How Has Basketball Changed Over Years

Basketball is one of the oldest indoor games invented by Dr. James Naismith as a part of a college project. During his studies at Springfield College in Massachusetts, Naismith was assigned a project for coming up with a non-violent indoor game. He came up with what we now call basketball. The central aim of the project was to keep the students busy and fit during the cold days with an indoor game that did not spark any fight.


At the time of its conception, basketball was known as the “Peach Basket” game. No one had any idea how popular this game would become and turn into one of the greatest indoor sports around the world.

The Original “Peach Basket” Game


In the earliest days of this game, there were 13 fundamental rules which still make the foundation of the rules of the game today. It was played with a hardball and two peach baskets designated as goals. This article takes you on a journey to explore how far this game has come. You will read about the original 13 fundamental rules of the game and know in detail how various rules and concepts evolved.

Overall, one of the huge differences between today’s basketball game and the initial peach basket game is dribbling. The fact that there was no such thing as dribbling in the initial version of the game might shock a lot of us. Many of us have always associated dribbling with basketball – as if one signifies the other. However, this was not the case back then.

Since there was no dribbling, the rule dictated that the players had to throw the ball from the very spot they caught it without moving except for a few steps that players could not help but take due to inertia.

13 Original Rules of Basketball

  1. Players could throw the ball anywhere by using one or both of their hands.
  2. Players could not bat the ball with a fist but only their palm in any direction. They could use one or both of their hands.
  3. Running with the ball in hand was not allowed. Players could only throw the ball from the spot it was caught at except for a few steps that a running player takes to come to a halt.
  4. Use of arms or any other body part, such as shoulder, was not allowed for holding the ball.
  5. The players were not allowed to push, hold, shove, trip, strike, or shoulder the opponent in any way. If such an act was committed, the first violation resulted in a foul. If this happened for a second time, the player was disqualified until the next goal. There was no rule regarding substituting a player, so if a player committed a foul for the third time, he was out for the whole game.
  6. A foul included violation of rules 3, 4, and 5. Also, it was counted as a foul if a player batted the ball with a fist.
  7. Committing a foul three times in a row by the same team resulted in a goal point for the opponent.
  8. A goal was when the ball went in the basket and stayed there without any interception by the opponent.
  9. If the ball is thrown outside the boundary, the first person touching it should throw the ball inside within five seconds. In case of a delay, the opponents get to throw the ball. Umpire was required to throw the ball back inside in case of a dispute.
  10. The umpire used to be the judge of all men, fouls, and goals. He held power to disqualify players.
  11. The referee’s role was to judge the ball’s position and decide who gets to throw the ball back in, along with keeping track of the goals.
  12. The whole game spanned over two halves of 15 minutes each with 5 minutes of rest in between.
  13. Most numbers of goals resulted in victory.

How Basketball Has Changed Over Time

1. Team Size

In the initial version of the game, the number of players was not fixed. Anyone free could join in the game any time. However, after playing with about 50 players on each side, the game evolved into a nine-players on each side. However, during 1897, five players were the standard rule regarding the team size.

2. Substitutions

In the very beginning, as you can see in the original 13 rules, there was no concept of substituting or re-entry of a player. It was in 1920 that a disqualified player could be called back in the game. During 1934, the change was made to re-enter the player twice, and then in 1945, the players could be called back unlimited times.

3. Baskets


The original version of the game involved hanging peach baskets at 10 feet of height – which is still unchanged. Strong woven baskets replaced the peach ones in 1892 – while only after a year, cast-iron rims were used to secure the basket. Nylon net baskets opened from the bottom were used for the first time in 1912.

4. The Ball

The original game was initially played with soccer balls, which proved to be ill-suited for dribbling after several years. It was in 1894 that a ball exclusively for playing basketball was manufactured. These were made of leather with laces. These posit a problem in dribbling, so the ball was redesigned to be round and with concealed stitches so that dribbling was easier and smooth. Today, the standard basketball for men is 30 inches, and women’s is 29 inches in circumference.

5. Scoring

In contrast to the game’s original rules, wherein three consecutive fouls by a team resulted in the opponent’s goal, free throws were introduced in 1894. A made field goal and a made free throw were regarded as one goal. However, the year 1896 saw a change in scoring, and then a made field goal was accredited for two points, which later changed to three points in 1961. The National Basketball Association (NBA) accepted the three-point goal in 1980.

6. Timing

The two fifteen-minute halves were increased to two 20-minute halves without any chance of extending the given time even in the face of a tie. A tie-breaker was direly needed; hence, the concept of sudden death was introduced. This concept was then replaced by overtime in the 1960s.

7. Fouls


In addition to the original rules regarding the determination of fouls and the commitment of three consecutive fouls resulting in the opponent’s point, in 1911, players could be disqualified four times. In 1922, a change in the rules declared running or traveling with the ball in hand as a severe violation than a foul.

8. Free Throws

Basketball has come a long way in amending its major rules. One such rule is regarding free throws. In 1894, free throws could be done by any player and from a distance of 20 feet. However, when teams started mishandling this by deploying special free throws players, the rule was changed in 1924, and only the player who fouled was required to make the free throws.

9. Dribbling


Dribbling was not part of the game originally. In the year 1901, the players were allowed to bounce the ball only once during the play and pass the ball the rest of the time without bouncing it. It was in 1909 that continuous dribbling was allowed, and players could pass shots after dribbling. Dribbling then transformed from being a defensive tactic to getting out of trouble and becoming an important offensive weapon.

10. Goaltending

With the issue of tall players standing in front of the basket defending every move that the opponent plays in mind, the goaltending rule was introduced. According to it, no defensive player was allowed to touch the ball during its downward flight.

11. Dunking Rule (Alcindor Rule)


College basketball had a “no dunking” rule enacted from 1967 to 1977. It was in place to prevent the basket from being damaged. One of the great players, Lew Alcindor, was the main reason behind this rule. So, he developed a Sky Hook technique.

12. Game Coaching


You must have witnessed game coaching as a mandatory part of the game: the coach yelling orders and bucking up the team. However, surprisingly, there was no rule about game coaching before 1949. The only time the coach could say something was during the half time.

13. Women’s Entry in Basketball

Women made entry into the game of basketball in 1893 when Senda Berenson, a gym instructor at the Smith College, worked for it. The game was played without any male spectators as it was not the norm during that time. Also, what historians claim as a misinterpretation of the original court diagram by Naismith, the women’s basketball had three zones sections. This was changed in 1938 to three court sections with two stationary guards, two rovers, and two stationary forward players.

The first-ever intercollegiate women’s game was held in 1896 between Stanford and California, while the first interscholastic women’s high school game was also played in 1896. It was not until 1971 that women were allowed to play full court. Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) conducted the first-ever women’s national championship in 1936. In 1969, FIBA held a women’s world championship for the very first time. In 1995, Oklahoma was the last state that opted for full-court play in high school basketball.

Basketball – Evolved, but the Fun Remains

No indoor game has evolved so much as basketball. Today, it is a roaring franchise that has thousands of players and leagues all over the world. It is considered one of the most successful games in which the audience is never bored. The change in the rules has been a remarkable journey as the game adopted several trends corresponding to time and era.

Today, there is no difference in women’s or men’s game as both are liked and followed by the sports fanatics alike. According to Naismith’s idea, the game has come a long way from what it was initially, but the gist of the game still remains the same.