Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five active players each try to score points against one another by propelling a ball through a 10 feet (3 m) high hoop (the goal) under organized rules.  Basketball is one of the most popular and widely viewed sports in the world.  Points are scored by shooting the ball through the basket above; the team with more points at the end of the game wins.  The ball can be advanced on the court by bouncing it (dribbling) or passing it between teammates.  Disruptive physical contact (fouls) is not permitted and there are restrictions on how the ball can be handled (violations).  Through the history of basketball, basketball has developed to involve common techniques of shooting, passing and dribbling, as well as players' positions, and offensive and defensive structures.  Typically, the tallest members of a team will play center, the shortest member usually plays "point guard" while often the best ball handlers are guards. While competitive basketball is carefully regulated, numerous variations of basketball have developed for casual play. 

In some countries, basketball is also a popular spectator sport.  Through the history of basketball, while competitive basketball is primarily an indoor sport played on a basketball court less regulated variations have become exceedingly popular as an outdoor sport among both inner city and rural groups.  In early December 1891, Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physical education student and instructor at YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, sought a vigorous indoor game to keep his students occupied and at proper levels of fitness during the long New England winters to keep the students in shape so he invented basketball.  After rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, he wrote the basic rules of basketball and nailed a peach basket onto a 10-foot (3.05 m) elevated track and created basketball history.  In contrast with modern basketball nets, this peach basket retained its bottom, and balls had to be retrieved manually after each "basket" or point scored; this proved inefficient, however, so a hole was drilled into the bottom of the basket, allowing the balls to be poked out with a long dowel each time.  The peach baskets were used until 1906 when they were finally replaced by metal hoops with backboards.  A further change was soon made, so the ball merely passed through, paving the way for the game we know today.  A soccer ball was used to shoot goals.  Whenever a basket ball player got the ball in the basket, his team would gain a point. Whichever team got the most points won the game. 

Naismith's handwritten diaries, discovered by his granddaughter in early 2006, indicate that he was nervous about the new game he had invented, which incorporated rules from a children's game called "Duck on a Rock", as many had failed before it.  Naismith called the new game 'Basket Ball'.  The history of basketball began when the first official game was played in the YMCA gymnasium on January 20, 1892 with nine players and the game ended at 1-0 and the shot was made from 25 feet (7.6 m), with basketball court dimensions just half the size of a present-day Streetball or National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball court dimensions.  "Basket ball", the name suggested by one of Naismith's students, was popular from the beginning.  By 1897-1898 teams of five became standard. 

Women's basketball began in 1892 at Smith College when Senda Berenson, a physical education teacher, modified Naismith's rules of basketball for women.  Shortly after she was hired at Smith, she went to Naismith to learn more about the game.  Fascinated by the new sport and the values it could teach, she organized the first women’s collegiate basketball game on March 21, 1893, when her Smith freshmen and sophomores played against one another.  Her rules were first published in 1899 and two years later Berenson became the editor of A.G. Spalding’s first Women's Basketball Guide, which further spread her version of basketball for women. 

Basketball's early adherents were dispatched to YMCAs throughout the United States, and it quickly spread through the USA and Canada.  By 1895, it was well established at several women's high schools.  While the YMCA was responsible for initially developing and spreading the game, within a decade it discouraged the new sport, as rough play and rowdy crowds began to detract from the YMCA's primary mission. However, other amateur sports clubs, colleges, and professional clubs quickly filled the void.  In the years before World War I, the Amateur Athletic Union and the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (forerunner of the NCAA) vied for control over the rules of basketball.  The first pro league, the National Basketball League, was formed in 1898 to protect players from exploitation and to promote a less rough game.  This league only lasted 5 years.  By the 1950s, basketball had become a major college sport, thus having the way for a growth of interest in professional basketball.  In 1959, a basketball Hall of Fame was founded in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Its rosters include the names of great players, coaches, referees and people who have contributed significantly to the development of the game.

