Basketball, as we enjoy it today, had to go through various evolutions over the years. And, as true scholars of the game, you may be interested in knowing exactly when basketball was invented, the motivations behind its creation, objectives, and rules to understand the nature of basketball. In knowing these things, we can have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the game’s current iteration.
The Rich History of Basketball
For students of the game trying to figure out the nature and background of basketball, the best place to start is in its history. Only from its history can we learn the motivations behind its creation and the reasoning behind each rule.
The invention of the game is credited to Dr. James Naismith. He developed the game in or around December 1, 1891, out of a need to create an indoor pastime during the cold winter months at the International YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. The first goals used were literally two half-bushel baskets made to carry peaches which is where the game’s name was derived. The original ball used was a soccer ball.
Originally, basketball was just meant to give athletes a means to keep fit during winter. The rules, therefore, were quite rudimentary.
Despite its humble origins, word of the exciting new sport of basketball spread across the United States. It even grew an impressive following in colleges and recreational facilities around the country. It grew so fast that requests for clarifications and rule inquiries from associations and individuals began to flood Naismith’s mail. So, on June 15, 1892, just six months after he invented the game, he officially published the original 13 rules of basketball on The Triangle, the official publication of the YMCA.
What is the Nature of Basketball?
At its essence, basketball is a simple team sport played by two opposing teams tasked to score goals against the other team by putting the basketball through the opposing team’s hoop. The winner of a basketball game is the team that scores more points than their opponents at the end of regulation time.
Depending on the location or situation, each shot that goes in may count either 1, 2, or 3 points. As such, some players develop specialties in scoring certain types of shots to maximize their team’s chances of winning. Stephen Curry, for example, has mastered long-range shots that are worth 3 points. Other players specialize in playing defense and preventing the other team from scoring.
The ensuing mixture of different types of players results in a dynamic sport where teams adapt to the constantly changing environment on the court where something as simple as a substitution of one player for another can affect the game’s outcome.
What are the Rules and Objectives of Basketball?
The basic principle and objective of basketball is to score the most points before the game clock runs out. And despite the countless rule changes, additions, and different styles of implementation, this main principle remains.
However, there are some aspects of the basketball that has become so ingrained in the game that it’s impossible to define basketball without them.
So, here are the general rules of basketball no matter what league or association:
Moving the Ball (Dribbling and Passing) – Players with the ball cannot move freely around the court unless they’re dribbling it. Other than dribbling the ball around, passing is the only other way to get the ball from one point in the court to another.
The Playing Court – While the original game that Naismith invented was only bound by the gym it was being played in, the current game of basketball has evolved to include predetermined dimensions depending on the league and officiating body. The ball and the ball handlers can only stay within the confines of those dimensions. If in case, the offense loses control of the ball and it rolls or bounces off the designated playing court, the ball will be automatically turned over to the other team.
Fouls – Basketball is considered a limited-contact sport. Fouls are the tools the game uses to limit excessive contact between players. Fouls are called on players that have made illegal contact with one of their opponents and can happen on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. If the defensive commits a foul while an opposing player is in the act of shooting the ball, the offense is awarded two free throws, each worth 1-point. To prevent players from playing recklessly and fouling the other team all the time, the rules state that each player will only have five allotted fouls in each game—the 6th foul results in an automatic ejection from the competition.
Number of Players on the Court (Substitutions) – In all leagues and officiating bodies, there can only be five players on the court for both sides at any given time. However, teams are entitled to an unlimited number of substitutions per game as long as they’re done during a dead ball situation, during free throw, or after each basket during the last two minutes of the game.
5 Interesting Facts About Basketball
The game went through various stages of innovation over the years, and it can be interesting to see for scholars of the game exactly how these innovations came about with some basketball history facts.
1. The basketball court did not come into the picture until 1924, a good 33 years after the first basketball game.
When James Naismith invented the game, he did not initially specify the dimensions of the playing court as it we know it today. So, the earliest basketball games were played within the confines of the gym where it was being played. Therefore, the number of players allowed on each side was hugely dependent on the size available for the game and vice versa. The layout, where there were 10ft high hoops on either end of the floor, generally remained unchanged.
2. Dribbling, a fundamental part of the game, was not even allowed until six years after the first basketball game was played.
While killer crossovers are very exciting to see in today’s game, there was a time when even simply dribbling the ball wasn’t allowed. It was only in 1897 when a collegiate basketball team introduced the concept of dribbling to the basketball world. Even then, it was the subdued version of the flashy style of dribbling we have today, as they only allowed one dribble before a player had to pass the ball on to a teammate.
3. The three-pointer did not exist before 1967.
The three-point shot is another modern basketball staple that didn’t exist in Naismith’s original game. The motivation for the invention of the three-point line was to give smaller players a chance at scoring baskets because back then, tall players had an enormous advantage against them. These days, the novelty seems to have worn off as players have begun becoming highly consistent from long distances.
4. There used to be more than five players per team.
Since there was no mention in the original 13 rules of basketball about the allowed number of players per side, basketball games were pretty chaotic back then. In some games, there were 50 players on each team. To help keep the game organized and safe, the number of players permitted on the court was limited to just 5 for both teams at any given time.
5. Possession after the ball goes out of bounds was not assured to any team.
These days, when the ball goes out of bounds, the referees would award the ball to the opposing team of the player who touched it last. However, this rule wasn’t the case before 1913. Back then, when a ball goes out of bounds, referees would retrieve the ball and simply throw it back into the playing court. Whoever catches the ball first automatically gains possession of the ball. This simple rule change significantly decreased the number of injuries to basketball players during the game’s early days.
Wrapping Things Up: What is the Nature of Basketball?
The nature of basketball is pretty simple. It’s a competitive sport wherein teams try to score more points against their opponents by shooting a basketball through their hoop. At its essence, James Naismith succeeded in creating a fun and exciting alternative recreational activity that can be just as physically demanding as other sports such as football and soccer with much less contact.
Therefore, the original rules published by Naismith on The Triangle were rudimentary and easy to follow. However, its rapid rise to mainstream popularity and adoption from schools and associations meant that the sport went through various stages of evolution before it became the sport that we now know and love. For this reason, it’s crucial for students of the game to learn the rich history of basketball.
But as the game and the skillset of its players grow, basketball has evolved to become a more complex sport than it was initially intended. From the introduction of the playing court to the birth of new skills such as dribbling and the three-point shot, the game has become a strategic and complicated sport in its own right.