These 40 fast facts on the basketball will leave you with the knowledge to impress your friends about one of the sport’s biggest icons: the basketball itself.
When James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891 as a physical education teacher at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, it’s hard to believe that anyone thought that basketball would become so popular. The sport is third only to soccer and cricket in terms of popularity around the world. Some 2.2 billion folks are fans of the game.
As such, many highlights shown on TV feature fabulous plays by amazing athletes. Nearly all of the highlights feature an unsung hero: the basketball. How much do we really know about it? Well, let’s take a deep dive and learn.
Our fast facts are organized in a Q&A format. Let’s begin.
The Basketball: Fast Facts
1.) Why are basketballs usually orange?
Before the 1950s decade, basketballs were typically dark brown in color because that was the color of leather. Fans and players sometimes had a hard time seeing the ball. Butler head coach Tony Hinkle led a campaign to make the ball more visible. In 1957, he worked with the Spalding Company on a new design. In addition to featuring the more visible orange color, lines were incorporated to make the ball easier to grip. The new orange balls with lines debuted at the 1958 NCAA Finals.
A side note: Buttler Fieldhouse was renamed after the coach to Hinkle Fieldhouse upon the coach’s retirement. And, a little more trivia for you: Hinkle Fieldhouse was where the state finals were filmed in the movie Hoosiers.
2.) Who was the first person to spin a ball?
The concept of spinning a basketball on one finger may have been popularized by the Harlem Globetrotters, but the idea of spinning a ball (or balls) actually predates basketball. The earliest known person to accomplish this feat was a juggler. An English juggler by the name of D’Alvini, born William Peppercorn, spun a ball on one finger lying down while spinning a bottle on the finger of his other hand.
On the Ball
3.) Who’s likeness is featured on the NBA logo stamped on NBA game balls?
True fans will know the inspiration for the NBA logo is Los Angeles Lakers star Jerry West. In fact, he is sometimes referred to as Jerry “The Logo” West.
4.) Who does the “Wilson” refer to on NBA basketballs?
The Wilson name comes from the company founder, Thomas E. Wilson. Like James Naismith, he was a Canadian-American. Building on a successful career in the meat industry, Wilson bought the Ashland Manufacturing Company, which had offered sporting goods.
5.) What is the most expensive basketball that was ever sold?
A Michael Jordan-signed basketball sold for $104,765 at auction in 2020.
6.) How long does the average basketball last?
A good basketball can last for 18 months when used daily if properly cared for.
7.) Who coined the word “Basketball”?
Luther Gulick, the secretary of the YMCA, coined the term basketball. “Basket Ball” was the original name for the sport.
8.) What is the purpose of dots on a basketball that give it a pebbly look?
The dots improve a player’s grip on the ball. About 35,000 dots are on a basketball.
9.) How many men’s basketballs can fit in a regulation hoop at one time?
When you’re on a cold streak, and that rim is feeling small, remember that three basketballs can fit inside a hoop at one time!
10.) What’s another way of saying basketball?
Roundball, B-ball, brownball, and hoops are nicknames for basketball as a sport. In street lingo, the ball is called “The Rock.”
Basketball Sizes and Makeup
11.) What is the official size of a men’s basketball?
Men’s basketballs are 29.5 inches in circumference. A men’s basketball is roughly 9.5 inches in diameter.
12.) What is the official size of a women’s basketball?
Women’s basketballs are 28.5 inches in circumference.
13.) What is the official weight of a men’s basketball?
Men’s basketballs should weigh 22 ounces.
14.) What is the official weight of a women’s basketball?
15.) Women’s basketballs should weigh 20 ounces.
16.) How many leather panels are on a basketball?
Eight panels make up a basketball.
17.) How inflated should an NBA basketball be?
Basketballs are inflated to between 7.5 and 8.5 pounds per square inch per NBA rules.
18.) What’s a convenient way to test if a basketball is properly inflated?
Hold the ball above your head and let it fall. A ball is properly inflated if it bounces chest-high.
How a Wilson Basketball is Made Video
19.) What NBA player made the Sky Hook famous?
Perhaps the most unstoppable shot ever was the Sky Hook. Really, only one player shot it and shot it well: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar, previously Lew Alcindor, shot the ball one-handed with deadly accuracy.
20.) Who invented the jump shot?
The NCAA archives recognize John Miller Cooper, a Missouri Tiger, as the first practitioner of the jump shot. However, other scholars have argued that the University of Wyoming Ken Sailors did it before in 1934.
21.) Who made the first slam dunk in professional basketball?
