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What is the history of basketball?

Canadian James Naismith inspired the game's original format in 1891. He nailed peach baskets to gym walls and had his class pass a soccer ball to each other and try to find an opening to shoot the ball into the baskets. This initial game of nine-player teams resulted in a final score of 1-0.

Despite this uneventful beginning, the sport took off, especially with colleges. By the early 1900s, many schools developed amateur leagues, which led to creating the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1909. Professional teams sprouted up throughout the next few decades with the Basketball Association of America forming in 1946. It merged with the National Basketball League three years later to become the NBA.

Gameplay has shifted from generation to generation; by the 1990s, the pacing was slower and more focused on bigger players scoring. In recent years, teams have adapted quicker passing and precision shooting from the perimeter.

Basketball at the Olympic Games

A demonstration game took place at the 1904 Summer Games but didn't become an official Olympic event until 1936—women's basketball first appeared at the Olympics in 1976.

The United States men's team has dominated the event, winning all but four gold medals. The women's team has been equally strong, winning eight of ten. This superiority coincides with the fact that only amateur players could compete until 1992, which ushered in a new era of NBA and WNBA stars participating in the Games.

What are the current Olympic basketball events?

Men's 5v5 and women's 5v5 teams continue to compete every four years with new 3v3 events beginning in 2020.

Visit USA Basketball to learn more

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