Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

BASKETBALL

The fact that basketball has developed into the world's second biggest team game is remarkable considering its humble beginnings in the United States.


A basketball drops through the hoop. (© Press Association)

A basketball drops through the hoop.

Basketball

The fact that basketball has developed into the world's second biggest team game is remarkable considering its humble beginnings in the United States.

The sport was first invented in 1891 by Dr James Naismith at Springfield College in Massachusetts as a fun indoor fitness workout for his students during the cold New England winters.

Naismith hung peach baskets at each end of a gymnasium and players would try and shoot a ball into them using only their hands - even having to climb up and retrieve the ball each time they scored.

The peach baskets were eventually replaced by metal rims with backboards in 1906, and 30 years later it was Naismith who had the honour of throwing the jump ball to start the inaugural game when basketball made its Olympic debut in Berlin.

Naismith originally devised a set of 13 simple rules for basketball and these still form the basis of the sport, with the aim of the game being to score points by shooting into the opponent's basket which hangs from a backboard 3.05 metres above the floor.

Two points are awarded for scoring a basket in open play, while three points are scored for baskets from outside the three-point line.

If a player deliberately makes contact with an opponent then a team is awarded a shot from the free-throw line, which is worth one point.

Teams are made up of five players, with seven substitutes, and compete in a 40-minute game that is split into 10-minute quarters, with five minutes overtime played if a match is tied.

Basketball players are only allowed to use their hands to pass or shoot and the ball must be bounced when dribbling around the court.

Strict time limits ensure that the game is fast moving, and a team must take a shot within 24 seconds of gaining possession of the ball.

At the Olympics, both the men's and women's competitions involve 12 nations and are split into two groups of six. Teams play the other countries in their qualifying pool once, with the top four in each progressing to the quarter-finals.

The United States, as the birthplace of the sport and home of the NBA, have understandably dominated both the men's and women's competitions at the Olympics.

When professional players were allowed to feature in the Games for the first time, the famous USA 'Dream Team' clinched the gold medal at Barcelona 1992, with the likes of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in the side, which is still considered to be the greatest international basketball team ever.

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