is considered to be one of the most celebrated drafts in history. That year some of the biggest names in the sport came into the league, including a junior out of the University of North Carolina called Michael Jordan. Alongside Jordan, players like John Stockton, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon were also drafted.
On February 6th, 1988 the most iconic dunk of all time occurred at the hands of Michael Jordan in the NBA dunk contest during all-star weekend. Michael Jordan had won the dunk contest the year prior and was arguably in the athletic prime of his career. In search of a perfect 50, Jordan decided to push his physical limits by attempting a dunk never seen before. In the last round of the dunk contest, Jordan ran up the court and took off from the free throw line and slammed the ball through the hoop. This dunk won him the contest and is often regarded as a highlight of his career.
On June 26th, 2002 the league changed for the better when the first international player to have not previously played in the U.S. was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. With the first overall pick, the Houston Rockets selected a 7'6" center weighing in at 311 pounds by the name of Yao Ming. The choice to draft outside of the U.S. opened the door for other teams to start scouting international players seriously and brought in millions of new international fans to the NBA. Although followed by injuries, Yao Ming was a dominant player who had a very successful career and popularized the NBA in China. In 2016, Yao Ming was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
On July 8th, 2010 Lebron James had just finished the last season of his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James was tired of being the only scorer on the team and was looking to move to a new team where he could compete for championships. James had offers on the table to come to play for many of the teams in the league, yet when it came time to answer, he chose to sign with the Miami Heat. This decision was nationally broadcasted and was the only way James broke the news to his former team that he wouldn't be returning. This was influential to the league because it started an era of creating super teams with multiple stars. As significant to the league as the James moving to the heat was Kevin Durant's move to the Warriors after the 2016 season.
In 2016 the Golden State Warriors, who had won the title the previous season, posted the best regular season record in NBA history with a total record of 73 wins and 9 losses. However, during the playoffs the team was not able to be as successful, as they fell for the Cleveland Cavaliers in one of the greatest NBA Finals Series ever. The Warriors would go on to raise the trophy the following two seasons.
The 2019 season was the first time since 2010 that LeBron James did not make it to the NBA Finals. After playing for the title 8 years in a row, LeBron could not take his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers, to the finals after a turbulent season. 2019 was also the first time a team outside the United States won the NBA title, when the underdog Toronto Raptors upset the Golden State Warriors in 6 games.