Basketball, a sport which was started as a means of staying fit in the off-season or unfavourable weather conditions, has come a long way since its invention. With a fan-base of over 400 million around the globe, it is no surprise that basketball is among the top ten popular sports. It also happens to be among the handful of games which have been introduced in the recent past and have become so popular. In the American schools and colleges, basketball is almost an inseparable part of the sports. The only other sport that gives competition to basketball in America is football.
The governing body
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) promotes the game and governs its rules and regulations for both men and women. It comprises about 213 national associations and organizes the FIBA World Cup every four years. Until 1989, the full form of FIBA was a bit different. The member nations have their own authority to control and regulate the sports in their countries.
James Naismith, a Canadian-American, is credited with the invention of basketball. He was just trying to make good use of time in unfavourable weather conditions by training indoors. He would have never imagined that the game would go so far. He did not even think of a proper name for the game until others started asking about it.
The name basketball is said to have been suggested by Frank Mahan, one of the first players of the game. He suggested this name to Naismith. They both agreed that the name resonated with the spirit of the game and would be largely acceptable to the people.
In the initial days, the basket used to be a proper basket with a solid bottom. Each time a ball went in, it had to be manually recovered. That is, somebody had to climb up and take the ball out from there. It was obviously an inefficient way and thus, the bottom of the basket was made hollow to let the ball drop on the ground. A proper ball for the game was manufactured late in the twentieth century.
Why it became so popular!
It was a convenient sport that did not need many resources. It could be played indoors in a small area within a small group of players. For example, a football team could play it for their fitness when they could not go outside due to snow or other reasons. Football teams in those days had 10 members and it was convenient for them to split into two teams of five members each. If there were more members, they took turns in the game. The games were intense and required high stamina, energy and skill, thus giving the players a good exercise.
YMCA played a crucial role in the spreading of the game across the USA. However, they soon noticed that the unruly crowd and rough play was defeating the initial objective of the game. But by then, youngsters looking for an alternative to the outdoor sports in icy weather conditions had already developed a liking for it. A National Basketball League was also formed to define the rules of the game and reduce the roughness in it.
How is it played?
The first official game of basketball was played in 1982 in New York, US. The rules of the game vary according to the format and the level. But in principle, each team tries to put the ball in the other team’s basket. Depending on from where the shot has been taken, one, two or three points are awarded to the team for each successful shot. The team scoring the most points wins the game.
A must rule is that the player who has the ball must dribble (continue bouncing the ball on the floor) with one hand. If the player stops dribbling or touches the ball with both his hands, they have to keep one of the feet pivoted on the ground. However, a player cannot take a pause while dribbling. If they do take a pause, they can dribble again only after taking a shot or letting somebody else have control of the ball first.
There are two types of fouls in the game, a technical foul and a personal foul. A technical foul is for violation of the rules. A personal foul is when a player touches another player to gain an unfair advantage. Since the referee is the final authority to adjudge a personal foul, the players have to abide by the decision even if they think otherwise.
Dimensions of the court
The court is rectangular in shape with a basket each at the opposite ends (length-wise). For an international game, the dimensions of the court are 28 meter by 15 meter (length by width). For the NBA, the dimensions of the court are slightly higher. The court has a flat surface which is generally covered with wood flooring. The basket is of diameter 18 inches with a deep net. The basket rim is about 10 feet above the ground.
For men, the circumference of the ball is 29.5 inches; for women, it is 28.5 inches. The weight of the ball too varies for both the versions.
Dress code for the game includes shorts and jerseys with the latter bearing the player’s number both on the front and back. The shoes are mostly high-top sneakers which provide support to the ankles.
The most noticeable thing: heights of the players
The most noticeable aspect of a basketball game is the height of the players. People watching the game for the first time are astonished when they see that most of the players are close to the 7 feet mark. Even the shortest one is way over 6 feet tall. Once the game starts, the energy on the court is just amazing. The strides the players take and the jumps they make to put the ball in the basket take the breath away of most of the spectators. It is a high adrenaline game.
There have been cases where the players’ listed height varied from their actual height. And these were not mistakes of measurements. In one case, a player understated his height to get a desired position.
Celebrity basketball has become popular in the past few decades. These events are organized for entertainment or collecting money for charity. Popular and successful figures from all walks of life join in for such events. In one such tournament in 2019, the winning team was awarded USD 25,000 which they used for charity works of their choice. The runner-up received USD 5,000.