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10 Basketball Facts You Didn't Know

Basketball has a long history dating back to 1891 when rules were much different than they are today. Here's a list of the most interesting facts you probably didn't know about.
By Kim Oswell
4 min readUpdated on
Basketball is not an easy sport — it takes endurance, team spirit and great skills to outscore opponents and win the game. There's more to basketball than just a court, a ball and a referee. Here are some interesting facts you probably don't know about the sport of basketball.

1. James Naismith invented basketball

Asked in 1891 to invent an indoor winter activity by his boss at a YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, James Naismith is credited as the founder of basketball. Naismith, a physical education teacher, also wrote the original basketball rule book and founded the University of Kansas basketball program.

2. Basketball was played with a different ball

As bizarre as it sounds, basketball was originally played with a soccer ball and peach baskets, with referees having to retrieve the ball each time a player made a basket. In 1900, the string baskets we know today were introduced to the game and, later, backboards were attached to prevent spectators from blocking a shot.

3. Dribbling wasn't allowed

Players never could advance the ball. Instead, each player had to throw it from wherever he caught it. The first team credited with advancing the ball by dribbling it played at Yale in 1897, and the official allowance for the dribble, just one per possession at first, were adopted four years later.
Another important basketball move, the slam dunk, was banned just before the 1967-1968 season until the 1976-1977 season.
John Wall dribbling in the key

John Wall dribbling in the key

© Steven Counts/Red Bull Content Pool

4. More players per side

The number of players per side was never specified. Naismith invented an indoor winter activity and wanted a game flexible enough to include whoever wanted to play. For a while, the total number of players was a default 18, nine per side, the same number that showed up for the very first game.

5. Fouls played

Shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping or otherwise striking an opponent was never allowed. However, such offenses were never considered fouls until 1910, with the advent of a rule disqualifying a player for committing four of them. That total was raised to five in 1946, in the inaugural rules of the Basketball Association of America (the original name of the National Basketball Association), and to six the next year.

6. Referees used watches

That is because one of the official duties of early refs was timekeeping. Then again, there wasn’t that much time to keep: the 24-second shot clock wasn’t instituted until 1954, to combat stalling tactics NBA teams had begun to employ.

7. The game was much shorter

Naismith proposed two 15-minute halves, with five minutes of rest in between.

8. The 1979 NCAA tournament was the start of basketball greats

College basketball remains one of the most popular sports, but spectators remember the Michigan State versus Indiana State college basketball game of 1979 during the NCAA tournament, which is one of the best-rated games in the sport's history. As a matchup between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who had never played each other prior to this tournament, this game marked the beginning of having basketball greats and NBA stars.

9. Possession rules changed in 1913

The game as we know it gives possession of an out-of-bounds ball to the player who last had contact with it, but that wasn't always the case. Prior to 1913, a referee would pick up and throw an out-of-bounds ball down the court, and the first player to touch it retained possession. The rules eventually changed because of the increase in the number of player injuries.

10. Michael Jordan paid fines for wearing his shoes

You probably connect Michael Jordan with his legendary Air Jordans, a now-iconic shoe because of its record sales numbers. What you may not know is that these shoes used to be against NBA dress code. Michael Jordan paid an NBA fine each time he wore them rather than play the game without them. Eventually, the NBA allowed the shoes on the court.
To get in the basketball spirit, be sure to check out the Red Bull 3X event page for more information on the 3x3 Basketball Tournament being held in 20 cities across the United States.