The Game Has Changed …

Here are some facts that you may not have known, about the game of basketball and how it was in the early days.

  • Basketball was spelled as “basket ball,” that is, using two words, until well into the 1920s!
  • Basketball uniform tops were made using wool!
  • The wool textile was manufactured on looms set up to make a certain kind of knit known as “jersey” knit, a fabric that could breath and stretch; that’s why basketball tops are called “jerseys” today!
  • Basketball jerseys were made with a button crotch (imagine a baby’s “onesie”) to keep them from becoming untucked as well as to hold a player’s athletic protector in place!
  • Early laced basketballs had to be unlaced, inflated, re-laced, bounce tested again and again until the air pressure inside the ball was considered just right!
  • Early basketball baskets weren’t open at the bottom!
  • Referees had to use a broomstick to poke the ball out after each made basket, or use a pull-string designed to tip over the basket so the ball could roll out!
  • This meant there was no such thing as a “dunk” for fear that the ball might hit the bottom of the basket and carom out!
  • The basketball hoop is 10 feet off of the floor because when Dr. James Naismith nailed his peach basket up at the Springfield YMCA in 1891, he nailed it to the running track that circles the gym, and the standard architectural height of YMCA running tracks was 10 feet off the gym floor!
  • A jump ball at center court was required after each made basket!
  • This meant there was no such thing as a “fast-break” or transition defense!
  • It was legal for a player to dribble, pick up his or her dribble, and then keep dribbling, as often as necessary, actions which today would be considered a double-dribble violation and result in a turnover!
  • Double-dribbles were considered “self-passes” and were legal, along with other forms of self-passing that were also legal, such as tipping the ball overhead while running down the court, or rolling the ball along the floor and picking it up again while running!
  • Until the mid-1910s, it was illegal for a player to shoot the ball if that player had already dribbled; this meant passing was a critical element of the game and in fact every made field goal would have had an assist, using today’s way of keeping statistics.
  • There were as many as twenty-five players on a team at first!
  • According to Naismith’s original Rule #9, “When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown onto the field of play by the person first touching it.” In other words, possession was awarded to the team that got to it first, even if they had to scramble down stairs, jump into the spectator seating area, or climb up into the balcony to get it!
  • Many early basketball games were played in a wire mesh cage that surrounded the court in order to avoid the mayhem and spectator injuries caused by players going after loose balls out of bounds!
  • Early basketball players were often called “cagers” because of this cage!
  • Early basketball shoes were made out of kangaroo leather, since that was the strongest material that was also soft and flexible!
  • The playing of basketball was once strictly forbidden during Lent, the period known then as the Lenten Season. It was a forbearance that was practiced by the the game’s founding fathers and adopted by Black Fives Era teams into the 1920s.