50 Interesting Facts About Basketball

Last updated on July 24th, 2022

Basketball is not a simple sport; it takes great endurance, competence and team spirit to outscore other teams and win the game. There is a lot more to the game than just players, a court, a referee and a ball. We will talk about 50 interesting facts about basketball, 15 facts about basketball players, and 26 facts about NBA teams

Basketball was originally played with a different ball. As odd as it sounds, the game was initially played with a typical soccer ball as well as peach baskets. Interestingly, referees had to retrieve the ball every time a basket was made. However, this changed in the year 1900 when string baskets were introduced and backboards were put in place to deter spectators from disrupting a shot.

Basketball on the court
Basketball on the court. Interesting facts about basketball. Image via popo.uw23.

Another interesting fact is that dribbling was not allowed. Sounds strange but that is what it was. Players were never allowed to advance the ball; they had to throw it over without moving. The first players to be allowed to advance the ball by just a single dribble played in 1897 at Yale. This was officially adopted after about four years.

Interestingly, the game was way shorter; it comprised of two fifteen-minute halves with a 5-minute break in between. Referees were charged with the duty of timekeeping using watches but all these changed in the early 1950 as a mode of combating stalling tactics employed by some teams.

50 Interesting facts about basketball 

1. The first basketballs were colored brown. However, a brown ball can be difficult for both players and fans to see. To increase ball visibility, Coach Tony Hinkle of Butler University came up with an idea to develop an orange ball in 1957.[14]

Basketball Hoop. basketball facts 2020
Red basketball hoop. Basketball facts. Image via Acid Pix

2. Basketball was invented by International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) Physical Education teacher James Naismith in 1891 as a way for students to keep fit and busy indoors during winter. The first hoop was made from a peach basket provided by the school janitor and nailed to a balcony ledge.[18]

3. The American Basketball League (ABL) was the first organized professional basketball league to use the three-point line in 1961.[16]

4. The first three-point shot in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was made by Boston Celtics guard Chris Ford on October 12, 1979, against the Houston Rockets. This was the same game that marked the debut of Celtics legend Larry Bird.[20]

5. Steals and blocks only became official (recorded) stats in the NBA starting from the 1973-1974 season. During that season, Elmore Smith recorded the most blocks in an NBA game with 17 on October 28, 1973.[22]

6. The 24-second shot clock was the brainchild of Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone and general manager Leo Ferris. The NBA first adopted the shot clock during the 1954-1955 season.[19]

7. The first NBA national television contract was signed during the 1953-1954 season between the NBA and Dumont Television Network.[23]

8. The first basketball game in Europe was arranged by Mel Rideout in Paris.[21]

9. The eight founding nations of FIBA (Fédération internationale de basketball amateur) are Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland. FIBA was founded in Geneva on June 18, 1932.[27]

10. There have been two women drafted in the NBA. The first was Denise Long who was drafted in the 13th round by the San Francisco Warriors. The second was Luisa Harris, who was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz as the 137th overall draft pick.[24]

11. The league we now know as the NBA was originally called the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and was founded on June 6, 1946. Following a merger with rival National Basketball League on August 3, 1949, it changed its name to the National Basketball Association.[26]

12. Prior to the founding of FIBA, basketball was under the purview of the International Amateur Handball Federation (IAHF). The federation at the time handled all ball games played by hand. The treaty that transferred oversight of basketball to FIBA was called the Protocol of Stockholm.[25]

13. Basketball first became an official Olympics event during the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics. The Olympic basketball games were held outdoors, in modified tennis courts.[29]

14. Contrary to their name, the Harlem Globetrotters were not from Harlem, New York. Their origins stem from Chicago, Illinois.[30]

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springsfield, Massachusetts. basketball facts for kids,
The entrance to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springsfield, Massachusetts. Facts about basketball. Image credit – mark6mauno

15. Abe Saperstein founded the Harlem Globetrotters in 1926. He was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1971. Standing at 5’3″, Saperstein is considered to be the shortest male inductee of the Basketball Hall of Fame.[41]

16. Back in 1940, the Harlem Globetrotters were still a highly competitive team. They won the 1940 World Professional Basketball Tournament beating the Chicago Bruins.[38]

17. Goaltending was only considered a violation in 1944, due to its use by Hall of Famer George Mikan against opponents. Prior to 1944, goaltending was considered legal since there were relatively few players that were able to execute it.[44]


18. Philadelphia Warriors forward Joseph “Jumping Joe” Fulks holds the record for the most missed field goals in a regular season game with 42 set during a game against the Providence Steam Rollers. He attempted 55 field goals, making only 13.[47]

19. The record for most missed field goals in a postseason game is also held by Jumping Joe Fulks. He missed 38 field goals in a game against the St. Louis Bombers.[43]

20. San Antonio Spurs Coach Greg Popovich has the record for the fastest ejection in NBA history. He was ejected 63 seconds into a game against the Denver Nuggets.[39]

21. The longest game in NBA history lasted 78 minutes and had 6 overtimes. It was a January 6, 1951 game between the Indianapolis Olympians and the Rochester Royals. The Olympians won 75 to 73.[28]

22. On December 13, 1983, the regular season game between the Detroit Pistons and the Denver Nuggets set multiple NBA records. The game ended after three overtimes with Detroit winning 186 to 184. The game set the NBA record for the most total points scored in a single game, and the most and second-most points scored by a team in a game.[34]

