Basketball Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

One of America's favorite pastimes is basketball. In this lesson, we will learn how the sport got started, how it has changed throughout the years, and how it is one of the most popular sports now in America.

An American Sport

Do you get excited for recess because you can't wait to shoot some hoops? On the weekends, do you love to play basketball with your buddies? If so, you're like millions of American kids who enjoy this sport. But do you know how basketball came to be? Let's find out the history and changes of this popular game.

New Indoor Sport

The idea of basketball actually came from a problem a man was having back in 1891. Dr. James Naismith was working for the YMCA in Massachusetts. If you know anything about the state of Massachusetts, you know that it is extremely cold and snowy in the winter. Not great weather for playing outdoor sports! Dr. Naismith created a game with 13 rules, and it could be played indoors in a pretty small space. Basketball was born.

Basketball teams looked like this in the late 1800s, and if you look closely, you can see Dr. Naismith standing to the right in the back.
sports history

The original game was similar to what we know now. There were two halves that lasted 15 minutes, and players were allowed to rest for five minutes between each half. The object of the game was to put a ball in the basket, which counted as a goal. Players could not walk with the ball but had to dribble, or bounce the ball, and the team with more goals after the allotted time was the winner.

Original Equipment

So, how did this new game work back in the 1890s? Not exactly like the game you know today. Peach baskets were used as buckets, and they were nailed to the actual buildings, high up on the balconies of the gym. Original basketballs where not like the ones you know now either. Players used a soccer ball to play.

Dr. Naismith is pictured with some original basketball equipment.

So, what happened when the soccer ball went into the peach basket? It stayed there! That is, until a person came over with a ladder, climbed all the way up, and took the ball out. So, even though the game was only 35 minutes in all, it took much longer.

Changes over Time

Can you imagine over 50 people playing in a basketball game? Originally, it didn't matter how many players were on the court. This got a little complicated as you can imagine, so it became a rule in 1897 to have 5 players on each team. Much less crowded, right?

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