Basketball Facts
Basketball Facts

91 Interesting Basketball Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 21, 2017Updated August 15, 2019
  • Canadian James Naismith (1861–1939)—a physical education teacher from Springfield, MA—invented the game of basketball in 1891 when he was looking for ways to keep his gym class busy on a rainy day.[6]
  • In the early 1900s, basketball players played in cages of chicken wire and mesh to keep players from falling into spectator seats. Players would often get injured during the intense games.[11]
  • Originally, two teams of 9 players made up a basketball game, a number that was based on the standard number of players on a baseball team. Later, the teams were reduced to 5 players on the court.[10]
  • During a 1977 court fight between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, forward Kermit Washington nearly fatally punched forward Rudy Tomjanovich. “The Punch,” as it has been called, dislocated Tomjanovich’s jaw and caused spinal fluid to leak from his brain. He recalled tasting the fluid in his mouth.[17]
  • Known as the most infamous brawl in NBA history, the Pacers-Piston altercation (also known as “Malice in the Palace”) on November 19, 2004, was a massive fight that involved both players and spectators. The NBA suspended 9 players, for a total of $11 million in lost salaries. Five fans also received criminal charges and were banned from Piston home games for life.[17]
  • Interesting History of Basketball Fact
    The first basketball hoops were peach baskets with the bottom intact
  • The first basketball hoops were peach baskets with the bottom intact. Officials had to get the ball out after each basket. The first string nets were used in the early 1900s.[6]
  • After basketball player Latrell Sprewell attacked and choked coach P.J. Carlesimo in 1997, he received a 68-game suspension, the second longest in the history of the NBA. Sprewell choked Carlesimo for about 15 seconds before other players pulled him off.[19]
  • Early basketball hoops were nailed to the mezzanine balcony of the court. After spectators in the balcony continually interfered with shots, the backboard was invented.[14]
  • Basketball incorporated rules from a children’s game called “Duck on a Rock,” in which a stone was placed on an elevated object, such as a tree stump, with a player guarding it. Other players would try to knock the stone off by throwing “ducks” or rocks.[6]
  • Early basketball games used soccer balls (1891–1950s). Players would rub coal dust on their hands to grip the ball better.[13]
  • Initially, dribbling was not a large part of the game. Players would catch the ball, be allowed a few steps to slow down, stop, and then throw the ball from that spot. Once the modern basketball was invented in the 1950s, dribbling became a crucial part of the game.[13]
  • The Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League merged on August 5, 1976, creating the National Basketball Association (NBA).[10]
  • In a horrifying injury during a 2006 college basketball tournament game, Villanova player Allen Ray’s eye popped out after a Pittsburgh player injured it. Doctors were able to pop the eye back in, and he regained his vision.[18]
  • The International Basketball Federation (IBF) requires that a basketball bounces between 3.9 feet and 4.6 feet, measured from the top of the ball. The ball must reach this height when dropped from 5.9 feet.[4]
  • Interesting  Ron Artest Fact
    Ron Artest legally changed his name to "Metta World Peace" in September 2011.
  • The record for the longest ever NBA suspension goes to Ron Artest, a player for the Indiana Pacers. During the 2004 Pistons-Pacers brawl, he charged the stands and heaved punches at fans after a fan threw a cup at him. He was suspended for 73 games as well as 13 playoff games. He also lost $7 million in salary.[19]
  • During a basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1997, the Chicago Bulls’ Dennis Rodman got tangled up with a cameraman while battling for a rebound. While the cameraman was still lying on the court after the collision, Rodman kicked the cameraman so hard that he had to be carried off on a stretcher. Rodman was suspended for 11 games and lost $1 million in salary.[19]
  • A warm basketball is bouncier than a cold one because the molecules in the warm ball hit its inside surface at a higher speed.[14]
  • In the 2010–2011 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers set a league record by losing 26 basketball games in a row.[10]
  • The basketball record for the biggest margin of a win goes to the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Miami Heat on December 17, 1991, when they demolished the Heat 148–80.[10]
  • The Sacramento Kings retired the number 6 to honor their basketball fans, “the Sixth Man.”[10]
  • Founded in 1923, the Sacramento Kings are the oldest franchise in the NBA. The second oldest is the Detroit Pistons, founded in 1941.[10]
  • FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball Amateur) is the organization that governs basketball’s international competition.[10]
