The Changing Face of Basketball Basketball has come a long way since its soccer ball and peach basket beginnings in that its style, players, facilities and leagues have developed dramatically and gained tremendous popularity. Salaries have increased from Bob Cousy’s minute $45. 00 a game (Minser 37) to Michael Jordan’s $300, 000 + per game (Minser 37). Basketball is a sport in which all ages can participate in any way, shape, or form and is a big part of American society today.
In 1891 James A. Naismith invented basketball at a YMCA gymnasium in Springfield, Massachusetts (Hollander 4). He told a custodian to nail two peach baskets 10 feet high on opposite ends of the gymnasium walls. The first teams consisted of nine players on each side (this was later changed to five because of roughness) (Hollander 5-7). The main rules were one could not take more than two steps with the ball, which meant one would have to dribble it and it was not to be a contact sport, so one was not allowed to tackle or push, etc… or a foul would be called.
The rules have developed in that a shot clock was installed. The shot clock is a 24 second clock that a team had to shoot within that time period (Minsky 12). Basketball has developed in that players have become more flashy, facilities have become bigger and more complex, and leagues have grown. The 50’s marked a period of fundamentals.
Teams practiced shooting, dribbling, and passing. they also emphasized execution; something lacking in today’s game. Execution is the running of plays to perfection. Basketball in the 50’s was dominated by 6’10″George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers (Minsky 14). Mikan was a disciplined team leader who had a masterful soft shot. Big George led the Lakers to five National Basketball Association (NBA) championships in six years, making them the first professional basketball dynasty (Minsky 14).
Growing up, George was very uncoordinated and was cut from almost every basketball team he tried out for; however, a man named Ray Meyer was the coach of De Paul University and dedicated his training sessions to Mikan (Minsky 15-16). George worked very hard; he even took dance lessons to improve his agility and footwork. He also played one – on- one with shorter but faster players in order to improve his defensive positioning. He also jumped rope, played hours of catch with tennis and medicine balls, and practiced 250 hook shots daily with each hand (Minsky 16). Mikanbecame an immediate force for De Paul, leading them to a 1945 National Invitational Tournament crown, scoring in one game an amazing 53 points. He Graduated De Paul in 1946 as a three time All American, and was the biggest basketball star up to that time (Minsky 16).
there were only a few centers that would ever classify as great, but George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar head that list. George’s build, Russell’s defense, Chamberlain’s style, and Abdul-Jabbar’s grace all set these guys apart from the rest of the basketball world. Like Mikan, Russell was the typical hard-working team player. Russell was one of the best re bounders, if not the best, ever to play basketball. Out of all the centers ever to play the game, Russell had the most success. He led his Boston Celtic team to 11 NBA titles (eight in a row) in 13 years; an all time NBA record (Minsky 26).
Russell’s Celtic team was one of the best ever judging by statistics. However, there was no one Bill Russell feared more than Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain (Minsky 26). Russell, being the best defensive center in the league, prided himself on being able to guard the best offensive center in the league: Chamberlain. Russell verses Chamberlain will go down in history as one of the best matchup’s in the history of the sport. Throughout the ten years the opposing centers played, they met 162 times (Minsky 30). In those games, Chamberlain’s points were down and rebounds were up and visa versa for Russell (Minsky 30).
last, but definitely not least, was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar, unlike Mikan, was predicted and destined to be great. At 7’2″ and with the body of a sprinter, Abdul-Jabbar was expected to reach unrealistic standards, which he usually met all of his life. When he entered college, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) made a rule to outlaw dunking so he couldn’t score at will (Minsky 57).
That forced him to develop his virtually unstoppable shot… the Skyhook. He used the Skyhook to lead the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to three straight NCAA titles and the Los Angeles Lakers to six NBA titles in 20 years. He also shattered Wilt Chamberlain’s all time scoring record, won the league’s Most Valuable Player award a record six times and played on the All Star team 19 times (Minsky 58). Just like the evolution of the centers, all the positions changed like guards, shooting guards, and power forwards. Bob Cousy was the first showman of the NBA and many followed his act until it became normal procedure among players.
It is almost painful to think of the tempo of the game before Bob Cousy arrived. He added a flair to the game never seen before. Soon, his style was transformed by Oscar Robertson, then by “Pistol Pete” Maravitch, “Magic” Johnson, and finally Isiah Thomas. Bob Petit was the first great power forward, using every pound and every inch the opponent allowed. What Petit lacked in style, he doubled in power… Rick Barry dramatically changed the power forward position with a dead-eye shot and an unorthodox free throw.
Today we have the dazzling dunks of Karl Malone and Shawn Kemp. Perhaps the most revolutionized of all positions is the shooting guard. It all started with Elgin Baylor’s midair tactics and his great jump shot. Then the torch passed to Jerry “Mr. Clutch” West (Minsky 37) whose uncanny ability to shoot was never again matched from this position. Early on, dunking was not used for style, it was just a way to get two points for the team- until Julius “Dr.
J” Irving came along. “Dr. J” was 6’7″ (Minsky 64), had huge but delicate hands, and excellent vertical and body control. Irving’s high flying dunks electrified crowds, even from the opposing teams. “Dr. J” changed what was just two points into a massive rush of adrenaline.
He did not have a great outside shot but he could hang in the air with the best of them. The condition of Basketball games was not the best from the 1950’s and 1960’s due to the lack of knowledge regarding how to keep the wooden basketball floor in top form. Today there are Million dollar arenas with sponsors ranging from Nike to Xerox. Some of the older players would probably say that players today are spoiled in many ways because the former players did not have the break-away rims or fiberglass backboards. the balls are also made of a synthetic leather causing them to be more responsive in the dribble. The first professional basketball league formed was the National League and it consisted of six teams.
When the National League folded, the Philadelphia League was formed. The Eastern League, Central League, Hudson River League, and the New York State League soon followed (Hollander 17). The American Basketball League was formed in 1925 but had only short success. The New York Renaissance Five was the first Black team, followed by the Harlem Globetrotters.
The National Basketball League was started in 1937 and lasted about 10 years (Hollander 21-28). The NBA was developed in 1946 and was a success because of its big market arenas like Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Basketball Association of America (BAA) consisted of 11 members who scheduled games and found places for teams to play. The BAA merged with the NBA in the late 40’s. Now teams have their own arenas, enormous crown support, and plenty of luxuries (Hollander 60-69). Original salaries were microscopic compared to salaries today, especially when compared to other professionals.
Basketball today is being sold to the public more than any other sport. Corporate sponsors have lured players with million dollar offers. It is amazing at the difference between the salaries of basketball players and professionals such as teachers, nurses, social workers, and even what we pa your clergy. The public wants to be entertained, and will pay for it, but fails to give adequate payment to professionals who affect our daily lives. The style of play, players, facilities, and leagues have developed dramatically and gained tremendous popularity since its soccer ball and peach basket beginnings. Thesis Statement: Basketball has come a long way since its soccer ball and peach basket beginnings in that its style, players, facilities and leagues dramatically and gained tremendous popularity.
I. History. What. When. Basic rules II. Development.
First great players. Facilities. Leagues III. Salaries.
Original. Salaries now. Salaries compared to other professions.