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  • Invented in America in 1895 by Dr. James Naismith, the game is now played worldwide, especially popular as an inner city game because of its use of confined spaces.

  • Historians have traced a similar game back to the Aztecs in Mexico. The modern game was admitted to the Olympic Games in 1936.


  • The court is rectangular, and the game is played on a wood or artificial surface, although it is often played in schools on hard-surface playgrounds.

  • The standard size in 26 metres long and 14 metres wide. At end of the court are the baskets into which the players aim to get the ball. They are just over 3 metres above the floor and the net, supported by a 46-centimetres ring, just out over the court.


  • The ball is about 75-78 centimetres round and weighs 600-650 grams.

  • The players wear singlets and shorts. Basketball shoes are heavier and more built up than the normal training shoe to help the players spring into the air to catch and pass the ball.


  • Each team has five players on the court at any one tome, but a squad may consist of up to 12, and players may be substituted for tactical and other reasons, such as injury.

  • The game is started by the referee throwing the ball into the air at the halfway line, and a player from each side jumping to try to gain possession for his own team. Once in possession, the team moves forward, having to bounce the ball on the floor with each step they take. This must be done with one hand; as soon as two hands are used the ball must be passed or an attempt made to score. The aim is to get the ball into the basket you are attacking, which counts as two points.

  • Basketball games are usually very high scoring events. A game consists of two halves of 20 minutes each with an interval of ten minutes. If the scores are level at full-time, then an extra period of five minutes is played. Then if the scores are still level another five minutes is added, until there is a result, although this is uncommon.


  • Basketball has produced many stars over the years but Michael Jordan, born in Brooklyn, New York, in February 1963, is one of the greatest. Coming straight out of a Collegiate competition with North Carolina he was a member of the United States gold medallist team of the 1984 Olympics. On joining the professional league he soon made a name as a phenomenal scorer of points, being the league’s leading scorer for seven successive years. He was named top player three years in a row when he led the Chicago Bulls three successive victories in the NBA Finals from 1991 to 1993. In 1992 he won a second Olympic gold medal when he was part of the professional Dream team representing America.


  • THE Baltic States, renowned for their basketball, found it difficult to raise funds to compete in the Barcelona Olympics. The Lithuanian team, European champions, found an unusual sponsor – the legendary Grateful Dead rock band of San Francisco, California, along with the Bank of America, American Airlines and the Golden State Warriors US team!

  • Timing is everything in basketball. The New York Knicks were playing the LA Lakers on 29 April 1970. With a few moments to go the scores were event at 100-100. In the last seconds Wilt Chamberlain dribbled from one end to the other of the court and, from 70 feet, put the ball through the hoop! This amazing on-time score by the Knicks star caused de Busschere of the Lakers to collapse from shock.

  • In one of the most famous basketball matches, the final between the Russians and the USA at the Munich Olympics in 1972, the US team took the lead for the first time in the match with only three seconds to go. The score on the buzzer was 50-49. The basketball Federation ruled that a further three seconds should be played because of an earlier timing mistake. The Russian sent a long ball to Alexander Brelov who netted, bringing the score to 51-50. The buzzer went the USSR had won! The crowd erupted and the bizarre result led to the Americans refusing to accept the silver medal!

  • Talk about luck. Along Bong, a Sudanese, won a contract to play for the Philadelphia 76ers in 19992 for a salary of $1.65 million, equivalent to several lifetimes’ earnings at home in Sudan. In January 1993 his wife won $486,000 (£320,000) on a slot machine at a casino in Atlanta, Georgia, together with a Mercedes car.

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