Top eleven highest scoring games in NBA history

RankTotal PointsDateLocationWinning TeamLoosing TeamFinal Score
1.370December 13, 1983McNichols Arena
Denver, Colorado
Detroit PistonsDenver Nuggets186-184
2.342February 14, 1975Pechanga Arena San Diego
San Diego, California
San Diego ConquistadorsNew York Nets176-166
3.337March 6, 1982HemisFair Arena
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio SpursMilwaukee Bucks171-166
4.329March 1, 2019State Farm Arena
Atlanta, Georgia
Chicago Bulls*Atlanta Hawks168-161
5.320March 13, 1970Moody Coliseum
University Park, Texas
Washington Capitols*Dallas Chaparrals162-158
6.320November 2, 1990McNichols Arena
Denver, Colorado
Golden State Warriors*Denver Nuggets162–158
7.318January 11, 1984McNichols Arena
Denver, Colorado
Denver NuggetsSan Antonio Spurs163-155
8.318December 7, 2006Continental Airlines Arena
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Phoenix Suns*New Jersey Nets161–157
9.317October 30, 2019Capital One Arena
Washington, D.C.
Houston Rockets*Washington Wizards159–158
10.316March 2, 1962Hershey Sports Arena
Hershey, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia WarriorsNew York Knicks169–147
11.316March 12, 1970Cincinnati Gardens
Cincinnati RoyalsSan Diego Rockets165–151
Table last updated15/08/2020*
Indicates a game that was won by the travelling team.

23. Gene Conley won 3 championships with the Boston Celtics and 1 with baseball‘s Milwaukee Braves in the 1957 World Series. He is the only player to win an NBA championship and a World Series.[45]

24. Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner (now Caitlin) was drafted in the 7th round of the 1977 NBA draft by the Kansas City Kings.[48]

25. The official basketball size for men’s competitive basketball is size 7, having a circumference of 29.5 in or 75 cm.[37]

26. The official basketball size for women’s competitive basketball is size 6, having a circumference of 28.5 in or 72 cm.[36]

27. The Moneyball worth two points in NBA’s three-point shooting contests is modeled after the coloured red, white, and blue ball used by the American Basketball Association.[46]

28. The official FIBA court dimensions are smaller than that of the NBA. The official NBA court length is 94 ft compared to 91.86 ft for FIBA courts. Court width is 50 ft for NBA courts and 49.21 ft for FIBA courts.[42]

29. The official rim height for NBA, WNBA, FIBA, and NCAA courts is set at 10 ft or 3.05 meters.[40]

Basketball hoop.v
Basketball hoop. basketball facts. Image credit – Arturo Donate

30. Sergei Belov is the first international player to be inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. He is considered to be among the best European players to have played basketball and was part of the Soviet team that beat the United States for the gold medal in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.[49]

31. Since the 1936 Summer Olympics, the United States has only failed to win the gold for men’s basketball four times. The Soviet Union won the gold in 1972 and 1988, Yugoslavia in 1980 (the 1980 Olympics was boycotted by the United States), and Argentina in 2004.[35]

32. Coach Paul Westhead is the first coach to win championships in both the NBA (Los Angeles Lakers) and the WNBA (Phoenix Mercury).[55]

33. Five international players have won the NBA’s MVP award. These are Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands), Steve Nash (Canada), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece).[66]

34. Prior to 1966, the NBA had territorial draft picks. These were special picks that allowed teams to forfeit their first round picks and instead select a player within a 50-mile radius from the city.[60]

35. The New Jersey Nets protested the result of their November 8, 1978 game against the Philadelphia 76ers. The final 17:50 minutes of the game was replayed on March 23, 1979. A trade had already occurred between both teams prior to the game replay. Thus, three players, Eric Money, Harvey Catchings and Ralph Simpson, are officially listed as having been members of both teams for the same game.[53]

36. All NBA floors are made from hard maple (Acer saccharum) from board cut 3/4ths of an inch thick. The only exception is the floor in Boston’s TD Garden, which is made of red oak.[63]

Chicago Bulls Jersey 23 Jordan white. basketball facts and rules.
basketball facts. Chicago Bulls Jersey 23 Jordan white. Image credit – anthony shao

37. The traditional basketball jersey consists of a sleeveless jersey and shorts. In 2013, the NBA experimented with adding sleeves to their jerseys, making them look similar to t shirts. This prompted a wave of complaints from players and fans. The experiment lasted until 2017, when Nike took over the uniform contract of the NBA and declared that they would no longer push through with using sleeved jerseys.[50]

38. NBA rules state that the cord basketball net should not be less than 30 thread and not more than 120 thread.[57]

39. As per NBA rules, a minimum of nine balls are to be provided for each team for pre-game warmups.[52]

40. Officially approved NBA balls should have between 7 1/2 and 8 1/2 pounds of pressure.[61]

41. The Denver Nuggets play at a home stadium that is one mile (5280 ft) above sea level. Studies have shown that this high elevation gives not just the Nuggets but all Denver home teams across major American sports a distinct advantage when it comes to playing home games.[59]

A word cloud featuring "Circadian Rhythm". interesting facts about basketball
A word cloud featuring “Circadian Rhythm”. Image credit – www.epictop10.com

42. A 2017 study showed that Eastern Conference teams in the NBA may suffer from a disadvantage by traveling for away games westward. The disruption in the circadian rhythm brought about by East to West travel, which counters the West to east rotation of the Earth, affects individual stress and fatigue levels and may impair performance of visiting teams.[68]

43. The average distance an NBA player runs per game is around 2.5 miles. During the 2019-20 NBA season, Blazers Guard CJ McCollum covered an average of 2.75 miles per game.[56]

44. A study that looked at 17 years of data from the medical records of NBA players showed that lateral ankle sprain was the most common injury in the league. Also, Patellofemoral inflammation or knee pain was the most common reason players miss games in the NBA.[64]

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