Last Reviewed and Updated on June 16, 2022
The game of basketball is not just the most common team sport in America. It’s also one of the most popular in the world. From school gyms to big arenas, people are drawn to this game and it has been around for quite a while. Dive deep into these fun facts about basketball, we are sure you will learn something new about this massively popular sport.
1. Basketball was invented in 1891
We are kicking off this list of facts about basketball at the very beginning. Basketball was first invented, in a slightly different form as we know it today, in December 1891, when PE professor James Smith (teaching in Springfield, Massachusetts), wanted to give students a sports game that could be played indoors and would provide vigorous exercise.
As none of the games known at that time fitted the bill, he proceeded to invent his own game, where players would pass the ball to each other and score points by tossing the ball into a basket mounted to a wall.
2. The first hoop was a peach basket without an opening at the bottom
In the early days of the game, a peach basket with its bottom intact was used, which meant the players had to retrieve the ball manually each time they scored a point. This proved to be quite tedious so the bottom of the basket was removed. This allowed the ball to be poked out with a long dowel (the ball was too big to fall through at the start).
It’s from the peach baskets that basketball gets its name.
3. The first basketball ball was a soccer ball
As the game was new, there wasn’t a ball made specifically for this game. Originally a soccer ball was used to play basketball.
4. First basketball balls made were brown
Once the sport was becoming more popular, balls specifically for it were made. The first ones were brown and it was only in the late 1950s that they got their, now signature, orange color.
5. The game was first played without dribbling
The main aspect of the game was passing the ball. The only part of “dribbling” used was the bounce pass, where players would bounce the ball from the floor when passing it to a teammate. The lack of dribbling in the original game was due to the asymmetric shape of the first ball. The balls were sewn together with laces, making the surface uneven.
Dribbling was eventually introduced and more common as the manufacturing of the balls improved.
6. Peach baskets were used until 1906
Peach baskets had a good run in basketball, ruling the courts for about 15 years. They were replaced by metal hoops with backboards in 1906.
7. It took almost 20 years to score the first 3 pointers in NBA
The three-point line was introduced in 1961 but it took almost 20 years for the first three-pointer to be scored in an official game.
The honor goes to Chris Ford, a guard for Boston Celtics who scored the first three-pointer on 12th October 1979.
8. Michael Jordan’s had to pay fines for his signature shoes
His famous black, red, and white shoes were against the dress code for basketball at that time. He had to pay fines each time he wore them. Paying the fines wasn’t much of an issue as they were paid by Nike, the company that designed them. Paying the fines was nothing compared to the exposure the company got for its sneakers line.
Eventually, NBA dropped the dress code.
9. Slam dunks were banned for 9 years
Now this is one of the more interesting facts about basketball. Slam dunks are extremely attractive to viewers, what you may not know about them is that they were banned from 1967 to 1976.
The first dunk happened in 1936 by Joe Fortenberry. At first slam dunks weren’t really perceived as something exciting, but as something that has a negative impact on the game. Even something that isn’t based on skill, or something that breaks an unwritten basketball rule.
In 1967, NCAA banned dunking, claiming it wasn’t a skillful shot and was something that raised injury concerns. While never officially confirmed, one of the reasons for the ban was because of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and his successful and regular dunking.
10. A woman was drafted by an NBA team
As far as facts about basketball go, this one is one to remember. We generally have NBA, which consists of male players, and WNBA, which consists of female players. However, the guidelines and book for NBA, don’t specify gender anywhere so it is not against the rules to draft a woman.
Lusia Harris was the only woman to be officially drafted into NBA. She was drafted in 1977 by the New Orleans Jazz. She declined to try out for the team and it was later revealed the reason was she was pregnant at the time.
Denise long was drafted before her, however, the NBA teams voided the pick, so she wasn’t officially drafted.
11. Basketball started as a 9 player team sport
Two teams of 9 players played basketball on a court that was much smaller than the regular size of today’s court. We can say things were crowded. Later on, the number of players per team was reduced to 5.
12. There are slight rule differences between different basketball organizations
While the essence of the game stays the same, there are some slight rule differences between games played under different organizations.
NBA (National Basketball Associations) for example has a playing time of 4 x 12 minutes and a 3-point line set at 7.24m.
FIBA (International Basketball Federation) has a play time of 4 x 10 minutes and a 3-point line set at 6.75m.
NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has a play time of 2 x 20 minutes with a 3-point line set at 6.25m for men and 6.325 for women.
These are just some of the basic differences, there are quite a few more rule differences that affect the gameplay.