James Naismith, an instructor in physical education at the International Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Training School in Springfield, Mass., devised basketball in December 1891. Naismith, who later became a doctor of medicine, hung up two peach baskets, one at either end of the gymnasium, as goals. His YMCA athletes played the first game with a soccer ball, passing it back and forth until one team was able to throw it into its assigned basket. That first game was governed by 13 axioms formulated by Naismith. The rules of basketball, based on those axioms, were established later by the YMCA and the Amateur Athletic Union. All 13 axioms are still incorporated in today's rule books.
Word of the new game spread swiftly, and basketball soon was being played in YMCA gymnasiums throughout the eastern United States. Its growth was so rapid that the first men's intercollegiate game was played in 1897, the first professional league was founded in 1898, and the first collegiate association--the Eastern Intercollegiate League--was formed in 1902. Women also took up the game before 1900.
The growing popularity of basketball resulted in improvements in equipment and skills. The metal hoop was introduced in 1893, and backboards in 1895. The soccer ball was replaced by the first basketball. As playing skills also became more sophisticated, the game attracted more and more spectators.
Until the late 1930s, scores were low, sometimes in single digits. After each score, opposing centers (one of the five positions, the others being two guards and two forwards) lined up in the middle of the court and jumped for the ball. Then the team that got the ball would pass or dribble until a player was about 3 m (10 ft) from the basket before trying a shot. The slow pace did not inhibit the growth of the game, however. By the 1920s, basketball was being played all over the United States, and tournaments were being conducted in high school and college gymnasiums. Most states held high school championships for boys.
Several events in the 1930s spurred the growth of the game as a spectator sport and at the same time made basketball more exciting for the players. The first of these came in the 1932-33 season (basketball seasons tend to be between football in fall and baseball in spring), when rules designed to speed up play were adopted. It became mandatory, under penalty of losing possession, to move the ball past midcourt in less than ten seconds. In addition, no player was permitted to remain within the foul lanes for more than three seconds. Then in 1934 a New York sportswriter, Ned Irish, persuaded the promoters at New York's Madison Square Garden, a large arena, to schedule doubleheaders between college teams. These events proved successful, and similar promotions followed in other cities. Before long, colleges began building their own arenas for basketball.
Another significant advance occurred in 1936, when a Stanford University team traveled from California to a Madison Square Garden promotion to challenge the eastern powers in the "cradle of basketball." Opponents and fans were stunned by the Stanford style of shooting--one-handed while jumping, which contrasted to the prevalent method of taking two-handed shots while standing still. One Stanford player, Hank LUISETTI, was so adept at the "jump shot" that he could outscore an entire opposing team. The new style gained universal acceptance, and basketball scores rose remarkably.
In the 1937-38 season the center jump following each field goal was eliminated. At the end of the next season, Madison Square Garden brought in college teams from around the nation for the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), a postseason playoff that was adopted (1939) on a wider scale by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Although the NIT is still held annually, the NCAA tournament serves as the official intercollegiate championship.
The University of Kentucky (coached, 1930-72, by Adolph Rupp), St. John's (in New York), the University of North Carolina, Western Kentucky, Kansas University, and Indiana University have been among the leading college basketball teams for years. From 1964 to 1975 the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), coached by John WOODEN and led by the centers Lew Alcindor (see ABDUL-JABBAR, KAREEM) and Bill WALTON, dominated the intercollegiate play-offs, winning the title an unprecedented 10 times in 12 years. The