The Evolution of the Basketball Game Rules

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. This is especially true in the U.S. because that’s where the sport has originated from. Basketball is not a really old sport like some others but it has gone through significant changes over the years. 

Today, a lot of people are excited about the upcoming March Madness bracket and most of them have no idea what the game would look like if the rules haven’t changed over the years. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the evolution of basketball game rules. 

Team size

Back in the day, it was believed that basketball could be played with any number of team members on each side. That didn’t turn out so well because in the beginning, each basketball team had 50 players. 

Can you imagine a basketball game today with 50 players on each side? What chaos that would be. Eventually, the team size was reduced to 18 with 9 players on each team because only 18 students showed up for Dr. James Naismith’s class. Back in 1897, five player teams became a mandatory rule. 


In the early days of basketball, the game was played using peach baskets. These were 18’’ square boxes that were hung from the balconies within indoor facilities. The basket height was 10ft which is still the standard today. 

Peach baskets and boxes weren’t a great idea because after each score, some poor soul had to retrieve the ball from the track or use a ladder to get it down. 

Heavy woven wire rims replaced peach baskets in 1892 and they were also replaced by cast iron rims a year later. Open ended nylon nets were approved for use in 1912 which significantly improved the scoring tempo of the game. 

The basketball

The very first basketball games were played using soccer balls. This proved to be very ineffective because players couldn’t dribble and handle the ball very well. The ball is arguably the one thing in the basketball game that has gone through most changes over the years. 

After soccer balls, the first basketballs were manufactured by a bicycle company in 1894. A few years later, Spalding took over as the official basketball maker. 

However, the early brown leather basketballs were also ineffective because they had difficulties maintaining their shape and laces. 

Leather balls were replaced by stitched balls that were redesigned and had more bounce in 1929. It wasn’t until 1942 that the basketballs were uniformed with constant shape and size that replaced stitched ones. 


Basketball has changed drastically during its history. The game, as well as the rules, evolved as years went by. Today’s basketball game is very different from what it was back in the day.

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