A Basketball History Lesson

When the game of “basket ball” [basketball] began in 1891, there wasn’t much equipment necessary to play the game.  A peach basket, a ball, and 13 simple game rules sufficed.  (For more on original rules, check out James Naismith’s 13 Original 13 Rules of Basketball here.)

The game has evolved over the past 125 years.  Athletes now perform at unprecedented levels, and the equipment they play on has advanced to meet the intensity of the game.  We adore the history and legacy of basketball, and this got us thinking about how our equipment has changed over time to meet players’ and coaches’ needs.  It also got us thinking about some of the simple, yet intriguing words people use to reference our equipment.  The hoop- the basket- the rim- goal- backboard….what do you call this stuff?  We thought we would set out to more clearly define how we use basketball terminology to define our products today.

1930's backstop

The Backstop:

When the first peach baskets were hung for the game of basketball, they were attached to whatever surface was avialble for mounting.  Some were hung from balconies and others on poles.  As the game expanded and more spaces were adapted for basketball, it quickly became necessary to create structures that could support the hoop-shaped device that served as the goal.  The term adopted for this support structure was the “backstop.”

By the 1930’s, suspended “backstops” had become formalized in design and were even engineered to fold to the ceiling.  Below is a “hoistaway” forward folding backstop from the 1930’s.

Today, the term “backstop” is often used to refer to the entire basketball unit or system, even though its roots lie in the structure that was originally designed to support the backboard and goal.  (More on the backboard and goal next.)

Glass Backboard 1938

The Backboard:

When the game of basketball started, the backboard was not even a designed piece of the equipment.  In fact, “backboards” were first created out of wood or chicken wire to keep fans—and players from climbing into the balconies and knocking the ball away from the goal.  As the game progressed, the backboard became an integral piece of equipment that allowed players to “bank” the ball into the goal.  For many years, backboards were indeed referred to as the “bank.”  Below is one of our first glass “bank” designs in 1939.  The bottom potion of the glass bank was made of wood for mounting the goal.  Some glass backboard designs date back as far as the early 1900’s.

The term “backboard” is now more commonly used to refer to the rectangular or fan-shaped device that sits behind the basketball goal.

 lambert one piece

 The Goal:

 Basketball could not become a sport without first creating a goal in which points could be scored.  The solution, as we all know, was a peach basket.  This explains why the term “basket” is still frequently used to refer to the basketball goal.  Other common words used in place of goal include “hoop” (describing the shape of the goal) and “rim” (describing the formed metal ring through which the ball passes.)

In our mind, the official term has always been “goal.”  Basketball goals of the past were much different than the goals manufactured today.  Today, goals are able to flex or “break away” when a player executes a slam dunk.  Long ago, dunking was not a part of the game and the goals remained rigidly fixed to the backboard.   Shown above is the Lambert Official One-Piece Goal—a goal that was engineered in collaboration with Ward “Piggy” Lambert, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who coached at Purdue University between 1916 and 1946 .










Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s