32 Fun Facts About Basketball

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the US – however, it also has strong followings all over the world. It’s made household names and millionaires out of stars such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James, and it’s a surprisingly complex game – even to this day.

But how much do you actually know about basketball? There’s more to the sport than just dribbling and shooting. Here are some fun facts about basketball to help clue you up.

1. Basketball dates back to the 19th Century.

Basketball’s roots go back to 1891. James Naismith created the game with a pair of peach baskets for games played at a Massachusetts YMCA. He also used a soccer ball instead of what we have come to know as a basketball! It definitely can’t have been very bouncy!

Interestingly, Dr. Naismith invented the game to help keep his students active and indoors during cold months. He also saw it as a sport that was less injury-prone than football – the jury may well be out on that one!

2. Basketball was a Canadian invention!

Despite being invented in Springfield, MA, Naismith was a native Canadian. He invented the game while looking for creative ways to encourage his gym pupils to stay active on overcast days.

Originally, basketball was played with nine players on each side of the court. Nowadays, there are up to 12 active players on each team participating during a basketball game!

However, many of these are substitutes. Most basketball games are conducted five-on-five, and three-on-three games are popular, too.

3. The game has actually shrunk over the years.

Since its invention, basketball has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry. However, despite the increase in interest, the number of players on a court has decreased from 18 to 10. As mentioned, there are more players on the bench that can be brought on as substitutes.

It’s thought the original numbers were inspired by those you’d see on a baseball diamond.

fun facts about basketball

4. Wilt Chamberlain’s amazing record still holds firm.

The most points scored by a single player in one match is 100, as Wilt Chamberlain managed to score this as-yet unbeatable tally for Philadelphia against New York in 1962. Around 60 years later, his record goes unbeaten.

The most points scored by a player in the NBA over a career is, at present, over 40,000 – scored by LeBron James.

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is breaking plenty of records, too.

Stars such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have given these records a real run for their money. In fact, Abdul-Jabbar once held the record for the most points scored in a single NBA career, with 38,387 scored over 20 seasons.

When he retired from the game, Abdul-Jabbar also held records for the most field goals made in the game, and the most minutes played in the league by a single player – an astonishing 57,446.

6. The NBA is much younger than basketball itself.

The NBA, or National Basketball Association, has been around since the 40s! To be more precise, the NBA was founded in 1946, in New York City, by Walter A. Brown.

What’s more, slam dunks are probably newer than you think, too. The NBA held its first slam dunk contest only decades later in 1984. The contest was won by Larry Nance.

BasketBall Facts

7. There’s science in the bounce!

Science states that you are always going to get a higher bounce from a warm basketball than a cold one. That’s because warm ball molecules react at quicker speeds.

Basketball bouncing is also assisted by air pressure – meaning it’s always important to make sure balls are fully pumped up and ready to dribble.

8. Basketball is a fantastic calorie-burner.

It’s thought that the average NBA player will burn just short of 800 calories per game. As it’s also a game where you stop and start a lot and use a wide range of muscles, basketball is great for building muscle, improving endurance, and even helping you manage your coordination.

9. Want to be an NBA star? Learn to jump.

NBA players, by design, need to be good in the air. In fact, the average distance a player can jump in the league is thought to be around 28 inches off the ground.

The highest-ever leap recorded in the NBA belongs to the legendary Michael Jordan, who gained a nickname “His Airness” for his time off the ground. He once leapt an incredible 48 inches into the air! And no, that wasn’t during Space Jam…

10. Basketball courts used to have sharp perimeters.

Originally, basketball courts were built with chicken wire lining. This was to prevent falling into the stands – we’re assuming that might have been a bit painful!

Speaking of stands, did you know that – weirdly – you can’t keep a basketball if you catch it while watching an NBA game? Them’s the breaks, according to the official rules – hand it back!

11. Backboards evolved as a way to stop cheating.

Believe it or not, basketball scores appear on the backboard thanks to initial problems with score tampering. Early scoreboards used to appear on the balcony, and it was common for visitors and spectators to mess around with the scores.

action! dribbling a basketball

12. Dribbling is a new(ish) concept.

Believe it or not, the very first basketball rules advised players needed to pass the ball between each other – and dribbling only came along as an adapted style of play many years after the game came to popularity.

