Basketball is truly a global sport but for many when they think of the sport they automatically think of the NBA and it’s many sporting icons. Players like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird, LeBron James and the late Kobe Bryant to name just a few. These players are so huge they have endorsements and their own clothes ranges like Air Jordans.
The sport has featured in Hollywood movies and TV shows. High school shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and others almost always feature the school basketball team. The Harlem GlobeTrotters took their skills around the world to countries where basketball was rarely played and certainly not shown on the TV. When they were on the BBC in 1975 they thrilled many children who had never seen basketball before as England at the time was more concerned with soccer, rugby, cricket and boxing.
How did basketball begin?
Anyone who has studied basketball history as well as played will know the story of James Naismith and his peach baskets. In the winter of 1891 in Springfield the male students of the local college were forced to stay inside due to snow. With the football and lacrosse seasons over the boys were full of energy and boredom in equal measure and thus became frustrated. Two teachers before Naismith had tried unsuccessfully to find activities to keep the young men in check and active. James Naismith was then approached and charged with finding something new for the boys to do.
As luck would have it, James Naismith had already been working on a game but hadn’t finalised it or tried it out. The gymnasium had a balcony at each end and James fitted a peach basket at the front of each one. One man was given the job of staying on each balcony to remove the ball if it was thrown in (the baskets were intact and the bottoms not removed for a while after). He then listed 13 basic rules for his game and split the boys into two teams.
This basic game is where modern basketball comes from although the rules haven’t changed all that much since then.
Popularity in America
First the game spread to YMCAs around the US and after the missionaries from these YMCAs including former students of Naismith travelled to other countries and introduced youngsters there to the game. Women in the US also played the game but there were so many restrictions on their play that it didn’t become nearly as popular as the mens. The women were restricted by their clothing, there were no men allowed to be present and eventually women’s basketball intercollegiate games were banned. Times were very different then.
Basketball around the world
The game was taken to France in 1893 by a former Naismith student. In fact the young man was one of the players at the very first game. The French may have had a love of rulett but pretty soon they were enamoured with basketball and from there the game spread quickly across Europe to Portugal, Spain and Belgium and then on to Russia.
Amazingly in just a few short years, by 1895 in fact, the game was known in South American, China and Australia. All this without the aid of the internet or television.
Basketball in the Philippines
American colonists and troops brought basketball to the Philippines in 1898. As the official school system was revised by the Americans basketball and baseball were introduced to children. Although both games were popular it was basketball that grabbed the hearts of the Filipinos.
It was so popular that just 15 years after first seeing the game played the Philippines won the 1913 Far Easter Games.The game is still loved immensely and children are still taught it at school. The country won the 1960 FIBA World Championships which no other Asian country had done and in 1975 the Phillippine Basketball Association was founded. This was the first professional basketball league outside of the US.
International Basketball Federation
The IBF or FIBA was founded in 1932 in Geneva. This was more proof of how popular the game had grown around the world as FIBA was established a full 12 years before the NBA arrived! In 1960 FIBA Asia followed and by then the world was truly global.
China and basketball
Another country that has truly embraced the sport is China. Even when Chairman Mao was in the midst of his Cultural Revolution and was condemning everything he believed to be western or capitalist he left basketball alone. It was kept as a form of exercise and to be played in the spirit of friendship.
The sport is extremely well funded in China and scouts actively search the school systems for children who may grow into promising players. It is assumed tall parents might produce tall children with the correct builds for modern basketball. Children are taken to extra-curricular sports classes and if they show enough talent and promise they will be removed and sent to full time sports academies.
Despite the government’s major desire to put together a great national team China are still struggling to reach the heights (no pun intended) they want. To date there have only been six Chinese players in the NBA with the most famous one certainly being Yao Ming.
Today the NBA is huge and watched all over the world and there are games, merchandise and clothing attached. You can buy Jordan basketball shoes and watch documentaries about your favourite stars. You can watch basketball in casinos and gamble on it in Las Vegas and with sports bookmakers if you want to. There are slot machines based around basketball and you can find these on any online casino. If gambling on basketball is your thing then online casinos have many games to play like poker, blackjack etc and sports sections where you can find college basketball and NBA games. No doubt the NBA will continue to grow in popularity as will the sport generally.