Passing to You- the History of Basketball

Sports involving a ball have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. The game of basketball however is about 125 or so years old. In addition to Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Shania Twain, and Mike Meyers (ok Bieber too), we can thank the Canadians for James Naismith. As a PE teacher (a Canadian living and working in America), he got tired of the rough nature and injury provoking nature of football. As a result, he came up with basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891. If you have a mind like mind, you are wondering if Homer or Marge Simpson had anything to do with this.,


Naismith’s basket (which I have added a picture of to this blog) featured a peach basket with a hole in it. He explained in a handwritten report, ”…I secured them on the inside of the railing of the gallery. This was about 10 feet from the floor, one at each end of the gymnasium. I then put the 13 rules on the bulletin board just behind the instructor’s platform, secured a soccer ball and awaited the arrival of the class… The class did not show much enthusiasm but followed my lead… I then explained what they had to do to make goals, tossed the ball up between the two center men & tried to keep them somewhat near the rules. Most of the fouls were called for running with the ball, though tackling the man with the ball was not uncommon.” Id.


The basic/original 13 rules did not allow for dribbling. The first team known to dribble was Yale University in 1897. Then obviously came the issue of double dribbling, carrying, and so on. There was no dunking, three-pointers, or shot clock. And…there most certainly weren’t endorsements from Vitamin Water.

The original rules from 1892 were:

  1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
  2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands.
  3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.
  4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.
  5. No shouldering, holding, striking, pushing, or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next basket is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitution shall be allowed.
  6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of rules three and four and such described in rule five.
  7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).
  8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there (without falling), providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
  9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play and played by the first person touching it. In case of dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.
  10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify people according to Rule 5.
  11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the baskets, with any other duties that are usually performed by a scorekeeper.
  12. The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.
  13. The side making the most points in that time is declared the winner.

Because this is a blog and time does not permit, it can’t cover the history of leagues, contracts, team development processes, trademark and branding information, sports as a pastime, sports as a business, the racial and socio-economic history related to sports, yada, yada. What I can do is this-Let you know that G.L Pierce on June 25, 1929 was granted U.S. Patent 1718305. This is probably the closest to the version of the ball we deem or recognize as a basketball. There’s some great basketball facts on this site:


And for fun, here are several devices for “lonely shooters” to retrieve basketballs if you’re the only player. There are trays, slides, and nets that catch basketballs. One of these inventions, US Patent 4,838,549, “Pop-a Shot.” you will recognize from being at an arcade near you.


At Mohr IP Law, we can give 2 pointers and 3 pointers on patents, trademarks, and copyrights. We are on the court with you playing and in the stands cheering. Contact us today so we can play ball and score some goals. That’s a lot of puns or Dad jokes in one paragraph. You’re welcome.

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