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Basketball History

What is the history of basketball? What are the major dates and timelines you should know? Get ready to learn the history of basketball.


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.

Early Days


James Naismith was looking for a new physical activity to entertain his physical education class at a local YMCA. Located in Springfield Massachusetts at the time, 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 a game that would garner the attention of his "disorderly" young men. While sitting in the gymnasium Naismith thought back to his childhood and remembered playing "duck on a rock" back in Canada. A game which revolves around knocking a big rock off of a wall by throwing small rocks at it. Naismith 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 rules to Basketball in under an hour and then settled for peach baskets 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 Olympics. 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. After the conclusion of the match, James Naismith was present and assisted in handing out the medals.

New Developments


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. 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 three-point line revolutionized the NBA when it was introduced in 1979 because it introduced a whole new era of players focused on shooting skill. This is something the NBA is seeing takeover today's gameplay.

Basketball Three-Point Line


On March 2nd, 1962 the world saw the ceiling for basketball skill reach new heights. Wilt Chamberlain had been in the NBA for two years and had been playing professionally for three. Wilt Chamberlain was having a record-breaking season with the Philadelphia Warriors, scoring a career-high of 78 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Then 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 Boston Celtics made history as their championship streak ended. Heavily attributed to Bill Russell's dominance in the NBA, at the time the Boston Celtics won their 8th championship in a row in the 1965-1966 season. 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.


On December 13th of 1983, the highest scoring game in NBA history was played between the Detroit Pistons and the Denver Nuggets. The game had a combined score of 370 points and was extended by three overtimes. The Detroit Pistons won the game 186 to 184 carried by an Isiah Thomas stat line of 47 points and 17 assists.

Game Changers


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.Basketball Michael Jordan Dunk


In the summer of 1992, 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. While creating the Olympic basketball team that year the U.S. gathered the best players in the league to compete in Barcelona. This team is often referred to as "The Dream Team" because of how easily they dominated their competition, they managed to go undefeated throughout the entire tournament. This team had Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and many more.


On June 26th, 2002 the league changed for the better when the first international player to not have played in the U.S. previously was drafted in the first round. 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.


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.

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