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Why is Basketball Called Basketball?

Why is Basketball Called Basketball?

Why is Basketball Called Basketball?

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in America.  Played globally, the sport attracts legions of fans of all shapes and sizes looking to enjoy the game.  Initially created by Dr. James Naismith in 1891, basketball was originally played on two half-bushel peach baskets at the International Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Training School.

Dr. James Naismith, having been instructed to find a suitable sport for young men to engage in during the winter months, he was also looking for a sport which would be safer and less injury-prone than football, a decidedly more popular sport of the era.

However, in creating the sport of basketball, Dr. James Naismith could not fully know the global impact the sport would eventually have.  As such, the decision to name the new sport was one done more off the cuff and without too much forethought.  Below, we are going to fully look into just why basketball is called basketball and what Dr. James Naismith originally intended for the new sport.

A Brief History of Basketball

As mentioned above, basketball was invented in December of 1891 by Dr. James Naismith.  A Canadian professor of physical education and instructor at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, Dr. Naismith was looking for an activity to keep his class busy and active on a rainy day.

However, in looking for a proper indoor sport, Dr. Naismith sought to find a sport that was both vigorous and one that would keep his students occupied and provide them with a proper level of fitness during the long, cold New England winters.

After sifting through a number of ideas, rejecting many as either too rough or poorly suited for indoor play, Dr. Naismith landed on a game which would require players to pass a ball to teammates and to score points by tossing the ball into peach baskets mounted on an elevated track.

Initially, however, the peach baskets used for the first few games had their bottoms intact.  This meant that the ball had to be manually retrieved after each point scored.  This proved to be a cumbersome requirement and Dr. Naismith quickly removed the bottom of the baskets, allowing for the ball to poked out after each score.

Furthermore, in the original game, the sport was played with a soccer ball.  These soccer balls were made with a set of laces, causing the ball to bounce chaotically and unpredictably.  However, in the original game, the act of dribbling was not set-forth.  Rather, to move the ball forward, players were expected to pass the ball to their teammates.

It was not until 1906 when the peach baskets were finally replaced with metal hoops and a backboard.  Further changes were made, including allowing for enough space for the ball to pass through the hoop and for specialized basketballs to be made for the sport.  These basketballs removed the laces from the exterior and were even approved by Dr. Naismith himself.

And lastly, the baskets were originally nailed to the mezzanine balcony of a playing court.  However, this proved to be quickly impractical as spectators above the balcony would interfere with shots.  As such, the backboard was introduced to help prevent this interference and would allow for rebounding of shots to occur.  

Naming Basketball, “Basketball”

While basketballs popularity took some time and its adoption growing gradually, Dr. James Naismith was tasked with naming the new sport.  However, there are two distinct accounts as to how, and why, basketball is named basketball.

The first, and more popular and likely story, states that Frank Mahan, one of the original players from the first game, approached Naismith after Christmas break in 1892, asking him what he intended to name the new sport.  Naismith responded that he hadn’t quite thought it through as he was more interested and preoccupied with ensuring the game gains popularity.

Mahan, in his response, suggested naming the new sport Naismith Ball.  Dr. Naismith laughed at the idea, saying that a name like that would kill the game before it could grow in popularity. 

Mahan then suggested, “why not call it basketball?” 

To which Dr. Naismith replied, “We have a basket and a ball, and it seems to me that would be a good name for it.”

The second, and less likely scenario, is that Dr. James Naismith, in writing the original 13 rules of basketball which he had published in The Triangle, a school newspaper, where he wrote “Rules of Basket Ball”, thus giving the new sport its name.

And while Dr. Naismith did indeed publish the original 13 rules of basketball in The Triangle, it is more likely that he had a discussion with another individual regarding the name of the sport.  Regardless, the name stuck and is now well-known across the globe and its popularity has reached heights that not even Dr. Naismith himself could have envisioned.

What Were the Original 13 Rules of Basketball?

1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.

2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist).

3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.

4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.

5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule by any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.

6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of Rules 3,4, and such as described in Rule 5.

7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).

8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.

9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds; if he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.

10. The umpire shall be judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.

11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made, and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.

12. The time shall be two 15-minute halves, with five minutes’ rest between.

13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner. In case of a draw, the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.