  • The NBA All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium set a record for the most-attended basketball game ever, with a spectator audience of 108,713 people.[10]
  • Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz holds the record for the most free throws at 9,787 in his career.[10]
  • Lynette Woodward (1959– ) was the first female Globetrotter basketball team player.[10]
  • NBA player Tom Meschery spent six years as a child in a Japanese concentration camp near Tokyo during World War II.[10]
  • Before 1923, basketball teams could choose which player would shoot a free throw after a foul rather than the player who was fouled.[6]
  • Before the NBA, pro basketball was dominated by three independent teams: the Buffalo Germans during the 1910s, the original Celtics (of New York) during the 1920s, and the Harlem Renaissance Big Fives (Rens) during the 1930s.[11]
  • Adidas manufactures all the NBA uniforms.[14]
  • Amazing Basketball Facts
    Jerry West played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers
  • The player silhouetted in the NBA logo is former all-star Jerry West, who played with the Los Angeles Lakers (1960–1974).[10]
  • The smallest city that has an NBA franchise is Salt Lake City.[10]
  • The average NBA player weighs 220 pounds and uses about 760 calories during a 48-minute game.[13]
  • After Michael Jordon scored 63 points in a playoff game against Larry Bird’s Celtics in his second pro year, Bird described Jordan as “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”[11]
  • The average height of all NBA players is just under 67 inches for the men and just over 57 inches for women.[13]
  • Kobe Bryant was the youngest player to start an NBA game at just 18.5 years old.[10]
  • In the 1970s the International Olympic Committee added women’s basketball as a medal sport, and it was quite popular at the 1976 Olympics.[12]
  • While the NBA has 12-minute quarters, the WNBA has 10-minute quarters. Additionally, the women’s basketball is 28.5 inches around, which is an inch smaller in diameter than the men’s basketball.[14]
  • On March 21, 1893, the first women’s collegiate basketball game was played at Smith College in Northampton, MA. At the time, it was considered inappropriate for men to watch women playing sports, so all the doors to the gym were locked.[10]
  • The Harlem Globetrotters have been entertaining fans since they were formed in 1926. This popular team has played more than 20,000 games in 118 countries as of 2008. They are not part of the NBA.[10]
  • No other sport has more injuries than basketball, and the most common basketball injury is a sprained ankle. However, knee inflammation is the injury that causes players to miss the most games.[14]
  • All NBA courts are made of maple wood, which is strong but also flexible, to help players jump and land safely.[14]
  • NBA players run as much as four miles during a game.[13]
  • Earl Lloyd along with Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Chuck Cooper were the first African Americans to play in the NBA. Lloyd logged the first minutes of action when he played on October 31, 1950, for the Washington Capitols.[10]
  • Wang Zhizhi—not Yao Ming—was the first Chinese player to compete in the NBA. He was a 7′0″ center and played his first NBA game for the Dallas Mavericks in the 2000–01 season.[4]
  • John Stockton is the NBA’s all-time leader it total assists with 15,806 and total steals with 3,265. Stockton was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.[10]
  • Some basketball players exaggerate their fall after being hit to convince referees they were fouled. This action is commonly called a “flop.”[14]
  • Random Basketball Facts
    An exaggerated foul is called a “flop"

  • The longest game in NBA history occurred on January 6, 1951. The Indianapolis Olympians beat the Rochester Royals 75–73 in six overtimes.[10]
  • The highest-scoring game in NBA history occurred on December 13, 1983, when the Detroit Pistons defeated the Denver Nuggets 186–184 in triple overtime.[10]
  • The first woman to dunk in a professional basketball game was all-star center Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks. She did a one-handed jam in the first half against the Miami Sol on July 30, 2002.[10]
  • Harlem Globetrotter Corey “Thunder” Law shattered the Guinness World Record for the longest successful basketball shot at 109 feet 9 inches. He also set the record for the longest basketball shot blindfolded at 69 feet 6 inches. He also made the farthest shot backwards, at 82 feet 2 inches.[16]
  • The most rebounds ever in an NBA game came December 24, 1960, when the Boston Celtics had 109 against Detroit.[10]
  • The Chicago Bulls won an all-time record 72 games in the 1995-1996 season on their way to their 4th NBA title, making them arguably the greatest NBA championship team of all time.[10]
  • America’s basketball dominance globally has led some researchers to question whether basketball really is a global game. They cite that America’s overpowering success on the basketball court represents a failure of basketball on a global level.[15]
  • One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.

    - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • The Boston Celtics have won the most NBA championships with 17, including 7 straight wins from 1960–1966.[10]
  • The player with the most scores in a career is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He played 20 seasons in the NBA, scoring 38,387 points.[10]
  • Basketball shorts were short until 1984, when Michael Jordan asked for longer ones.[4]
  • Michael Jordan has won the most scoring titles, with ten. Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain are the only players to have won seven consecutive scoring titles.[10]
  • Wilt Chamberlain holds the record for the basketball player with the most points in a single game. He scored 100 points against New York.[11]
  • One of the more superstitious basketball players is Jason Terry. Every night before a game, he sleeps in the shorts of the team is about to play next. Terry won an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.[4]
  • In 2006, the NBA set an age limit so that a player now must be 19 in the calendar year of the NBA draft—which means most players have to spend at least one year in college or play overseas.[4]
  • Ray Allen is the best 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA, having made 2,973 3-point shots.[10]
  • Robert Parrish played more games and seasons than any other player in NBA history. Over his 21-year career (1976-1997), he played in 1,611 games.[10]
  • The recommended air pressure for most basketballs is between 7 and 9 pounds per square inch (PSI). The NBA requires all game balls to be inflated between 7.3 and 8.5 PSI. WNBA balls have an air pressure limit of 9 PSI.[14]
  • The average NBA player can jump about 28 inches off the ground.[14]
  • Interesting Abdul-Jabbar Fact
    Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time leading scorer in the NBA
  • The LA Lakers won 33 straight games from November 5, 1971, through January 9, 1972, the longest winning streak in NBA history. They lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, which were then led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.[10]
  • The NBA has banned certain equipment, such as Concept 1 propulsion shoes. These shoe work by compressing a pad down when a player prepares to jump. The compression stores some of the downward force, which is then released as the player starts to jump, pushing the player a little higher.[14]
  • In 2010, NBA uniforms were 30% lighter than in past years and dried twice as fast as previous ones.[14]
  • The shot clock was invented by Danny Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals, during the 1953–54 season to help speed up the game. It has been cited as the “most important event in the NBA.”[6]
  • One of the biggest scoreboards in the NBA is found in the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. It weighs over 23 tons, is 31 feet x 35 feet, and costs almost $4 million.[14]
  • The smallest person to ever play in the NBA is Muggsy Bogues at 5′3″. He earned the name “Muggsy” for his scrappy and aggressive defense.[5]
  • Basketball became part of the Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, in 1936.[6]
  • Sixty percent of the NBA’s former players are broke and bankrupt within 5 years of retiring from the league.[12]
  • Calvin Murphy holds the record for the NBA player with the most kids. He fathered 14 kids with 9 different women.[1]
  • Rasheed Abdul “Sheed” Wallace (1974– ) holds the NBA record in technical fouls with 317.[7]
  • The top MLB players made an average salary of $16.4 million during the 2015 season. The average salary among the top NBA players was $11.9 million.[3]
  • The world record for the highest basketball shot is 415 feet high. In 2015, an Australian trick shot team stood atop the Gordon Dam in Tasmania and threw a basketball through a hoop below.[2]
  • There are 122 “pebbles,” or bumps, per inch on a Spalding basketball.[14]
  • Spalding has made official NBA basketballs since 1984.[14]
  • Crazy Basketball Facts
    The best-selling basketball shoe of all time is Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan
  • The best-selling basketball shoe of all time is Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan. Because they were initially banned by the NBA, Michael Jordan was fined for wearing them. He kept wearing them and merely paid the fine each game. Eventually, the NBA dropped the rule.[8]
  • The tallest pro basketball player on earth is Paul Sturgess at 7′8″. He plays for the Texas Legends in the NBA D League.[10]
  • The top 10 tallest basketball players in the history of NBA are 1) Gheorghe Muresan, 7′7″; 2) Manute Bol, 7′7″; 3) Shawn Bradley, 7′6″; 4) Yao Ming 7′6″; 5) Slavko Vraneš, 7′6″; 6) Pavel Podkolzin, 7′5″; 7) Chuck Nevit, 7′5″; 8) Mark Eaton, 7′4″; 9) Rik Smits, 7′4″; and 10) Ralph Lee Sampson, 7′4″.[10]
  • The two greatest individual rivalries in NBA history were between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.[11]
  • The NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers are named for that city’s patriotic past; the Declaration of Independence was signed there in 1776.[10]
  • At 6′9″, Magic Johnson was the tallest point guard in NBA history. Before him, no tall player had possessed the passing skills needed to succeed in the position.[4]
  • Red Auerbach was one of the greatest coaches in the NBA and was known for lighting up a cigar after a key victory. He led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA titles in a 10-year span.[10]
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Massachusetts. In contrast to baseball and football halls of fame, it honors both American and international professionals.[6]
  • Citing concerns about shattered backboards, the NCAA banned dunking in 1967 for 10 years. Technology has now made backboards 4–5 times stronger than previous boards. Additionally, breakaway rims also prevent shattered boards.[4]
  • Interesting History of Basketball Facts
    The first women’s basketball uniforms were called “bloomer suits"
  • The first women’s basketball uniforms were called “bloomer suits.” Designed to cover the entire body, they came with stockings that covered the lower legs.[6]
  • According to ESPN, the top 10 female basketball of all time are 1) Diana Taurasi, 2) Lisa Leslie, 3) Cynthia Cooper, 4) Cheryl Miller, 5) Sheryl Swoopes, 6) Tina Thompson, 7) Lauren Jackson, 8) Tamika Catchings, 9) Maya Moore, and 10) Ann Meyers.[20]
  • One of the NBA’s top scorers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made only one 3-point shot his entire 20-year career.[10]
  • On September 25, 2000, Paul Pierce (1977– ) of the Boston Celtics was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back and had a bottle smashed over his head during a fight. Even after undergoing lung surgery, he made a full recovery and continued to play basketball.[9]

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