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Basketball was invented by James W. Naismith to keep his students fit during the winter. In December 1891, the physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, USA sought a suitable indoor sport – and most of his rules still apply today. In the 1920s, the first international games were played and the first World Championships for Men and Women took place in the 1950s.

Brief overview of the rules

Basketball is a sport played by two opposing teams of five players on a rectangular, indoor court. Players use their hands to control the ball and the aim of the game is to score as many points as possible by throwing the ball through a hoop suspended 3.05 m above the floor and scoring two- and three-pointers, depending on how far away from the hoop the player shoots. Olympic basketball games are divided into four 10-minute quarters. Players switch between offence and defence and must demonstrate endurance, flexibility and, of course, a great deal of skill as they run up and down the court and shoot baskets.

Olympic history

Basketball first featured in the Olympic Games as a demonstration sport at the St. Louis 1904 Olympic Games, when the competition counted as an event of the American basketball championship, with only American teams taking part. A few years later, in 1936, basketball became an official Olympic sport at the Berlin Games. Women’s basketball was included on the Olympic programme for the first time 40 years later at the 1976 Montreal Games.

Historically, the United States has been particularly dominant in the sport it invented, with the men’s team bringing home Olympic gold at every Games apart from in 1972, 1980, 1988 and 2004 and the women’s team winning at every Games since 1984, with the exception of the 1992 Olympics. The United States also made its mark on the Barcelona 1992 Olympics with its “Dream Team” of NBA players who came away with the gold medal after winning each of their games by an average of over 40 points.

Events in 2024

In 2024, the basketball events will take place between the 27th of July and the 10th of August.

  • Basketball tournament (women’s / men’s)

Venue in 2024

International organisation

International Basketball Federation

© Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

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