Evolution of Basketball

  • Original Baskets

    Originally, the game was played with peach baskets or 18” square boxes hung from the balconies of the running tracks of most indoor facilities. At this time the basket height was established at 10 feet, which still stands today. Obviously, the peach baskets and boxes slowed the game down since the ball had to be retrieved after every goal either by someone on the running track or by ladder.
  • Womens Basketball

    Women’s basketball was introduced in 1893 by Sendra Berenson, a gymnastic instructor, at Smith College, Northampton, MA. No male spectators were allowed since it was socially unacceptable at the time.
  • Free Throws

    Originally, a successful goal was counted as one point, and one point was also given to a team anytime three consecutive fouls were called on the opponent. Free throws were first introduced in 1894.
  • The First Basketball

    The first basketball games were played with soccer balls. However, they proved to be unsuitable for dribbling and ball handling. The first manufactured basketballs were produced in 1894 by a bicycle manufacturing company.
  • Fouling

    When free throws were introduced in 1894 the free throw line was established at 21 feet from the basket. Anyone could shoot the free throws. This resulted in teams deploying specialized free throw shooters.
  • Wire Mesh Backboards

    Wire mesh backboards were introduced in 1895 to prevent spectators in the balconies from interfering with play.
  • Scoring Changes

    In 1896, rules were changed to count a made field goal as two points.
  • Team Size

    Originally, there was no set rule on the number of players. The idea was that the game could be played by any number of players. However, that did not work out. After experimenting with teams up to 50 players, early games were primarily played by nine players on each side - the reason being that 18 students showed up for Naismith's class.
  • Out of Bounds

    In the beginning, boundaries were not defined. In most cases, they were just the walls. It was not until 1904 that boundaries became straight lines. The original rule regarding out of bounds situations turned out to be disastrous. Ball possession was awarded to the first player to touch the ball after it went out of bounds. This led to pushing, shoving, elbowing, desperate dives, and total bedlam.
  • Wood and Glass Backboards

    Wood replaced the easily dented wire mesh backboards in 1904, and plate glass backboard usage was approved in 1909.
  • New improved Baskets

    Open ended nylon nets were approved for use in 1912. This was a major milestone for basketball since the free falling ball after a made basket dramatically increased tempo and scoring of the game.
  • Out of Bounds Fix

    In 1913, the out of bounds rule was changed to the current rule of the team causing or touching the ball last when it goes out of bounds loses possession. This rule change was a major impact in reducing the physical play that was common place in the early games.
  • Backboard Fix

    In 1916 to prevent players from running up the walls for easy lay-ups, a two foot gap was between the backboard and the endline was required. In 1939 this gap was increased from 2 feet to the present 4 feet to allow for more movement underneath the basket.
  • Substitiutions

    Initially, players were not allowed to re-enter the game. The rule was changed in 1920 to allow a player to re-enter the game one time. In 1934, the rule was expanded to allow players to re-enter the game twice, and, in 1945 the rule was finally changed to permit players to return to the game an unlimited number of times.
  • Free throws updated

    In 1924, the free throw rule was amended which required the player who was fouled to shoot the free throws.
  • Re-designed basketballs

    In 1929 basketballs were re-designed for more bounce and with concealed laces which eliminated erratic bounces.
  • Midcourt Line

    The midcourt line was established in 1932 to eliminate stalling. Prior to this time, the offensive team had the luxury of the entire court at their disposal of which they took full advantage. This created dull, low scoring games with teams spreading the court and playing keep away rather than trying to score. A year later, in 1933, a rule requiring a team to advance the ball past the midcourt line in less than 10 seconds was enacted.
  • The Key

    In 1936 the three second area was created to prevent the offensive players from camping around the basket, and to eliminate the ensuing rough play which commonly took place. The three second area was 6 feet wide.
  • Molded Basketballs

    In 1942 molded basketballs that maintained a constant shape and size replaced the stitched balls.
  • Goal Tending

    In 1944 the goal tending rule was adopted making it illegal for a defensive player to touch the ball on its downward flight. This was in reaction to Bob Kurland (the first regular dunker) and George Mikan standing in front of basket and swatting practically every opponent shot attempt.
  • Coaching

    In 1949 coaching during game was officially allowed. Prior to this time, believe it or not, no coaching was allowed during the game or even during a timeout. However, coaching was allowed during half time.
  • The Shot Clock

    In 1954 the NBA instituted a 24-second shot clock. This was another milestone for basketball since it eliminated the common stalling tactics that were being deployed, sometimes as early as the third period, by teams' ahead in the game because there was no way for the team behind to catch up other than to foul.
  • The Three Pointer

    In 1967, the three point shot was introduced into International basketball by FIBA.
  • Offensive Basket Interference

    In 1958 offensive basket interference was enacted. Mainly as a result of Bill Russell, who became known as the “Funneler” from using two hands to guide his teammates shots into the basket. Note: In international basketball, once the ball strikes the rim offensive basket interference and goal tending rules do not apply.
  • New Midcourt Line Rule

    FIBA and the NBA modified and reduced the 10 second rule to eight seconds in 2000.