That said, Naismith himself was still around to witness the changes – how incredible it must have been to see your invention take off before your eyes!

13. Kobe Bryant was the youngest NBA starter.

The youngest player to ever start an NBA match was the late Kobe Bryant, who was barely 19 when he opened.
Bryant is regarded as one of the best players of his generation, and even spent his entire career – 20 years on the court – playing with the LA Lakers.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, leaving behind a wife and two children – he was only 41 years old.

14. The Pistons and the Nuggets had the highest-scoring game ever in the NBA.

How’s this for a high score? The highest-scoring NBA game ever to be played was held between the Detroit Pistons and the Denver Nuggets.

The game, held on December 13th, 1983, was scored at 186-184 in triple overtime!

15. Gheorghe Muresan was the tallest NBA star ever.

The tallest player ever to take part in the NBA was Gheorghe Muresan. The former Wizards and Greenhawks star stands at an impressive seven feet and seven inches tall!

Compare this to another extremely lofty basketball hero – Shaquille O’Neal – he’s a full six inches shorter than Muresan!

Even Yao Ming, one of the tallest-ever NBA stars, is still a whole inch shorter than Muresan!

16. Muggsy Bogues was the shortest-ever player.

On the other hand, Muggsy Bogues was known for being the shortest player in NBA history. He stood at five feet and three inches tall.
Budding players shorter than six feet tall take heart – players such as Markquis Nowell (five feet seven) and Jacob Gilyard (five feet eight) are two of the shortest in the league.

17. The NBA has an iconic logo.

Even if you are not a fan of the sport, the chances are that you know the NBA logo and would recognize it anywhere!

The popular logo features the silhouette of a player. More specifically, it features the silhouette of Jerry West. He was a Hall of Fame player who played for the Los Angeles Lakers.

18. Earl Lloyd made basketball history.

Earl Lloyd was the first-ever African American to compete in the NBA. He started his NBA career in 1950.

He weathered a career spanning nine years, and opened the door for incredible black talent – such as Chuck Cooper, who, the night after Lloyd played his first NBA match, was actually the first black player drafted in the game!

19. Michael Jordan is still considered the GOAT.

That’s Greatest of All Time, by the way – and, ask anyone, American or not, basketball fan or not, and they will know the name Michael Jordan!

By many, he is still considered to be the greatest NBA player, and overall basketball player of all time. During his career, he won a staggering six NBA championships! He did so playing for the Chicago Bulls.

LeBron James might have more points, but Jordan was basketball during the 1990s. Have you ever seen Space Jam, for example?

Michael Jordan

20. The WNBA debuted much later on from the NBA.

The Women’s National Basketball Association, or WNBA, is a lot younger than the NBA – it was only founded back in 1996! However, it has become increasingly popular in recent years and has produced some incredible athletes including Jordin Canada, Maya Caldwell, Emma Cannon, and Caitlin Clark.

21. Lisa Leslie also made history in the sport.

Speaking of women in the NBA, Lisa Leslie is quite a famous name, too! She became the first woman ever to dunk in a WNBA game. Her big moment was on July 30th, 2002. That’s probably much more recent than you’d expect for that kind of record.

22. NBA games went global thanks to a certain team.

If you are interested in seeing an NBA game, but aren’t based in the US, you will be glad to know the games went global some time ago. That is to say, the Harlem Globetrotters are known for showing basketball exhibitions all over the world!

The Harlem Globetrotters were first founded in 1926, and they have since played in over 120 countries. The Globetrotters are all about spectacle – they don’t take part in official tournaments!

Lisa Leslie
Lisa Leslie

23. The three-point line came around in the 70s.

The famous three-point line was introduced to the NBA during the 1979- 1980 season. It is a field goal made beyond the three-point line on the court. A winning three-point line is, rather fittingly, worth three points.

Chris Ford was the first player to score a three-point field goal, doing so for the Boston Celtics on October 12th, 1979.

