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Confidential

Pro Basketball is Born

Even though Dr. Naismith had intended basketball to be a non-contact game of finesse rather than brute strength, early basketball games were very physical. In fact, some YMCAs determined the sport was too rough to be played in their facilities. This led to the start of pro basketball.

In 1896, a team in Trenton, New Jersey, couldn’t play at the local Y. They decided to rent a Masonic Hall for a game, charge admission and to split whatever proceeds were left. Each player made $15. The captain of the winning team made $16. There were no salary caps that we know if in those days.

The first pro league was formed in formed in 1898. Many leagues came and went during the next 50 years. Players often played for more than one team in more than one league depending on who was paying the most money. This was the age of barnstorming—traveling around the country and being paid to play against local teams.

Notable teams from the barnstorming era included:

  • The Buffalo Germans-Once won 111 straight games.
  • The Troy Trojans-Won 35 straight games on a 1915 barnstorming tour and popularized the bounce pass
  • The Rens-An all-black team that played at the Harlem Renaissance Casino Ballroom. Had a 112-7 record in 1939 and won the World Pro Tournament.
  • The Original Celtics-The first team to sign players to exclusive contracts. The Celtics were the first team to switch between man-to-man and zone defense and the first to use a pivot play.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters-A more serious version of the team we know today, the Globetrotters were actually from Chicago, not New York. They won 101 games in their first year and won the World Pro Tournament in 1940.

    In 1937, Goodyear, Firestone and General Electric formed the National Basketball League from industrial teams sponsored by companies and independent teams. Most of these teams were based in the Midwest. After the end of World War II, a move to establish a true nationwide league lead to the founding of the Basketball Association of America. In 1949, the NBL folded and its remaining teams joined the BAA. The new league was named the National Basketball Association—the NBA.

    Important Changes in the Game

    1896
    Backboard added
    1906
    Rims with open nets become standard
    1897
    Five playes on the court at a time
    1908
    Player ejected after five fouls
    1915
    Dribbler is allowed to shoot
    1923
    Designated free throw shooter eliminated
    1936
    Center jump eliminated after each basket
    1944
    Three-second lane rule introduced
    1950
    Nat Clifton, Earl Llyod and Charles Cooper become first Black players to play in the NBA
    1954
    NBA adopts 24-second shot clock
    1966
    Unlimited dribbling allowed in women's game
    1971
    Five-on-five full court game becomes standard for women
    1979
    NBA adds three-point shot
    1986
    College adopts three-point shot
    1988
    NBA adds third referee
    2001
    Reduce time to advance the ball past midcourt from 10 seconds to 8 seconds
    2001
    National Basketball Development League (D-League) created.
    2002
    The Hornets moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans
    2004
    The Bobcats formed in Charlotte, North Carolina
    2006
    NBA introduces new game ball representing the first change to game ball in 35 years.
    2007
    In response to player complaints the old style game ball was re-implemented


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