Brief History of Basketball in America

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Through this brief history of basketball, discover how a young teacher came up with a solution to a problem. And ended up inventing a game that would forever change the world of sports!

brief history of basketball

Dr. James Naismith with his original basketball and goal

Brief History of Basketball
How it all began

It was December 1891. Dr. James Naismith was just starting his teaching career at the School for Christian Workers. (We know it better as the YMCA.)

He was given his first teaching assignment:

Design a game that his students could play indoors during the cold winter months to fill the time between the outdoor seasons of baseball and football.

He had to come up with something.

Naismith remembered a game he used to play as a child that involved knocking a rock about the size of a softball off a fence from 20 feet away.

He thought about another game he was familiar with that was invented by a group of Canadian rugby players who were bored of their indoor running workouts.

They placed a wooden box in the middle of the gym floor and tossed a ball into it.

This game had a major flaw, though. It was almost impossible to score because the players kept surrounding the box.  

He combined aspects of these games together, and slowly the game of basketball was born.

One of the first adjustments Naismith made was to raise the goal up off the floor. He found a couple wooden peach baskets and nailed them onto the bottom of the elevated indoor track at the school.

At this height, no one could block the goal. The track just happened to be 10 feet off the ground, the official basketball hoop height we still use today. 

It didn't take long to discover a major game design flaw. The baskets had closed bottoms.

Every time a basket was scored, the janitor had to climb up a ladder to retrieve the ball. As you can imagine, this made for a very slow game. (And a tired janitor!)

Who could have foreseen how this simple game with just 13 original rules would evolve into a worldwide phenomenon played by millions of people everyday.  

history of basketball timeline

Coach James Naismith (far right) and his first basketball team at the University of Kansas, 1899.

Brief History of Basketball
Related articles

Major Rule Changes from Basketball's Birth to the Present- Some interesting basketball history can be found on this timeline of rule changes. It also highlights significant events and fun facts about basketball from the past century.  

History of Basketball for Women - Though the inventor of basketball originally intended the sport to be played by males, women's hoops developed alongside the men's game in its own unique way with its own unique set of rules.

The history of the women's game is a fascinating one, yet much of it remains unknown to the majority of basketball fans.

History of the NBA - It wasn't long before a professional basketball league was born. The NBA has its own fascinating and surprising evolution.

  1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Basketball Facts
  4.  ›
  5. Basketball History
Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.
>> History of Basketball