24. The US has the most gold medals in the sport.

Given the prestigious players in the NBA, it should come as no surprise that the United States of America has the most Olympic Gold Medals in basketball of any country.

As of 2020’s Summer Games, the country has a total of 16 gold medals in the sport. Second place is the Soviet Union with two – and believe it or not, only two other countries, Yugoslavia and Argentina, have won Gold at the Olympics in basketball otherwise!

25. The Lakers and the Celtics are currently tied for the most successful team in the NBA.

Currently, the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics hold a tie for the record of most NBA championships. Each team has a total of 17 titles – but could that change? These stats are correct at the time of writing – be sure to come back in the future if either team stretches ahead!

26. Jerry West was the first MVP in the sport.

The first-ever NBA Finals MVP (most valued player) award went to Jerry West. He won MVP in 1969, despite the fact that his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, lost the series that year!

27. Moses Malone set a benchmark for younger players joining the league.

Moses Malone joined the NBA when he was just 21 years old – and, he was officially the first-ever player to join the NBA straight out of high school. He started playing for the NBA in 1974, and was the youngest starter in the league for many years.

Kobe Bryant, of course, broke this record by setting foot on the NBA court at just 19.

Moses Malone
Moses Malone

28. Diana Taurasi is leading the women’s records.

When it comes to the WNBA, Diana Taurasi is the current all-time leading scorer. She surpassed Tina Thompson’s record in 2017 with over 10,000 career points. In doing so, she became the first WNBA player ever to reach 10,000 points!

Thompson is still trailing in second place in the WNBA all-time rankings, but Tamika Catchings, Tina Charles, and Candice Dupree make up the rest of the top five scorers in the league.

29. James and Taurasi are the oldest players in the US leagues right now.

At the time of writing LeBron James is the oldest active player in the NBA at an impressive 39 years old. However, he’s got a few years before he beats Nat Hickey’s record – he was almost 46 years old when he played his last NBA game in the 1947-48 season.

For the WNBA, Diana Taurasi is currently the oldest player active in the game, at the age of 41. Nancy Lieberman, meanwhile, holds the all-time record for oldest player to appear in a WNBA match, appearing for nine minutes at the age of 50!

30. GG Jackson is the youngest player in the men’s league.

Currently, GG Jackson is the youngest NBA player at only 19 years old! In the WNBA, Aliyah Boston, Jade Melbourne and Sika Koné are all the youngest players, each at 21 years old.

31. Paris hosted the first non-American game.

Yes – believe it or not, the game was played outside of the US as early as the late 19th century, and a match was held in the world’s most romantic city – Paris, France – in 1893.

In fact, a French YMCA claims to have the oldest basketball court on the planet – and yes, it’s been in action since 1893!

32. The first basketball game shown on TV was televised in the 40s.

The first-ever basketball game to be televised was shown in 1940. The game was played between two college teams, Pittsburgh and Fordham.

Nowadays, NBA games get an average of 1 59 million viewers per game!

Pitt vs. Fordham in 1940

FAQs About Basketball

Do girls play with smaller basketballs than boys?

Yes, currently, in high schools, the game is played by both boys and girls who use different-sized balls. Boys play with balls with a circumference of 29 to 30 inches. Girls play with balls measuring 28.5 to 29 inches.

What is the difference between NBA and WNBA?

NBA stands for the National Basketball Association, and WNBA stands for the Women's National Basketball Association.

Why is basketball not more popular in the UK?

Over in the UK, it’s thought that basketball isn’t as popular as soccer due to lack of media attention.

Do you know any fun facts about basketball? Share them in the comments below!

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  • Athletic Lift says:

    Interesting, does it mean that basketballs are being kept in a temperature-controlled room?

  • Miley hypes says:

    Yes, because it was invented by James Naismith in 1891 and Naismith invented Basketball because they needed a sport that could be played indoors because it was winter at that time and because it was winter, it was so cold outside that they couldn’t play baseball or football outside. a good topic sentence is clear and easy to follow. So overall yes basketball is kept in a temperature-controlled environment.

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This page was last modified on May 9, 2024. Suggest an edit

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