Basketball and how a 30 year old gym teacher invented one of the most popular sports in the world

Unlike most other sports that have roots that date back thousands of years, basketball is a fairly recent sport and there is no ambiguity as to when and how it was created. In Springfield Massachusetts, December 1891, 30 year old YMCA gym teacher James Naismith invented the game as a way to keep peoples fitness levels up during the incredibly cold Boston winters. To create the game, he used a wooden peach basket, a 10-foot pole and a soccer ball. In 1891, the first ever basketball game was played between Naismith’s students, with a final score of 1-0.

Knowledge of basketball spread quickly and by 1895, just 3 years after its creation, basketball had become an established sport being played throughout numerous high schools and college universities. James was later hired by the University of Kansas as their physical education teacher and basketball coach. James Naismith went on to adjust the rules over the next 20 years, changing the basket to a hoop, adding the backboard and starting to experiment with different types of balls.

In 1936, basketball officially became an Olympic sport and a year later the NBL, or National Basketball League was established which became the first official pro basketball league. By 1939 there were enough universities in the country playing basketball for the NCAA to create the first college basketball championship, which remains it’s main source of revenue today.

In 1946, competition arose for the NBL, with an intense battle being fought with the BAA, or Basketball Association of America. Both organizations wanted to become the premiere basketball league in America and for the next several years they battled it out until finally in August of 1949, leaders of both groups met at the Empire State Building in New York and agreed to a merger for both leagues. This was the formation of the National Basketball Association, or as we know it, the NBA.

The popularity of the sport skyrocketed to new heights, spurred on by the legendary rivalry between basketball superstars Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. This rivalry helped the NBA soar to record heights of popularity and viewership and helped shape basketball for the decade. Michael Jordan entered the scene in 1984 and helped carry the torch from Bird and Magic through the 1990s.

One of the most thrilling moments of basketball history was in 1992, when the USA Olympic team included NBA players for the first time. Jordan, Magic and Bird led the ‘Dream Team’ which dominated the Barcelona Summer Olympics and is credited for increasing the worldwide popularity of the sport.

Today, basketball has a massive following both in the U.S and around the world, with more than 300 million people from over 200 basketball playing nations competing against each other each year. It’s one of the most competitive sports in the world with players having to hone their personal skills and technique while being able to synchronize and adapt to a team environment.

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