The game of basketball was invented by American James Naithsmith in December 1891. The name derives from the fact that to score the ball had to be thrown into baskets originally designed to collect peaches. The ball was made of leather and the baskets were attached to walls. Each team had nine players, but in 1897 the number of players on court was reduced to five. This is still the case with twelve players per team, with only five on court at any one time. The playing positions are Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small forward, Power Forward and Centre. The game is most popular in the USA with the National Basketball Association (NBA) being their professional league, but it is also played worldwide.

The court measures 91 feet long by 50 feet wide with, at each end, a netted hoop on a stand ten feet high. Points are scored when the ball is successfully thrown though the opponents hoop. A score is called a ‘basket’. Any basket scored from outside a three point arc scores three points. Baskets scored within the three point arc scores two points. A successful free throw following a foul scores one point.

There are no regulations regarding the materials a basketball is made from but the balls used in the NBA are still made of leather with an inflatable rubber bladder. A full sized ball for men and boys aged 15+, is size 7, at 29.5 inches in circumference and weighing 22 ounces. There are smaller balls as follows: Size 6 is an inch smaller in circumference and two ounces lighter, size five is 27.5 inches circumference and weighs 17 ounces. Size 6 is used in the women’s professional game and for girls over the age of twelve and boys aged 12-14. Size 5 is for boys and girls aged 9 -11. There are smaller balls for very young children.

Balls sold as basketballs are often not intended to be used for serious match-play on courts. Many balls are made of rubber and some for safe play by children are foam filled, rather than being inflatable. The prices vary greatly depending on whether the balls are for leisure use, training or serious games. The one illustrated gives no indication of size or construction, but the fact that it a ‘rainbow’ ball suggests it is for leisure play in the garden, playground, park or beach. It has pimples on the surface to aid grip. The pictures depict a  basket ball which is a modern leisure version.

The Dunlop brand was founded by John Boyd Dunlop in Dunlop in 1890. It became one of the best known manufacturers of tyres and other rubber products. The Dunlop brand name has had many owners and different manufacturers and is no longer a premium brand. Their basketballs are now amongst the cheapest you can buy.

More information:

Material(s) Rubber
Item number MBPO116

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  • When have you played with a basketball?
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Here is a photo of the founder of basketball, James Naithsmith, with a ball and the peach basket, from which the name of the game derives.

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