Basketball was originally played with an association football. The first balls made specifically for basketball were brown, and it was only in the late 1950s that Tony Hinkle, searching for a ball that would be more visible to players and spectators alike, introduced the orange ball that is now in common use.  Dribbling was not part of the original game except for the "bounce pass" to teammates.  Passing the ball was the primary means of ball movement.  Dribbling was eventually introduced but limited by the asymmetric shape of early balls.  Dribbling only became a major part of the game around the 1950s as manufacturing improved the ball shape and effectively re - invented basketball.

Basketball, netball, dodgeball, volleyball, and lacrosse are the only ball games which have been identified as being invented by North Americans.  Other ball games, such as baseball and Canadian football, have Commonwealth of Nations, European, Asian or African connections.  Although there is no direct evidence as yet that the idea of basketball came from the ancient Mesoamerican ballgame, knowledge of that game had been available for at least 50 years prior to Naismith's creation in the writings of John Lloyd Stephens and Alexander von Humboldt.  Stephen's works especially, which included drawings by Frederick Catherwood, were available at most educational institutions in the 19th century and also had wide popular circulation. 

Naismith was instrumental in establishing college basketball.  He coached at the University of Kansas for six years before handing the reins to renowned coach Forest 'Phog' Allen.  Naismith's disciple Amos Alonzo Stagg brought basketball to the University of Chicago, while Adolph Rupp, a student of Naismith's at Kansas, enjoyed great success as coach at the University of Kentucky.  In 1892, University of California and Miss Head's School, played the first women's inter-institutional game.  Berenson's freshmen played the sophomore class in the first women's collegiate basketball game at Smith College, March 21, 1893.  The same year, Mount Holyok and Sophie Newcomb College (coached by Clara Gregory Baer) women began playing basketball.  By 1895, the game had spread to colleges across the country, including Wellesley, Vassar and Bryn Mawr.  The first intercollegiate women's game was on April 4, 1896.  Stanford women played Berkeley, 9-on-9, ending in a 2-1 Stanford victory.  In 1901, colleges, including the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, University of Minnesota, the U.S. Naval Academy, the University of Utah and Yale University began sponsoring men's games.  By 1910, frequent injuries on the men's courts prompted President Roosevelt to suggest that college basketball form a governing body to protect a basketball player, resulting in the creation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS).  In 1910, that body would change its name to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). 

Teams abounded throughout the 1920s. There were hundreds of men's professional basketball teams in towns and cities all over the United States and little organization of the professional game.  Players jumped from team to team and teams played in armories and smoky dance halls.  Leagues came and went.  And barnstorming squads such as the Original Celtics and two all African American teams, the New York Renaissance Five ("Rens") and (still in existence as of 2006) the Harlem Globetrotters played up to two hundred games a year on their national tours.  Women's basketball was more structured.  In 1905, the National Women's Basketball Committee's Executive Committee on Basketball Rules was created by the American Physical Education Association.  These basketball rules called for six to nine players per team and 11 officials.  The International Women's Sports Federation (1924) included a women's basketball competition.  37 women's high school varsity basketball or state tournaments were held by 1925.  And in 1926, the Amateur Athletic Union backed the first national women's basketball championship, complete with men's rules.  The first women's AAU All-America team was chosen in 1929. Women's industrial leagues sprang up throughout the nation, producing the famous basketball player Babe Didrikson of the Golden Cyclones and the All American Red Heads Team who competed against men's teams, using men's basketball rules.  By 1938, the women's national championship changed from a three-court game to two-court game with six players per team. 

The first men's national championship tournament, the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball Tournament, which still exists as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament, was organized in 1937.  The first national championship for NCAA teams, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in New York, was organized in 1938; the NCAA national tournament would begin one year later. College basketball was rocked by gambling scandals from 1948 to 1951, when dozens of players from top teams were implicated in match fixing and point shaving.  Partially spurred by an association with cheating, the NIT lost support to the NCAA tournament.  Before widespread school district consolidation, most United States high schools were far smaller than their present day counterparts. 

