Basketball
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Basketball

Basketball

Basketball is a ball sport in which two teams of five players each try to score points by throwing the ball through a basket.

Basketball is highly suited to viewing by spectators, as it is primarily an indoor sport, played in a relatively small playing area, or „court,“ with only ten players, and using a large ball which is easy to follow. Additionally, the lack of protective gear makes it easy to see the reactions of the players. It is one of the most popular sports in the United States, and is also popular in other parts of the world, including South America, southern Europe, and the former Soviet Union, especially Lithuania.

History

Basketball is unusual in that it is a sport that was invented essentially by one man. In 1891, Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian minister on the faculty of a college for YMCA professionals in Springfield, Massachusetts, sought an indoor game of vigor and grace to keep young men occupied during the long New England winters. Legend has it that after rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, he wrote up some basic rules, nailed up a peach basket on the gym wall, and got his students to start playing his new game. The first official game was played there on January 20, 1892. „Basket ball“, the name suggested by one of his students, was popular from the beginning and, with its early adherents being dispatched to YMCAs throughout the United States, was soon being played all over the country.

Interestingly, while the YMCAs were responsible for developing and initially spreading the game, within a decade they were discouraging the new sport, as rough play and rowdy crowds seemed to detract from what they saw as their primary mission. Other amateur sports clubs, colleges, and eventually professional clubs quickly filled the void. In the years before World War One, the Amateur Athletic Union and the Intercollegiate Athletic Association (forerunner of the NCAA) vied for control over the rules of the game.

Naismith himself was instrumental in establishing the college game, coaching at University of Kansas for six years before handing the reins there to renowned coach Phog Allen . Naismith disciple Amos Alonzo Stagg brought basketball to the University of Chicago, while Adolph Rupp , a student of Naismith at Kansas, enjoyed great success as coach at the University of Kentucky. College leagues date back to the 1920s, and the first national championship tournament, the National Invitation Tournament in New York, followed in 1938. College basketball was rocked by gambling scandals from 1948-1951, when dozens of players from top teams were implicated in game fixing and point-shaving. Partly spurred by the association of New York, the site of the „N.I.T.“, with many of the fixers, the NCAA national tournament eventually surpassed the N.I.T. in importance. Today it is rivaled only by the baseball World Series and the Super Bowl of American football in the American sports psyche.

In the 1920s there were hundreds of professional basketball teams in towns and cities all over the United States. There was little organization to the professional game. Players jumped from team to team, and teams played in armories and smoky dance halls. Leagues came and went, and barnstorming squads such as the New York Rens and the Original Celtics played up to two hundred games a year on their national tours. In 1946, the National Basketball Association (NBA) was formed, organising the top professional teams and leading to greater popularity of the professional game. An upstart organization, the American Basketball Association, emerged in 1967 and briefly threatened the N.B.A.’s dominance until the rival leagues merged in 1975.

The NBA has featured many famous players, including George Mikan, the first dominating „big man“; ball-handling wizard Bob Cousy and defensive genius Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics; Wilt Chamberlain (who originally played for the barnstorming „Harlem Globetrotters“); all-around stars Oscar Robertson and Jerry West; more recent big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, playmaker John Stockton; and the three players who many credit with ushering the professional game to its highest level of popularity, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan.

Basketball was first included in the Olympic Games in 1936, although a demonstration tournament was held back in 1904. This competition has been mostly dominated by the United States, whose team has won all but three titles. The Americans’ first Olympic loss was in a controversial final game in Munich in 1972 against the Soviet Union. When the United States began to allow its professional players to compete, starting with the „Dream Team“ of 1992, their dominance briefly resurfaced. However with the developing programs elswhere, other national teams are now very competitive with the United States. A team made up of NBA players was badly beaten in the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis, finishing sixth, behind Yugoslavia, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, and Spain. In 2004 the Olympic gold medal was won by Argentina and the silver by Italy; the United States took the bronze.

Women’s basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976, with teams such as Brazil and Australia rivaling the American squads. Women’s professional basketball has also emerged, with the N.B.A.-backed Women’s National Basketball Association beginning play in 1997.

World-wide, basketball

tournaments are held at many age levels, such as five to six year olds (usually called biddy-biddy), seven to eight year olds, nine to ten year olds, eleven to thirteen year olds (biddy), teenagers, jr. high-schoolers, high school, college, the professional leagues and master leagues. Tournaments are held at each level for both males and females.

Internationally, the sport is governed by FIBA, the International Basketball Federation. The global popularity of the sport is reflected in the nationalities represented in the NBA. Here are just a few of the outstanding international players who have played or still play in the NBA: Argentina’s Emanuel Ginobili; Serbia and Montenegro’s Vlade Divac, and Peja Stojaković; Croatia’s Toni Kukoč and Dražen Petrović; Lithuania’s Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis, Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki; Puerto Rico’s Carlos Arroyo; China’s Yao Ming; Canada’s Steve Nash; Australia’s Luc Longley and Spain’s Pau Gasol. Many outstanding international players, including Serbia and Montenegro’s Dejan Bodiroga, past Olympian Oscar Schmidt of Brazil, and recent Lithuanian Olympian Sarunas Jasikevicius, have chosen to decline N.B.A. opportunities.

The game

The object of the game is to outscore their opponents by throwing the ball through their opponents’ basket from above while preventing their opponents from doing so on their own. An attempt to score in this way is called a shot. Two points are scored for a successful shot, three points for a successful long-range shot (6.25 metres from the basket), and one point for each successful free throw.

Playing regulations

At the professional level, games are played in four quarters of 10 (international) or 12 minutes (NBA) each. Games take longer than this allotted game time, since the game clock only runs when the ball is in play. This is called using a stop clock, as the clock stops when the ball is not in play, e.g. it goes out of bounds or a foul is committed. Fifteen minutes are allowed at half-time, and two minutes are allowed at other intervals.

Time-outs and substitutions are permitted during a game. A substitution is that of one player on the court for another on the team bench. A time-out is a clock stoppage requested by the coach of either team, in which he can discuss tactics etc. A time-out lasts one minute in international basketball and either 100 seconds, 60 seconds or 20 seconds in NBA basketball. A limited amound of time-outs is allowed. (In international basketball, 2 time-outs are allowed in the first two periods, 3 in the last two periods, and 1 in each extra period. In NBA basketball, six 100/60-second time-outs are allowed in the entire game of which a maximum of three can be in the last quarter, and 3 100/60-second time-outs in each extra period, as well as one 20-second time-out per half.)

Playing the ball

The ball may be advanced toward the basket by being shot, passed, thrown, tapped, rolled or dribbled. Passing is throwing the ball from player to player. Dribbling is when a single player runs while continuously bouncing the ball. The ball cannot be kicked deliberately or struck with the fist, and must stay within the playing court.

Running with the ball without bouncing it, or traveling is illegal, as is double dribbling, the act of dribbling with two hands or starting a second dribble after having caught the ball after a first one. In higher levels of basketball time limits are imposed on taking the ball over halfway, and taking a shot. Rules with playing the ball are stricter in the NBA. Contrary to popular belief, there is no limit to the amount of steps a player can take between bounces while dribbling.

To interfere with the ball while on its downward flight for a basket, or while it is bouncing on the basket, is called goal tending and is a violation.

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