From its humble beginnings using two peach crates for baskets in a YMCA gym to today’s global obsession with hoops, the game of basketball has indeed come a long way. Its fast and exciting pace, quick transitions from offensive to defensive roles for each player, and the thrill of frequent scoring are just a few of the reasons basketball has attracted fans and some of the world’s best athletes world-wide. To play, all you really need is a ball and a hoop.
Canadian physical education instructor James Naismith invented basketball in 1891 while teaching at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Wishing to keep his students physically fit during the long New England winters, Dr. Naismith, a medical doctor and a Presbyterian minister, devised some basic rules for his new game that would be suitable—and not too rough—for indoor play in a walled gymnasium. He named the game “Basket Ball.”
The first basketball game was played with a soccer ball, and peach baskets nailed in place for goals on the mezzanine balcony of the court at 10-foot heights (the regulation hoop height to this day). Because the peach baskets were not yet bottomless, the ball had to be manually retrieved from a ladder after each goal. Understandably, the next step was to remove the fruit basket bottoms which then allowed the balls to be poked out with an easily and often misplaced stick. In 1893, iron hoops and a hammock-style basket were introduced, but more than another decade passed before the innovation of open-ended nets ended the original ball retrieval system, in 1906. When spectators in the balcony began to interfere with shots, the backboard was introduced, which also enabled rebound shots while adding new elements of drama and skill to the game.
The original version of the game did not require much bouncing or dribbling. The focus was on getting the ball into the peach baskets primarily through passing and shots, and thus, a soccer ball was adequate for the task. As the game evolved, the required steady bounce of dribbling meant a new type of ball was necessary. Dr. Naismith recognized the importance of dribbling, and so, approached sports manufacturer A.G. Spalding and Bros. to develop the first ball made especially for basketball in 1894.
The first balls were 32 inches and laced much like an American football, though the laces were removed in 1937. Except for the lacing and ball size, modern basketballs are similar to the earliest balls.
PatentWear’s Basketball design, which incorporates original patents reflecting the progress of gear development over time, celebrates the essentials—and “all you really need” in order to play this popular sport—a ball and, a hoop.