During the first decades of the 20th century, basketball quickly became the ideal interscholastic sport due to its modest equipment and personnel requirements.  In the days before widespread television coverage of professional and college sports, the popularity of high school basketball was unrivaled in many parts of America.  Perhaps the most legendary of high school teams was Indiana's Franklin Wonder Five, which took the nation by storm during the 1920s, dominating Indiana basketball and earning national recognition.  Today virtually every high school in the United States fields a basketball team in varsity competition.  Basketball's popularity remains high, both in rural areas where they carry the identification of the entire community, as well as at some larger schools known for their basketball teams where many players go on to participate at higher levels of competition after graduation.  In the 2003–04 season, 1,002,797 boys and girls represented their schools in interscholastic basketball competition, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.  The states of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky are particularly well known for their residents' devotion to high school basketball, commonly called Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana; the critically acclaimed film Hoosiers shows high school basketball's depth of meaning to these rural communities. 

In 1946, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) was formed, organizing the top professional teams and leading to greater popularity of the professional game.  The first game was played in Toronto, Ontario, Canada between the Toronto Huskies and New York Knickerbockers on November 1, 1946.  Three seasons later, in 1949, the BAA became the National Basketball Association (NBA).  An upstart organization, the American Basketball Association, emerged in 1967 and briefly threatened the NBA's dominance until the rival leagues merged in 1976.  Today the NBA is the top professional basketball league in the world in terms of popularity, salaries, talent, and level of competition.   The NBA-backed Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) began in 1997.  Though it had an insecure opening season, several marquee players (Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Sue Bird among others) helped the league's popularity and level of competition.  Other professional women's basketball leagues in the United States, such as the American Basketball League (1996-1998), have folded in part because of the popularity of the WNBA.  In 2001, the NBA formed a developmental league, the NBDL.  The league currently has eight teams, but added seven more for the 2006-2007 season.  Basketball teams make up approximately 13 percent of franchised sports in the U.S, and an average of 17,558 spectators regularly attend basketball games in the NBA, with the Chicago Bulls (22,103), Detroit Pistons (22,076) and Cleveland Cavaliers (20,499) topping the popularity stakes.  The combined revenue from the 30 NBA teams is approximately $3.37 billion and rising.

The International Basketball Federation was formed in 1932 by eight founding nations: Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland.  At this time, the organization only oversaw amateur players.  Its acronym, in French, was thus FIBA; the "A" standing for amateur.  Basketball was first included in the Olympic Games in 1936, although a demonstration tournament was held in 1904.  The United States defeated Canada in the first final, played outdoors.  This competition has usually been dominated by the United States, whose team has won all but three titles, the first loss in a controversial final game in Munich in 1972 against the Soviet Union.  In 1950 the first FIBA World Championship for men was held in Argentina.  Three years later, the first FIBA World Championship for Women was held in Chile.  Women's basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976, with teams such as the Soviet Union, Brazil and Australia rivaling the American squads.  FIBA dropped the distinction between amateur and professional players in 1989, and in 1992, professional players played for the first time in the Olympic Games.  The United States' dominance continued with the introduction of their Dream Team.  However, with developing programs elsewhere, other national teams started to beat the United States.  A team made entirely of NBA players finished sixth in the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis, behind Yugoslavia, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand and Spain.  In the 2004 Athens Olympics, the United States suffered its first Olympic loss while using professional players, falling to Puerto Rico (in a 19-point loss) and Lithuania in group games, and being eliminated in the semifinals by Argentina.  It eventually won the bronze medal defeating Lithuania, finishing behind Argentina and Italy.  The all-tournament teams held in 2002 in Indianapolis and 2006 in Japan, demonstrate the globalization of the game equally dramatically. 
The strength of international Basketball is evident in the fact that three FIBA world championships were won (in order) by Serbia (Yugoslavia in 1998) and Spain.