The Olympic Games

Basketball was invented in 1891 in the American state of Massachusetts by Canadian teacher James Naismith, who needed to create an indoor game to keep his students fit as it was too cold for outdoor activities.

The original version had 13 rules – some of them still in place today, such as the prohibition on running while holding the ball – and the main idea was to hit a target with the ball. Naismith initially thought about putting a basket on the floor, but he concluded that it would be much more challenging to have a goal that is higher than the players, offering no chance for defence.

In the first matches played, the targets were peach baskets measuring approximately 45 centimetres across, fixed with nails 305 centimetres above the floor. At first, the balls remained stuck in the baskets, and it was only some time later that someone had the idea of cutting a hole in the bottom of the baskets to let the balls fall through.

Just seven years after the sport was created, the Americans organised their first professional league, composed of six teams. At the St. Louis 1904 Olympic Games, in the United States, the country’s best players formed a national team and played an exhibition match. In 1906, basket hoops gave way to metal rims and open-ended nets.

In order for basketball to join the Olympic programme, an entity to promote the sport was needed. After the sport was invited to join the International Athletics Federation, and having been endorsed by the International Handball Federation for some time, the International Basketball Federation (known by French acronym FIBA) was established in 1932, involving the participation of countries such as Italy, Argentina and even Latvia – demonstrating the sport’s popularity around the world.

The sport officially joined the Olympic programme at the Berlin 1936 Games, but the players’ performance was hampered by the fact that they had to share clay courts designed for tennis. Women’s basketball joined in 1972, in the city of Munich. In the Barcelona 1992 Games, the United States basketball team (the “Dream Team”) was formed for the first time, made up of participants in the NBA, the strongest league in the world, giving the opportunity to bring the best players together.

Basketball is played by teams of five players each, in games divided into four ten-minute sessions. The clock stops when the ball leaves the court or whenever there is a one minute time-out request. Each team has 24 seconds in possession of the ball, and has to throw it at the basket before this time ends. The players can only take two steps holding the ball in their hands and must bounce it along the floor to walk with it.

The team that scores the most points in the time period wins. As the game cannot end with a tie, as many extra five-minute periods as needed are played.

Points are scored for throwing the ball into the net from a short, medium or long distance. Two points are given for small and medium distances, and three points are given if the ball is thrown from behind a curved line 6.25 metres from the net. Each free shot gets one point.