March 20, 2015 2:24 pm

Is your bracket ready? March Madness is here, but do you know who invented basketball and how some of basketball’s greatest innovations came to be? Basketball was invented out of a need for a fun activity on a rainy day. Basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith, physical education professor and instructor at International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School, (now Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts) created the sport when he wanted a fun activity to keep his gym class busy on a rainy day. The first game was played in December of 1891 with a soccer ball and a peach basket for the hoop. Since the first game over a century ago, basketball innovations have changed the sport in every way. Advances in equipment, uniforms, and rules have made basketball the game it is today.

1. Bouncing Basketball

The first basketball was really a soccer ball, and soccer balls at the time were made from inflated animal bladders covered in leather. The balls did not bounce evenly and were not even guaranteed to stay round. Thankfully it was only three years until A. G. Spalding invented the first basketball which bounced evenly and maintained its shape. Dribbling, passing, and shooting the ball became easier after the redesign of the basketball. After this important innovation, the ball has not changed much, maintaining the same structure of an inner inflated ball, covered in cloth, and surrounded by panels of leather. This design has remained consistent since A. G Spalding’s invention in 1894.

2. Chuck Taylors

Although they are now a widely popular casual tennis show, Converse All-Stars were originally designed as a basketball shoe when they were invented in 1917.   With rubber soles and canvas hi-tops, Converse shoes were a unique and innovative shoe and have since become the top selling shoe of all time. Salesman Chuck Taylor joined the company in 1921 and sold the shoes to basketball teams across the United States. Chuck Taylor’s name was added to the shoe in 1930s when he convinced the company executives to add a protective patch to the ankle of the shoe. For many decades, ballers all over the country wore the iconic shoes.

3. Shot Clock

In the 1953 – 1954 basketball season, NBA officials felt the game was too slow-paced and could be one-sided. The final straw was a game between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers in which the Pistons won 19-18: the lowest scoring game in all of NBA history. The game was becoming very defensive and delayed. The NBA’s response to this problem was the shot clock, a 24-second timer which forces players to either attempt to score within 24 seconds of gaining possession or forfeit the ball to the other team. The shot clock was implemented in October of 1954 and resulted in a 98 – 95 Rochester Royals defeat over the Boston Celtics. The shot clock was successful in increasing the pace and competitiveness of the game and turned basketball into the rousing game fans know and love.

4. Breakaway Rims

In the 1970s, slam dunks were a really exciting event in basketball. The physical feat possible only by the tallest players with the highest jumps was engaging people all over the United States, even people who typically were not basketball fans. Thrilling as slam dunks were, however, they were tough on the athletes and the game. Players were at risk of breaking their wrists or shattering the backboard, delaying the game, and adding danger to an otherwise relatively safe sport. In 1976 an Illinois farmer named Arthur Ehrat changed everything. He added a hinge and a spring to the rim of a basketball hoop, allowing the ring to bend and then snap back into position. Players were ecstatic. Not only could they dunk the ball without worry, but they could also dangle on the rims and excite fans with spastic celebration.

Thoughtful innovation has improved the game of basketball and made it into the exhilarating, fast-paced game fans are dedicated to today. Changes in the ball, shoes, time clock, and basket have made the sport interesting to watch and safe to play.

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