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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 NCAA
titles and the Los Angeles Lakers to six NBA titles in 20 years. He also
shattered Wilt Chamberlain’s all time scoring record, won the league’s Most
Valuable Player award a record six times and played on the All Star team 19
times (Minsky 58).

Just like the evolution of the centers, all the positions changed like guards,
shooting guards, and power forwards. Bob Cousy was the first showman of the NBA
and many followed his act until it became normal procedure among players. It is
almost painful to think of the tempo of the game before Bob Cousy arrived. He
added a flair to the game never seen before. Soon, his style was transformed by
Oscar Robertson, then by Pistol Pete Maravitch, Magic Johnson, and finally
Isiah Thomas. Bob Petit was the first great power forward, using every pound and
every inch the opponent allowed. What Petit lacked in style, he doubled in

Rick Barry dramatically changed the power forward position with a dead-
eye shot and an unorthodox free throw. Today we have the dazzling dunks of Karl
Malone and Shawn Kemp. Perhaps the most revolutionized of all positions is the
shooting guard. It all started with Elgin Baylor’s midair tactics and his great
jump shot. Then the torch passed to Jerry Mr. Clutch West (Minsky 37) whose
uncanny ability to shoot was never again matched from this position. Early on,
dunking was not used for style, it was just a way to get two points for the team
– until Julius Dr. J Irving came along. Dr. J was 6’7 (Minsky 64), had huge
but delicate hands, and excellent vertical and body control. Irving’s high
flying dunks electrified crowds, even from the opposing teams. Dr. J changed
what was just two points into a massive rush of adrenaline. He did not have a
great outside shot but he could hang in the air with the best of them.

The condition of Basketball games was not the best from the 1950’s and 1960’s
due to the lack of knowledge regarding how to keep the wooden basketball floor
in top form. Today there are Million dollar arenas with sponsors ranging from
Nike to Xerox. Some of the older players would probably say that players today
are spoiled in many ways because the former players did not have the break-away
rims or fiberglass backboards. the balls are also made of a synthetic leather
causing them to be more responsive in the dribble. The first professional
basketball league formed was the National League and it consisted of six teams.
When the National League folded, the Philadelphia League was formed. The Eastern
League, Central League, Hudson River League, and the New York State League soon
followed (Hollander 17).

The American Basketball League was formed in 1925 but
had only short success. The New York Renaissance Five was the first Black team,
followed by the Harlem Globetrotters. The National Basketball League was started
in 1937 and lasted about 10 years(Hollandar 21-28). The NBA was developed in
1946 and was a success because of its big market arenas like Madison Square
Garden in New York City. The Basketball Association of America (BAA) consisted
of 11 members who scheduled games and found places for teams to play. The BAA
merged with the NBA in the late 40’s. Now teams have their own arenas, enormous
crown support, and plenty of luxuries (Hollander 60-69). Original salaries were
microscopic compared to salaries today, especially when compared to other
professionals. Basketball today is being sold to the public more than any other
sport. Corporate sponsors have lured players with million dollar offers. It is
amazing at the difference between the salaries of basketball players and
professionals such as teachers, nurses, social workers , and even what we pay
our clergy.  The public wants to be entertained, and will pay for it, but fails
to give adequate payment to professionals who affect our daily lives. The style
of play, players, facilities, and leagues have developed dramatically and gained
tremendous popularity since its soccer ball and peach basket beginnings.

Thesis Statement: Basketball has come a long way since its soccer ball and peach
basket beginnings in that its style, players, facilities and leagues have
devoloped dramatically and gained tremendous popularity.

I.  History
A.  What
B.  When
C.  Basic rules

II.  Development
A.  First great players
B.  Facilities
C.  Leagues

III.  Salaries
A.  Original
B.  Salaries now
C.  Salaries compared to other professions

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