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History of Sports, Part I: Basketball

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James NaismithThis is a series I've been planning on starting for a few months now but could never seem to get around to it. Now that I have summer break I figured there is no better time than now. It actually involves a lot more research then I had anticipated. My plan is to write about ten of the most popular sports in the world, and briefly about the origins of each sport and how they have evolved over the years. The series will begin with basketball, hockey, soccer (football), cricket, golf, field hockey, rugby, volleyball, tennis, and finally ending with American Football. So without further ado, here is a short history on basketball.

It was a Midwinter morning in Massachusetts, and anyone who is familiar with the north-eastern portion of America would know that the winters there can be very cold. In 1891 Dr. James Naismith, a physical education professor at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School (YMCA), was busying trying to keep his students busy and active during another cold winter. He had tried many things but they were either too rough or poorly-suited to be played in a gymnasium. So he suddenly had the idea of nailing a peach basket to an elevated running track that was about 10 feet from the ground. He used a regulation soccer ball and created a basic set of rules to follow and play. At first, the bottom was retained and the ball would have to be retrieved after every scored basketball. This proved to be inefficient and time-consuming, so they cut out the bottom of the basket so the ball could be easily poked out. Within four months there were exhibition times touring around the country, introducing the new sports to universities and schools. Within a few years there were hundreds of small leagues around the nation playing the game of Basketball.

Still, there were a few loose ends in the game design. The first game ended with a 1-0 score with the only basket being scored from 25 feet. As the game started to become more popular the players started to become more skilled in the art of shooting, and the idea of poking the ball out every time someone scored became tiresome. In 1906 the peach basket was replaced by a metal rim which was much easier for the ball to fall through. Also, a backboard was added to keep enthusiastic fans from tampering with shots. The backboard also allowed for rebounding shots, unlike before where the ball would fly past and would have to be retrieved.

Five player teams became synonymous throughout the nation and positions became more specialized. The tallest players would start playing the center and two forward positions. These positions were mainly used to rebound the ball and defend the rim. The players that were fast and more competent ball handlers would usually take the two guard positions – these positions were used mainly for scoring the ball. In present times the positions have become less specialized – height and position mean a lot less now considering the athletic ability of most of the players on the court today. There are forwards in today's games that have guard-like abilities and there are some guards that have better rebounding averages then some forwards in the game. In just over a century, basketball has become one of the most popular and widely played sports in the world. From its humble begins to the power house it has become, basketball has shaped a lot of lives in healthy ways, which is just what Dr. Naismith ordered.

Author of this article: Mohammad Rizvi
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