History of Basketball: Timeline

history of basketball timeline

Written by Aliesha

October 2, 2021


The history of basketball timeline is long and complicated. It has evolved over time with different styles of play, new rules, and updated technology. Many people do not realize how important the history of basketball is to the game today. So, we are going to take you through some highlights from this history in hopes that it will help you understand why history is so important today!

A Look Back at the Past: History of Basketball Timeline

It has been more than a century since the game of basketball first graced the sporting realm. It started as an alternative activity for recreational purposes at school before it turned into an engaging sport that is loved by people of all ages. In case you are wondering how it sprouted and blossomed into the world-renowned game that it is today, then here is a history of basketball timeline.

The invention of Dr. James Naismith in 1891

In 1891, a Canadian by the name of Dr. James Naismith invented basketball as an alternative activity to keep his students from getting bored during their free time at school.

He wanted them to do something that would be physically active and engaging so he designed a game where they needed to throw a ball into a peach basket which was placed on top of some platforms inside the gym.

The first 13 rules in basketball

Dr. James Naismith originally founded the 13 rules in basketball. These rules were meant to keep the game fair and balanced for both sides during a match.

They included things like players cannot run with the ball, teams must win by two points or more to win a game and if there is no score after five minutes of play then one team should be chosen at random to shoot first. Here are the 13 rules of basketball:

1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.

2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist).

3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, an allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.

4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.

5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule by any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.

6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of Rules 3,4, and such as described in Rule 5.

7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).

8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.

9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds; if he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.

10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have the power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.

11. The referee shall be the judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made, and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.

12. The time shall be two 15-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.

13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner. In case of a draw, the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.

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Two peach baskets, a soccer ball, and an innovative game

Naismith incorporated a soccer ball and two peach baskets to play the first game of basketball.  This first game was played at the International YMCA Training School and it revolutionized history.

YMCA brought the game to the world

YMCA helped spread the game of basketball across the USA, Canada, and the entire world.  In 1893, Mel Rideout arranged the first European match in Paris and Bob Gailey went to Tientsin.

While they were both involved with basketball at different times throughout their lives, it was not until after World War II that Americans took up this new game on the international scene thanks largely due to YMCAs who spread American rules over there during reconstruction efforts following WWII.

First college basketball game in 1896

In 1986, the University of Iowa and the University of Chicago conducted an experimental game with basketball as a sport. The game was played in close, and due to seating capacity constraints, only 500 people were able to watch. 

First professional basketball league

Shortly after the first collegiate basketball game, a professional league was founded and it became known as the National Basketball League (NBL).

The National Basketball League stretched from New York City all the way down to Delaware. The NBL began operations in the 1898-99 season and only finished one game before shutting down for good, which happened on January 4th, 1904.

A respite from the war

The US Military used basketball for recreational purposes in the midst of World War I. Basketball has always been a way to release pent-up energy among soldiers in stressful situations. And during the uncertainty brought about by the war, this sport has been there to give a little bit of sunshine in such a dark time. 

The introduction of dribbling

Dribbling was introduced in basketball history in the late 1800s, which is considered one of the most important changes to happen within history. This allowed for easier ball movement and gave players greater control over their dribbling speed.

The first known team to dribble was Yale University in 1897. Prior to this, passing the ball was enough for the advancement of it and players soon developed a strategy called “passing-to themselves”. This involved rapidly throwing off your own personal player so that they can get open before shooting or advancing towards another teammate who is further away from them than what would be expected otherwise – which became known today as dribbling!

Formation of FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur)

The history of basketball is a long and interesting one, with many new innovations that have revolutionized the game. One such innovation was on June 18th, 1932 when sixteen nations founded FIBA to coordinate international tournaments amongst themselves as well as teams from other countries (Argentina, Czechoslovakia Greece Italy Latvia Portugal Romania & Switzerland).

Introduced to Olympics

Probably the most notable history of basketball timeline is when the sport was introduced to the Olympics. This event took place in 1936 when the Olympics were held in Berlin. The game was played at a very fast pace and included nine players per team.

The United States of America won the very first Olympic title at the game, and it all happened on an outdoor clay court. Canada came in second with Great Britain third!

Know your sport’s history!

Bringing basketball to the TV screen

The first televised basketball game in history occurred on February 28, 1940, when a television broadcasting company, W2XBS broadcasted a game between Fordham University and Pittsburgh. The next game was followed by the University of Pittsburgh and Georgetown University, which was also televised.

The introduction of the three-point line

The 3-point line was initially adopted by the NBA for just one season. Although it has since become an integral part of today’s game, this rule came about as a result of a very successful trial period in 1979-80 during which both Magic Johnson and Larry Bird made history with their incredible rookie seasons.

The 3-point line has been around for over 50 years, but the NBA wasn’t its inventor. In fact, it was originally introduced in a rival league to America’s first professional basketball circuit: The American Basketball League (ABL). However, by 1963 this too had shut down and so credit goes largely toward ABA which popularized this new rule.

The rise of the NBA (National Basketball Association)

The Basketball Association of America (BAA) was founded on June 6, 1946. This league adopted the name National Basketball Association after merging with their rival NBL in 1949 to become one major professional basketball league across North America.

As it stands today, there’s no doubt that the NBA is still the most prestigious basketball organization. This iconic sporting event promises creativity through competition while also providing entertainment for all viewers around the world.

The impact of the Dream Team on international basketball

The 1992 USA basketball team helped catapult the sport to the mainstream with its dominant showing in the Barcelona Olympics. The Dream Team featured superstars like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird. Winning all eight of their games by an average margin of 44 points, the team easily secured Gold Medals at the Summer Olympics.

Their untouchable record in the 1992 tournament propelled the sport to a global audience and made basketball one of the most popular sports around.

Their impact can be seen today with so many countries developing their own talent in order to compete against these world-class athletes, as well as through international competitions like the FIBA World Cup or even The Olympics itself.

NBA introduces professional women’s league in WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association)

The female equivalent to the NBA, the WNBA was founded in 1997. It has been a huge success and provides women with an option for professional sports careers unlike any other league out there now or before its inception!

Knowledge for the Game

The history timeline of basketball is quite extensive considering how young it actually is! This iconic game has come a long way since its humble beginnings all thanks to innovative minds who contributed across eras by adapting rules based on what worked for them at that time.


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