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JUST PEACHY: THE EVOLUTION OF BASKETBALL

By Scotty Mincher

 

Here at YSN, I’ve had the pleasure of covering and writing about a lot of football over the last month. It’s a great game But with the upsets, we’ve already seen in college hoops, the almost certain probability you’ll see something special on a nightly basis in the NBA, And the highschool season ready for liftoff we’re more than ready and fired up to dissect the beauty of the origin of yet another grand game. We already covered the history of Ohio high school football playoffs a few weeks ago, so I don’t think it comes as too much a surprise that in this story we’ll focus on Mr. Spalding’s existence or more simply put the history of basketball.

It’s long been a favorite sport of mine going back to my days at Lowellville’s K-12 campus when I did a book report on a transcendent baller “Pistol” Pete Maravich who averaged a whopping 44.2 points per game in college. Like the football playoffs in Ohio, Bball has a long and rich history. In early December 1891, Canadian James Naismith, the inventor of the game and a physical education professor and instructor at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School (YMCA) (today, Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, was trying to keep his gym class active on a rainy day. He sought a vigorous indoor game to keep his students occupied and at proper levels of fitness during the long New England winters. After rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, he wrote the basic rules and nailed a peach basket onto a 10-foot (3.0 m) elevated track. In contrast with modern basketball nets, this peach basket retained its bottom, and balls had to be retrieved manually after each “basket” or point scored; this proved inefficient, however, so the bottom of the basket was removed, allowing the balls to be poked out with a long dowel each time. 

Another interesting fact about basketball is that it was originally played with a soccer ball. These round balls from “association football” were made, at the time, with a set of laces to close off the hole needed for inserting the inflatable bladder after the other sewn-together segments of the ball’s cover had been flipped outside-in. These laces could cause bounce passes and dribbling to be unpredictable. Eventually, a lace-free ball construction method was invented, and this change to the game was endorsed by Naismith. (Whereas in American football, the lace construction proved to be advantageous for gripping and remains to this day.) The first balls made specifically for basketball were brown, and it was only in the late 1950s that Tony Hinkle, searching for a ball that would be more visible to players and spectators alike, introduced the orange ball that is now in common use. 

Dribbling was not part of the original game except for the “bounce pass” to teammates. Passing the ball was the primary means of ball movement. Dribbling was eventually introduced but limited by the asymmetric shape of early balls. Dribbling was common by 1896, with a rule against the double dribble by 1898. The peach baskets were used until 1906 when they were finally replaced by metal hoops with backboards. A further change was soon made, so the ball merely passed through. Whenever a person got the ball in the basket, his team would gain a point. Whichever team got the most points won the game. The baskets were originally nailed to the mezzanine balcony of the playing court, but this proved impractical when spectators in the balcony began to interfere with shots. The backboard was introduced to prevent this interference; it had the additional effect of allowing rebound shots. Naismith’s handwritten diaries, discovered by his granddaughter in early 2006, indicate that he was nervous about the new game he had invented, which incorporated rules from a children’s game called duck on a rock, as many had failed before it. Frank Mahan, one of the players from the original first game, approached Naismith after the Christmas break, in early 1892, asking him what he intended to call his new game. Naismith replied that he hadn’t thought of it because he had been focused on just getting the game started. Mahan suggested that it be called “Naismith ball”, at which he laughed, saying that a name like that would kill any game. Mahan then said, “Why not call it basketball?” Naismith replied, “We have a basket and a ball, and it seems to me that would be a good name for it.” 

The first official game was played in the YMCA gymnasium in Albany, New York, on January 20, 1892, with nine players. The game ended at 1–0; the shot was made from 25 feet (7.6 m), on a court just half the size of a present-day Streetball or National Basketball Association (NBA) court. At the time, football was being played with 10 to a team (which was increased to 11). When winter weather got too icy to play football, teams were taken indoors, and it was convenient to have them split in half and play basketball with five on each side. By 1897–1898 teams of five became standard.

As we attempt to put a nice holiday bow on this story, I think it’d be the most fun to talk about the two most revolutionary parts of basketball, the three-point shot, and the dunk. The three-point line was first tested at the collegiate level in 1945, with a 21-foot line, in a game between Columbia and Fordham, but it was not kept as a rule. There was another one-game experiment in 1958, this time with a 23-foot line, in a game between St. Francis (N.Y.) and Siena. In 1961, Boston University and Dartmouth played one game with an experimental rule that counted all field goals as three points. In the direction of Abe Saperstein, the American Basketball League became the first basketball league to institute the rule in 1961. Its three-point line was a radius of 25 feet (7.62 m) from the baskets, except along the sides.[3] The Eastern Professional Basketball League followed in its 1963–64 season. 

The three-point shot later became popularized by the American Basketball Association (ABA), introduced in its inaugural 1967–68 season.ABA Commissioner George Mikan stated the three-pointer “would give the smaller player a chance to score and open up the defense to make the game more enjoyable for the fans”. During the 1970s, the ABA used the three-point shot, along with the slam dunk, as a marketing tool to compete with the NBA; its ninth and final season concluded in the spring of 1976. Three years later in June 1979, the NBA adopted the three-point line for a one-year trial for the 1979–80 season, despite the view of many that it was a gimmick. Chris Ford of the Boston Celtics is widely credited with making the first three-point shot in NBA history on October 12, 1979; In the NBA, three-point field goals became increasingly more frequent along the years, especially by mid-2015 onward. The increase in latter years has been attributed to NBA player Stephen Curry, A guy every Cavs fan hates! Who is credited with revolutionizing the game by inspiring teams to regularly employ the three-point shot as part of their winning strategy. That’s a little bit on the history of the three-point shot, Now it’s time to slam it home (pun intended) The slam dunk is usually the highest percentage shot and a crowd-pleaser. through the 1970s, players like David Thompson, Julius Erving, and Darryl Dawkins popularized the move with more athletically executed dunks (with high-flying jumps and turns). This transformed dunking into the standard fare it is today. If you dig a little deeper you’ll find that dunking was first introduced to all of us in the 1940s and 50’s when 7-foot center and Olympic gold medalist Bob Kurland was dunking regularly during games. There are also many different types of dunks from the Windmill to the Tomahawk to the Alley-oop etc. That’s just a brief taste of one of the most exciting plays in sports and a little bit on the history of the game that classic sports movie Hoosiers glorified for putting a leather ball in an iron hoop. I hope everyone enjoyed the ride and until next time please remember to do like Mr. Cavalier Austin Carr and Throw The Hammer Down!!

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