A) In 1891, a YMCA administrator and teacher from Canada invented a new in Springfield, Massachusetts. A particularly cold winter meant that Dr. James Naismith's students couldn't exercise outdoors, and he needed to find a way that would both entertain them and make sure they exerted themselves sufficiently. He nailed a peach basket up at one end of the gymnasium and began to develop the rules of what is now one of the most popular sports in the world: basketball.
B) As YMCAs and colleges began to adopt the game at the turn of the 20th century, basketball underwent a number of rapid changes. Five-person teams became the norm around 1898. Metal hoops replaced peach baskets in 1906. Though it was short lived, the first basketball league was formed in 1898. Under the direction of President Roosevelt, in the 1930s college sports were reorganized to allow for oversight of matches and the standardization of rules, largely to prevent injury to players. This organization became the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCCA. The first professional league, later to become the National Basketball Association, or NBA, was put together in 1948.
C) The game as we know it is still standardized very carefully. In the NBA and the NCAA, games are played for four quarters of 12 minutes each under the supervision of a professional referee. A regulation court is 94 feet by 50 feet, though international basketball leagues sometimes use a somewhat smaller court. It has been suggested that because the athleticism of professional players has increased so much since 1891 the sport might be best served by increasing court size, though this change seems unlikely given the enormous amount of money that would be required to modify courts.
D) Though it was devised in North America-and though the most important and most lucrative league in the world is the NBA-basketball is also played all over the globe, with slightly modified rules overseen by an organization founded in France in the 1920s and called the Federation Internationale de Basketball Amateur, or FIBA. The Olympics admitted basketball as a medal sport in 1936. Since that time the United States has won 14 of its 17 gold medal matches, having been disqualified by losses to Argentina and the Soviet Union (the latter twice, including in a hotly contested, now-notorious match at the Munich games in 1972).
E) Outside of the professional and Collegiate leagues, moreover, there seems to be no end to the introduction of new varieties of basketball from every corner of the world: water basketball, wheelchair basketball, even a trampoline variant called slamball now exist and are played regularly. One might even say that Dr. James Naismith's legacy of creative, passionate attachment to sport is reflected in each one. And the basketball is significant for another reason: women have playing almost since its inception: the first game of women's basketball was played in 1891, the same year the sport was invented.