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From New York to London, to Paris, to Beijing. From Sarajevo to Dafar to Buenos Aires to Los Angels and everywhere in between the game of Basketball is played. It’s played in the city parks of New York and the dusty plains of Africa, and the expensive designed courts of the NBA. The game is played wherever someone can get a ball, and a mounted ring-like object. Unlike other sports that require multiple people and a lot of equipment, Basketball only requires a Ball and the willingness to play.

The First basketball type game may have been played by the early Olmec people of ancient Mexico as early as 500 years go. The Aztec, and Mayan cultures also had a game similar to basketball, only instead of a rubber ball they used the decapitated skulls of their conquered foes. The First true basketball game as we know it was on January 20th, 1892 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Canadian Doctor James Naismith invented the game for the YMCA to play during the winter months. Naismith wrote simple rules for the game, and nailed up two peach baskets for hoops, most of original Naismith rules are still in place today. Some of the rules have changed a bit, and new rules have been added since then, such as in the original game bouncing the ball was prohibited. Of the 13 rules, nine have been modified and kept in the modern game of basketball, the rest have been disregarded.

The First game consisted of 18 players, or nine to a team which was standard to the baseball teams of the day. Since Naismith or the YMCA didn’t have the money to design a new ball they used a soccer ball. The concept of the game must have been foreign to the players as the game was played for 30 minutes and the final score was 1-0. Halfway though the game however William R. Chase made the ball go into the peach basket, and thus became the first player to ever score in a basketball game. It was during this game that someone suggested a name for this new sport, Basketball.

Dr. James Naismith
The Game grew in popularity and within a few years, most of the YMCA centers in the Norther Eastern United States, and Southern Canada had facilities to accommodate players. However within a decade of its invention most YMCA centers began to ban the game because of the rough style of play associated with it. However other amateur groups picked up the slack, and new Basketball leagues began forming, including the Amateur Athletic Union and the Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

The First Competitive Leagues.

The First competitive basketball leagues where all local leagues, usually within the larger east coast cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. On some occasions’ teams from other regions would travel to play another team. Once such occasion took place on November 7, 1896. this was the first known professional basketball game was played in Trenton New Jersey between the Trenton YMCA and the Brooklyn YMCA. The game was played at the Trenton Masonic temple, and an admission fee was charged for admittance into the game. Each player got $15 dollars except Fred Cooper who got $16 dollars, and became the first highest paid player. Trenton defeated Brooklyn 15-1 to win the first ever professional basketball game.

Two years after the first professional basketball game was played six teams for Philadelphia and New Jersey formed the National basketball league(NBL). Shortly after the NBL formed, other leagues began to form all over the Eastern United States including the Philadelphia Basketball League, Eastern League, New York State League, and the Interstate league. Most early basketball leagues never lasted more then a few weeks, the NBL itself only lasted five seasons. In 1902 the New England Basketball League got a huge boost in national exposure when it allowed an African American named Bucky Lew play in a game

1901 marked a landmark year for the game of basketball as colleges began sponsoring games. At first only a few Colleges participated including Yale, Minnesota, Dartmouth, Columbia, Chicago, Utah, and Navy. In the early days of collegiate sports most teams played less then 10 games with the lucky ones playing maybe 15 or 16. In 1901 Yale would go 10 and 4 to win the first national college championship. The next year the University of Minnesota would go 11 and 0 to become the first undefeated team in basketball. These early games always had problems with injuries, as fouling rules where in place but a shortage of trained referees made it impossible to have good refs at every game. In the time from 1905-1910 many American activist groups were calling for the government to step in and place restrictions on the sport. In 1910 President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt urged the colleges of America to create a governing body for itself before it was too late, in the summer of 1910 they did and formed the Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

While the Colleges where just setting up the pro leagues came and went, but not all teams were in leagues. Some teams remained independent and would travel the country playing local teams for money, they were known as Barnstormers; some of these teams were the Original Celtics, the SPHA’s, the Buffalo Germans, the Trojans of New York, and two all African American teams, the New York Renaissance Five(or Rens) and the most famous of all the Barnstorming teams, and the only one still in existence today-the Harlem Globetrotters.

The Early Professional teams. The Original Celtics where an offshoot of a team called the New York Celtics, the New York Celtics began in 1914 but ended during world war I. At the end of World War I Jim Furey, and his Brother Tom restarted the team. The Furey’s brought many new concepts to the game of basketball, but their most important introductions were Zone defense, and the first contracts to any player. Contracts where important because in the early days players would switch teams constantly to whoever paid them the most, and by having contracts the Celtics prevented this. In 1921 the Celtics joined the Eastern league, and beat Trenton in the championship game, the Celtics where not content just sitting around the next year they joined the Metropolitan League. After starting out 13-0 the Celtics left the league due to a lack of competition, they rejoined the Eastern League but again dominated so greatly they couldn’t draw in a crowd so they with drew again.

The SPHA’s or the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association was created by Eddie Gottlieb in 1918, the SPHA’s had one of the most successful runs of all the Barnstorming teams, they attracted fans wherever they went, and they usually beat their competition. They first joined the Philadelphia League, but after that League disbanded they moved to the Eastern League, and once that league disbanded they moved again and again. The team was so popular that people would pay top dollar to see them play, of corse top dollar at this time was $2 dollars.

The Original Celtics

The Buffalo Germans began play in 1895, and by the time they disbanded had a 792-86 win-loss record, including a 111 game win streak from 1908-1911. The teams’ play was so great in the early days of basketball that in the1904 Olympic Games in St Louis, Missouri they were selected to represent the United States. The Germans would soundly beat all their competition en route to winning the first gold metal in Mens Olympic Basketball History.

The Not So Roaring 20s.

Thought-out the 1920s Basketball was a second tier sport, only attended when there wasn’t a hockey or football game. The low attendance in most areas forced teams, and leagues to close down almost monthly, but some persevered. Teams such as the Celtics, Rens, SPHA’s and Germans kept putting on a show wherever they went, but for every successful team; there were 20 failures. But this all changed in 1925 with the creation of the American Basketball League(ABL).

The ABL was a collection of small teams usually owned by small corporations, some of the Early teams included the SPHA’s and the Original Celtics, Soon other teams including the Boston Whirlwinds, and the Cleveland Rosenblum’s joined the league. With most teams being owned by small corporations games where first played sparingly. Half way thought the first season the Celtics dropped out and began Barnstorming again, this left the chase for the first title wide open. The Cleveland Rosenblum’s would win the first title. The Next year the Celtics once again rejoined the league as the Brooklyn Original Celtics. The Original Celtics would go on to win the title in both 1927 and 1928 before dropping out of the league again. The Rosenblum’s would go on to win the next two titles in 29, and 30, but with the onset of the great depression they and most of the teams in the league disbanded. The ABL tried to keep afloat during the depression, playing in 1930-31, but with money and food in such short quantity not many Americans could enjoy such a luxury as a basketball game. The League suspended operations for 1931-32, and 1932-33 seasons.

Part II

Written By:
Bran Faurschou