(Reuters) - The 125th anniversary of the birth of basketball will be celebrated on Wednesday. Here are seven significant developments in the sport’s history.
In 1992, global interest in basketball soared as a star-laden U.S. team of NBA players arrived at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona and cruised to a gold medal with what is considered the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport.
Bringing together such high caliber players like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson on one team proved wildly popular and since their unbeaten run at the Games the number of international players in the NBA has continued to rise.
The game of basketball ultimately became an international phenomenon when Jordan arrived on the scene and thrilled fans in arenas across the league with his incredible leaping ability and hang time, earning him the nickname “Air Jordan.”
With basketball at a crossroads in the United States and tepid interest aboard, Jordan helped turn that around with his signature line of shoes, apparel, unique logo and resounding success on the court that made him a huge commercial hit and one of the most recognised Americans in the world.
Pace of play sometimes slowed to a crawl in the early years when a team holding a lead could pass the ball endlessly to kill time off the game clock. An extreme NBA example came in 1950 when the Fort Wayne Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19–18.
In 1954, the Syracuse Nationals tried a 24-second timer at a scrimmage, figuring 60 shots a team made for an enjoyable game and dividing 120 into 48 minutes of play. The NBA adopted the 24-second clock from the 1954-55 season.
At the height of the civil-rights era in 1966 the Texas Western Miners became the first team with an all-black starting lineup to win a national title in U.S. men’s college basketball.
The Miners, who defeated an all-white Kentucky team, were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 and their story inspired the book and film ‘Glory Road,’ which explores racism, discrimination, and student athletics.
Giants of the Game
Wilt Chamberlain, a nearly unstoppable force who possessed the height and reach to block shots, capture rebounds, and score nearly at will, and rival Bill Russell, a defensive wizard who led the Boston Celtics to eight consecutive NBA titles from 1959-1966, opened doors for a new, athletic era of ‘big men’.
Wilt “the Stilt” remains the only player to score 100 points in a single NBA game - a record most experts feel will never be broken - and his sheer dominance forced the league into several rules that would limit the effect a centre can have on a game.
The towering centre triggered NBA-mania in China when he was selected first overall by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 draft and is widely considered responsible for basketball’s growth and popularity in his homeland.
He quickly became a national icon and a game featuring Yao against fellow Chinese player Yi Jianlian in 2007 in China drew 200 million television viewers across the country in one of the most watched games in NBA history.
Wizard of Westwood
Peerless U.S. college basketball coach John Wooden became known as the “Wizard of Westwood” while leading the University of California, Los Angeles to a record 10 national championships while setting the gold standard as a coach and leader.
Under Wooden, considered one of the greatest coaches of any type in U.S. sports history, UCLA once won a record 88 straight games from 1971 to 1974.
Reporting by Frank Pingue; Additional reporting by Larry Fine, Mark Lamport-Stokes and Jahmal Corner