Harlem Globetrotters’ Joe Fortenberry had the first documented dunk in pro basketball history during a game on December 5, 1936, when the Globetrotters played the New York Renaissance.
Famous Hoops Shots
22.) What player made the “granny shot” free throw famous in the NBA?
Rick Barry shot his free throws between his legs and was incredibly accurate. His made free throw percentage was 90.0 percent. Barry retired with the highest free-throw shooting percentage ever. Since then, Mark Price, Steve Nash, and Stephen Curry have surpassed Barry’s free throw percentage with more traditional shooting techniques.
23.) What NBA player gave his dunks names like “The Rim Wrecker,” “The Look Out Below,” and “The In-Your-Face Disgrace”?
Daryle Dawkins dished out dunks with those monikers. His own nickname was Chocolate Thunder.
24.) Who executed the first alley-oop in a basketball game?
K.C. Jones and Bill Russell completed the maneuver several times while playing at the University of San Francisco in the 1950s. The alley-oop features one player passing to a teammate, who, while jumping and still in the air, catches the ball and dunks or lays it in for a basket before landing.
25.) When talking basketball, what are folks referring to when they reference “The Shot”?
It refers to Michael Jordan hitting a buzzer-beater to help the Chicago Bulls advance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the fifth and deciding game of their Eastern Conference series. There were six lead changes in the final minute of this game.
History of the Basketball
26.) What was the ball like when basketball was first invented?
Basketball was originally played with a soccer ball and peach baskets.
27.) How valuable are James Naismith’s First Basketball Rules?
In 2010, the original set of rules for the game sold for $4.3 million. The proceeds were given to the Naismith charity. The original rules of basketball are on display at The University of Kansas in The DeBruce Center.
28.) Who was the original supplier of basketballs to the NBA?
Wilson Sporting Goods Co., from Chicago, was the ball of choice for the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1946-1983. Spalding took over the supplier contract in 1983 and had exclusive rights until the start of the 2021-2022 season. From that season through today, Wilson is again the official supplier of game balls to the NBA.
29.) Who supplies the leather to Wilson?
The Horween Leather Company in Chicago, one of the oldest leather tanneries in the U.S., supplies the leather that eventually goes into the game balls.
30.) Why did the NBA choose to switch from Spalding to Wilson in 2021?
As we weren’t at the negotiation table, we might never learn the real reason for the shift. Here are a few points to consider. Spalding and the NBA did not come to terms when their contract expired. Maybe the price wasn’t right. A couple of other possible reasons for the switch: A.) The Wilson basketball used for the NBA is made of composite leather, which makes the ball longer-lasting and more durable. B.) Amazon reviews indicate that reviewers slightly prefer the Wilson brand of basketballs to Spalding offerings.
31.) What was different about basketball dribbling in the early days of the game?
Players could dribble with two hands at the same time.
32.) In what year did the ABA merge with the NBA?
In 1976, the ABA merged with the NBA.
Interesting Basketball Fun Facts
33.) What player has scored the most points in one NBA game?
Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a game against the New York Knicks in 1962. Yes, the Warriors won by a score of 169-147.
34.) What was the longest shot made in NBA History?
Baron Davis made an 89-foot shot in 2001.
35.) What was the highest basketball shot ever made?
Dude Perfect’s Beardo made a shot from 856 feet high at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, standing in the SkyPod Tower. Dude Perfect holds 14 Guinness World Records.
36.) Who has the most blocked shots in one NBA game?
Lakers’ Elmore Smith blocked 17 shots against the Trail Blazers in an October 28, 1973 game. Elmore led the league that year with a 4.9 blocked shots per game average.
37.) The ultimate basketball trivia question: How many three-pointers did Shaquille O’Neal make in his NBA career?
One. He shot one of 22 from beyond the three-point line.
38.) What’s the record for the length of time dribbling a basketball while blindfolded?
Henry Speedwell has the record for dribbling while blindfolded: 1 hour, 20 minutes and 1 second. Henry was just nine years old at the time.
39.) What color is the WNBA ball?
WNBA balls are alternating oatmeal and orange sections. The WNBA adapted the 28.5-inch circumference for the WNBA ball. It’s made by Spalding.
40.) Who determined that the ABA balls be red, white, and blue?
Commissioner of the ABA, George Mikan, insisted on the American colors of red, white, and blue to reflect the name American Basketball Association (ABA).
By Mike O’Halloran
Mike is the founder and editor of Sports Feel Good Stories. He has written three books on coaching, including Youth Basketball Practice Plans.
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