Basket-Ball, a game adapted to the open air, but usually played upon the floor of a gymnasium and in the cold season. It was the invention, in 1891, of James Naismith, an instructor in the gymnasium of the Young Men's Christian Association training-school at Springfield, Massachusetts. A demand had arisen for a game for the gymnasium class, which would break the monotony and take the place, during the winter months, of football and baseball, and which was not too rough to be played indoors. The idea of the game was first published in the Triangle, the school paper. It soon became one of the most popular indoor games of America, for girls as well as for men, and spread to England and elsewhere.
Basket-ball is played on a marked-off space 60 ft. by 40 ft. in extent, though in the open air the dimensions may be greater. In the middle of each short side and 10 ft. above the floor or ground, is placed a basket consisting of a net suspended from a metal ring 18 in. in diameter, backed, at a distance of 6 in., by a back-board 6 ft. long and 4 ft. high. The object of the game is to propel an inflated, leather-covered ball, 30 in. in circumference, into the opponents' basket, which is the goal, by striking it with the open hands. The side wins that scores most goals during two periods of play divided by an interval of rest. Although there is practically no limit to the number of players on each side, all indoor matches are played by teams of five, in positions opposing one another as in lacrosse, centre, right and left forwards and right and left guards (or backs). A referee has the general supervision of the game and decides when goals have been properly scored, and an umpire watches for infringements of the rules, which constitute fouls.
There are also a scorer and timekeeper.
The game is started with the two opposing centres standing within a 4-foot ring in the middle of the floor. The referee puts the ball in play by tossing it into the air over the heads of the centres, who jump into the air for its possession or endeavour to bat it towards the opposing goal. From this moment the ball is in play until it falls into a basket, or passes the boundary-lines, or a foul is made. After a goal has been scored, the ball is again put in play by the referee in the centre. Should it be thrown across the boundary, a player of the opposing side, standing on the line at the point where the ball went over, puts it in play by passing or throwing it to one of his own side in any direction, there being no off-side rule - another point of similarity to lacrosse. His opponents, of course, try to prevent the pass or intercept the throw, thus securing the ball themselves. When a foul has been called, a player of the opposing side is allowed a "free throw" for his opponents' basket from a mark 15 ft. distant from it and without interference. A goal scored from a free throw counts one point; one scored while the ball is in play counts two.
Hacking, striking, holding and kicking are foul, but a player may interfere with an opponent who has the ball so long as he uses one arm only and does not hold. A player must throw the ball from where he gets it, no running with it being allowed excepting when continuously bounding it on the floor. Basket-ball is an extremely fast game and admits of a high degree of combination or team-play. The principal qualifications of a good player are quickness of movement and of judgment, coolness, endurance, accuracy and self-control. Good dodging, throwing, passing and team-play are the important requisites of the game, which is looked upon as excellent winter training for outdoor games. Basket-ball, with somewhat modified rules, is extremely popular with young women.
See Spalding's Basket-Ball Guide; and George T. Hepbron, How to Play Basket-Ball; and Spalding's Basket-Ball Guide for Women.