History of basketball: Who created it and when?

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re a lover of the sport, and you’re looking for information about the history of basketball, you’re in the right place! I’m a basketball lover with extensive experience in the subject, and I’ll happily share everything I know with you.

The history of basketball is fascinating, full of events and characters that have marked the evolution of the sport to what it is today. From its humble origins in a YMCA gym to its consecration as one of the most popular sports in the world, basketball has traveled a road full of ups and downs, but always maintaining its essence.

In this article, I will take you through the history of basketball, from its invention in 1891 by Canadian professor James Naismith to the present day. I’ll tell you about the most critical moments, the great basketball stars, and the teams that have left their mark. But not only that, but I will also teach you curious and little-known facts about this sport.

Ready to get to know the history of basketball? Here we go!

Origin of basketball: from the YMCA gymnasium to the NBA

Basketball was born in the winter of 1891 in a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) gymnasium in Springfield, Massachusetts. James Naismith, a physical education teacher, was looking for an activity that would keep his students fit during the winter months when the weather did not permit outdoor activities. So he created a game that consisted of throwing a ball into an elevated basket, with the intention of scoring points.

The first official basketball game was played at the YMCA on December 21, 1891, and the rules of the game were published the following year in a booklet entitled “Basket Ball: Its Origins and Development”. The game quickly spread throughout the United States and Canada, and in 1932 the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) was founded to govern basketball worldwide.

In the 1940s, basketball became a professional sport, and in 1946 the Basketball Association of America (BAA) was founded, later merging with the National Basketball League (NBL) to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). The NBA became the most important basketball league in the world and has produced great stars such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James.

Who created basketball and why?

Who created basketball and why - Illustration by James Naismith

Basketball was invented in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith, who worked as a physical education teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Naismith invented basketball as an alternative activity for his students during the winter, as outdoor sports were not viable due to the cold weather. The idea was to create a sport that could be played indoors, was not as aggressive as soccer, and involved technical skills such as shooting, dribbling, and passing.

With these ideas in mind, Naismith originated a sport that was initially played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets placed on the walls of a gymnasium. The object was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s baskets and the team with the most points at the end of the game won.

Original ground rules established by James Naismith

James Naismith drew up a list of 13 basic rules for the new sport when it was still in its infancy. These were the initial rules:

  1. It does not matter where the ball is thrown or how many hands are used; it can go anywhere.
  2. It is possible to hit the ball in any direction, using one or both hands (never with a fist or closed hand).
  3. It is forbidden for players to run with the ball. They are obliged to pass it, even if they have picked it up from somewhere else; however, a relative tolerance will be allowed to the player who is in the middle of a run when he receives the ball and must stop.
  4. It is not allowed to hold the ball with both hands at the same time or between them. In no case shall the arms or body be used to hold the ball.
  5. A violation of this rule constitutes a foul and, if it occurs more than once, the player shall be sent out of the match and may not be substituted.
  6. An infringement of rules 2 and 4 that is punished in the same way as an infringement of rule 5 shall be considered a foul for striking the ball with the fist.
  7. If a team commits three consecutive personal fouls, a basket shall be credited to the other team. This rule applies to both teams (consecutive means that during that time the opponent has not committed any foul).
  8. If the ball is thrown, knocked, or tapped from the floor to the basket and remains there, the basket will be counted as such. It is not necessary for defensive players to touch the ball or get in the way of the basket for this to occur. If the ball does not enter the hoop but remains at the rim of the basket while the opponent moves the basket, the ball will be counted as a point for the opponent.
  9. The ball must be returned to the court by the first player to touch it and, in case of disagreement, a hanging toss is taken to decide who wins.
  10. The judge who determines whether or not a player has committed a personal foul is the assistant referee and is responsible for informing the main referee when three fouls have been committed in a row. According to rule number 5, he has the ability to disqualify participants.
  11. The head referee is responsible for making all decisions about the ball, including deciding when it is in play or has been taken out of space, which team the ball belongs to, and keeping track of time. As a referee, he shall be responsible for determining when a goal has been scored, counting baskets, and performing other expected responsibilities.
  12. The game will be divided into two halves of 15 minutes each, with a 5-minute break between each half.
  13. The winning team will be the team that has scored the most baskets in the allotted time. In case of a tie at the end of regulation time, the leaders of both teams may decide to extend the game until one of them scores a basket.

The evolution of basketball through time

evolution of basketball over time

Over the years, basketball has evolved both in the way it is played and in its rules. In its early days, the game was much slower and rougher than modern basketball, and the rules were simpler. But as time went on, basketball adapted to the needs of players and spectators, and changes were introduced to improve the game.

One of the most crucial moments in the evolution of basketball was the introduction of the possession clock in 1954. This change allowed teams to have a time limit to try to score, which sped up the game and made it more exciting. Another significant change was the prohibition of the jump shot after every basket, which also sped up the game.

Another aspect that has evolved in basketball is technology. Players now wear shoes and uniforms specifically designed to enhance their performance, and courts are equipped with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. In addition, television and social media have made basketball more accessible than ever to fans around the world.

5 Interesting facts about basketball

In this section, I will introduce you to some curious facts about basketball that you may not have known.

1# The first basketball backboard was made of railroad ties.

When the first basketball game was played at the Springfield YMCA in 1891, the baskets were not as we know them today. Instead, peach baskets hung on the gymnasium walls were used. Later, baskets with backboards were introduced, and the first basketball backboard was made from a railroad tie.

2# Free throws did not always exist

In the early years of basketball, there were no free throws as we know them today. Instead, a shot was awarded to the team that was fouled. Free throws were introduced later as a way to punish more serious fouls.

3# The basketball must have a specific pressure.

According to NBA rules, the basketball must have a pressure of between 7.5 and 8.5 pounds per square inch. This ensures that the ball has the right amount of bounce and is easy for players to control.

4# The original basket was a basket of peaches.

As I mentioned earlier, the original basketball hoop was not like the ones we know today. Instead, peach baskets hung on the gymnasium walls were used. It wasn’t until 1906 that the net was introduced to the baskets.

5# Basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936

Basketball first became an Olympic sport at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Since then, it has been one of the most popular sports at the Olympic Games and has given rise to great moments and sporting feats.

The great basketball stars

History of basketball - Great players throughout the ages

Basketball has produced many great stars throughout its history, players who have left their mark on the sport and have been inspirational to later generations. Some of the most notable names include Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the greatest player in history; Kobe Bryant, who sadly passed away in 2020, but was one of the biggest stars in modern basketball; and LeBron James, who continues to play at an exceptional level today.

In addition, there have also been great teams that have left their mark on basketball, such as the Boston Celtics of the 1960s, led by Bill Russell and considered one of the best teams of all time; the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, led by Michael Jordan; and the Golden State Warriors of the 2010s, who won several championships led by Stephen Curry.


The history of basketball is rich with exciting moments, great players, and legendary teams. From its inception at the YMCA in 1891 to the present day, basketball has evolved and adapted to the changing world and has become one of the most popular and exciting sports in the world.

I hope you found this article interesting and learned something new about the history of basketball. If you are interested in learning more about the sport, I invite you to read our other related articles, thanks for reading, and see you in the next article!


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Katiuska Sanchez

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