Where Was Basketball Invented: The Only Sport Originating in the US

Basketball is one of the world’s most popular sports. Everybody knows what basketball is, what the basic rules are, and who the most famous players are. Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and their records are known all around the world.

But, if you want to learn more about the history of basketball, where it originated, who invented the game, and how much it has changed over the many years since its inception, read on.

Where Was Basketball Invented?

Basketball, originally called basket ball, was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts. It’s the only sport of completely American origin that doesn’t have its roots in older European games, unlike other popular sports such as baseball and football.

When Was Basketball Invented?

Basketball was invented in the winter of 1891 by Dr. James Naismith, an instructor at the International YMCA Training School (now known as Springfield College), who came up with the first set of rules for the game.

Why Did James Naismith Invent Basketball?

So, what exactly motivated Dr. James Naismith to invent the game of basketball? The answer might surprise you, as it’s quite simple: he did it to keep his students engaged and in good shape during the winter months.

Due to the weather conditions, they couldn’t play football, rugby, or soccer outside, none of those games could be played inside, and they found other exercises too boring. In order to help his students burn all the excess energy, Naismith decided to invent a new game that was simple, entertaining, could be played inside, and didn’t carry as much risk of injury as some of the aforementioned sports.

And thus, the first version of “basket ball” was born.

The Development of Basketball

For the very first basketball game, James Naismith asked a janitor for two boxes to be used as goals, but he could only get two peach baskets. He hung the baskets on a balcony railing that was 10 feet high, the same height that’s still the standard for modern basketball. Since they didn’t have a special ball, they used a soccer ball.

In the beginning, the players’ goal was as simple as it could be: to get the soccer ball into the other team’s goal. There were no special rules at the time, as they would come later.

Interestingly, the game of basketball was inspired by a game Naismith played as a child, called duck on a rock. Now, the game is world-famous, and NBA basketball teams are some of the most valuable sports teams in the world. But, let’s see what led to this.

The History of Basketball Rules

The first basketball game was played with little in terms of actual rules – one basketball team had to get the ball into the other team’s basket. In 1891/2, James Naismith wrote and published the original 13 rules the game had to follow.

In the beginning, the first set of rules for the game of basketball was as follows:

  • The game had 18 players, with nine players in a basketball team
  • A player couldn’t run with the ball
  • The game was divided into halves
  • No substitutes were allowed for disqualified players

Throughout basketball’s history, many rules have been changed and added, especially while it was still a new sport.

Some of the post-1892 rules, currently not used, were:

  • The free-throw line was set at 20 feet
  • Teams couldn’t use numbers 1 or 2 on their uniforms
  • Fouls were separated into classes
  • Coaches couldn’t move from the bench

The History of the Basketball

The first basketball was made in 1894 by Spalding, a sports equipment company. The ball was 32 inches wide, made of leather, and weighed 20 oz. Based on the rules, the ball could only be tan or yellow.

Since 1949, the standard size of the ball was set to 29.5 inches. Moreover, since 1959, the official color of the basketball has been dark orange.

Nowadays, basketball leagues outside the US use either composite leather or rubber in the making of their basketballs. Meanwhile, the official NBA league ball is 29.5 inches and made of real leather.

Since the inception of the league in 1946 and up until 1983, Wilson was the company responsible for making NBA balls. Then, from 1983, the honor went to Spalding, before going back to Wilson again in 2021.

The History of Women’s Basketball

Women’s basketball is only a year younger than men’s. Smith College’s players adapted James Naismith’s rules in 1892 to create Basquette – women’s basketball. A women’s basketball team consisted of six players, and the basketball court was divided into three zones.

Here are some facts and a timeline for women’s basketball:

  • The first-ever women’s basketball game was played in 1893.
  • Up until 1976, women’s basketball was only an exhibition event at the Olympics.
  • The Amateur Athletic Union created the women’s basketball league in 1926, only to cancel it a year later.
  • After World War II, more leagues were organized, and women’s basketball took off.

Nowadays, women’s basketball is still not as popular as men’s. But there are some changes. While the viewership for the NBA went down in 2020, the viewership for the 2020 WNBA finals was up by 34%.

The History of Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair basketball first started in 1945 in the US. Originally, it was used as a means of rehabilitation for WWII veterans in hospitals. The first official wheelchair basketball game between two teams was held in 1947.

In the beginning, it was mainly a veterans’ sport. Later, it started to get recognition from other wheelchair-bound individuals. It’s one of the first 10 sports played in the first Paralympic Games in the 1960s.

Nowadays, there are over 200 NWBA teams in the US and a few hundred around the world.

The History of Basketball Timeline

And now, before we wrap up, here’s a brief timeline of some of the important events in basketball history.

1891 – James Naismith invented the game, and the first game of basketball was played

1892 – The first 13 rules were published and the first official game was played

1894 – The first basketball was created

1896 – The first college basketball game was played

1898 – The first professional league, the National Basketball League, was established

1921 – The name spelling was changed from basket ball to basketball

1932 – FIBA was created

1936 – Basketball became an Olympic sport

1939 – The first NCAA tournament was held

1946 – The NBA was formed

1983 – The ball was standardized

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the game of basketball has a rather colorful history, starting out as a very simple concept thought of by James Naismith, skyrocketing in popularity over the next few decades, and becoming one of the most popular sports in the world by the mid-20th century.


​​What is the original name of basketball?

Basketball was originally called basket ball. The students wanted to name the game Naismith Ball after its creator, James Naismith, but the name didn’t stick.

Why is it called basketball?

Basketball got its name because it was first played using a peach basket as a goal. That said, the name combines the words “basket” and “ball”, after the sole components of the original game.

How was basketball first played?

The first basketball game was played using two peach baskets and a soccer ball. Like today, the players’ goal was to put the ball in the other team’s basket. However, early rules were quite different from what we have today. For example, players couldn’t run with the ball, each score was valued the same, and the games were divided into halves.

Who first invented basketball?

James Naismith invented basketball. He was an instructor and training coach at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Where was basketball really invented?

The history of basketball started in the US, and it’s the only fully American sport to this date. Basketball originated in the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the man who invented the game was Dr. James Naismith.