What’s Up With Dunking The Ball? A History of Basketball

The Basketball Slam at Rebounderz Trampoline Arena in Lansdale is a far cry from traditional basketball. We think it’s the most fun you can have with a basketball, although we’re sure a great debate could be had on that subject. It hasn’t been that long in the history of basketball that players have taken flight and slam dunked the ball. Which, by the way, you can do at Rebounderz even if you’re the shortest one on your team.

Our Basketball Slam got us thinking, and we wanted to know more about what led up to this point in the evolution of basketball. We did our research and found out some interesting facts. We hope you enjoy reading about them. More importantly, we hope you’ll come visit us and give your skills a try.

If you read our story about the history of trampolines, you know that its origin is disputed by historians. Unlike trampolines though, there is quite a bit of agreement about where the modern sport of basketball started.

Before we get to modern-day basketball and how it evolved into the Basketball Slam, let’s take a look at the early, early days of ball sports.

Old World Ball Games

Many cultures have a history of playing ball games that may have eventually inspired our modern day game. Some scholars say that the Olmec people in Mexico played a game similar to basketball about 500 years ago. Historians agree however, that their games were less about fun and entertainment, and more about celebrating dominance over their foes after defeating them in battle. We won’t get into the gory details here, but the game was not always pleasant. It definitely wasn’t anything like the friendly pickup games of basketball you’ll find people playing in parks all over the world today.

The Original Game of Basketball

Dr. James Naismith, credited with inventing the first version of modern day basketball, didn’t start out there. The first game he developed, as a way to provide distraction and entertainment for students, was a game called “duck-on-a-rock” where students would throw rocks at a wooden duck in an attempt to knock it off the larger rock it was sitting on. We’re not sure how that evolved into basketball, but the historians all agree that it did, so we’ll continue.

Originally, baskets were only 10 feet high and had bottoms. Every time a basket was made, someone had to retrieve the ball, usually by poking a stick through the bottom of the basket to pop the ball out. This had to make for a pretty slow game that was clearly nothing like the fast-paced, physical games of today.

A soccer ball was used for the earliest games. And, it is said that the first basket ever made, and the first score ever recorded, was thanks to William Chase during the first game. It was also at that first game that the phrase, basketball was coined.

The early form of the game had 13 rules. Looking at them, you can clearly see how far the game has come. The rules included:

  • No contact with your opponent. This was a true non-contact sport.
  • No striking the ball with your fist. This would be ruled a foul.
  • Three fouls in a row resulted in a point for the other team.
  • There was no bouncing of the ball. It could only be thrown or batted away with both hands.
  • Our favorite is that if the ball was teetering on the edge of the basket and the opposing team batted it away, a goal was awarded to the team that took the shot.

You can learn more about the rules of the original game of basketball.

Modern Day Basketball

Competitive basketball came into its own in 1898 with the formation of the first professional basketball league. Pay ranged from $1.25 to $2.50 per game. That’s a far cry from today’s NBA superstars! College basketball began in 1901 when a handful of colleges began sponsoring teams. Yale became the first national champions that year with a record of 10 and four. And in the second collegiate season, Minnesota took home the prize for the world’s first undefeated basketball team.

So, what about the slam dunk, the move that gives our Basketball Slam game it’s name? Bob Kurland, an Olympic Gold Medalist, regularly dunked the ball in the early 1950s. He was seven feet tall! But back then, it was considered perfectly okay to run into a dunking player mid-air and try to literally “take them out”. A lot of serious injuries resulted and few players attempted dunking.

While it became a standard move in the NBA by the 1970s, dunking was banned in the NCAA for nine years when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the first superstar to regularly dunk the ball. He dominated so thoroughly that officials decided dunking gave teams an unfair advantage.

Today, there are a lot of different types of slam dunks including:

  • The Double Pump
  • The Tomahawk
  • The Windmill
  • The Under the leg
  • The Elbow hang
  • The The Alley-oop

You can try all of them at Rebounderz!

Trampolines and Basketball

We can’t know for sure, but it seems that the use of trampolines in basketball originated with the Harlem Globetrotters, whose halftime entertainment includes trick shots, some of which include jumping off a trampoline.

The Globetrotters played their first game in 1927, and they were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. The team became known for its trick plays and antics, winning 101 of their 117 first games. They’ve played in more than 115 countries.
Their heyday was in the 1970s. There was even a cartoon show based on them. You may have even seen them on The Tonight Show, as special guests on American Ninja Warrior, on Sesame Street, or on ESPN in one of their popular TV Specials.

You can still find them touring the world to this day. They remain popular with fans in the US and abroad.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the history of basketball. Stop by Rebounderz in Lansdale soon to try your skill with our Basketball Slam. See you soon!


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