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 DePaul 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). Mikan
became an immediate force for DePaul, leading them to a 1945 National
Invitational Tournament crown, scoring in one game an amazing 53 points. He
Graduated DePaul 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 rebounders, 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 matchups 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