Dr. James Naismith and the Invention of the Sport of Basketball

Categories: BasketballSports

From the time basketball was invented, some one hundred years ago, only recently there has become a professional league for women. The idea for a Womens National Basketball Association (WNBA) was introduced to the NBA Board of Governors on April 24, 1996. The NBA Board of Governors approved the idea and the WNBA was set to commence in June of 1997. The twenty-nine member teams of the National Basketball Association own the League. They eventually decided that the WNBA season would be played in the summer when the sports calendar was less crowded.

With less than fifteen months until the first tip-off, the league had many things to decide before hand. They had to find a station, or stations, to broadcast the events. One of the reasons they decided to make the season during the summer was because they could televise the games live and on prime time TV. The league announced its broadcast partnerships with NBC, ESPN, and Lifetime, even before a player was signed.

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The first inugural season produced more than fifty million viewers over the three networks. But in the second and third seasons, almost one million viewers watched the WNBA per week.

Now they had the broadcast partnerships, and next they needed a staff and players. Val Ackerman joined the NBA in 1988 as a staff attorney and served as Special Assistant to Commissioner David Stern from 1990 to 1992. She was named Director of Business Affairs in 1992 and Vice President of Business Affairs in 1994. Ackerman, became the first President of the WNBA in 1996.

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Ackerman signed Sheryl Swoops on October 22, 1996 as the first ever player in WNBA history. Rebecca Lobo joined the league the very next day followed by many more including Lisa Leslie. On January 16, 1997, the first sixteen players were assigned to teams. On February 27, 1997 an Elite Draft added two more players to each roster, making the total four.

It was announced that eight teams in two conferences would start the inaugural season. The western conference consisted of the Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs and Utah Starzz. The eastern conference was comprised of the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Huston Comets and the New York Liberty. The WNBA would expand from eight teams to sixteen over the next three years.

Tom OGrady, director of creative services for the NBA and the WNBA, designs the team names and logos. He takes his staff of fifteen and does research on the region in which the team is from. They find out everything they can on the citys history, weather, and animals in the region. From there they pull out 70-80 names and pass them to the teams committee. The committee then reduces the large number down to about six or seven names and then passes them along to the legal department, to conform with the copyright laws. They then create between ten and fifteen black and white sketches, once the name is finalized. OGrady stressed the importance of integrating the colors of the NBA into the WNBAS logos. Since the WNBA plays on the same courts and is in the same market as the NBA, they want the colors to be united. He also wanted to find some way to set the WNBA apart from the NBA. So he has integrated the WNBA white and orange Spalding basketball, into each teams logo with the exception of three teams. This particular trademark helps brand the product better using the familiarity factor. From afar, if we would be able to see the ball in the logo, we would recognize this as being the WNBA.

The creation of the league logo came from about fifty different designs. Each logo varied from the next in slightly different ways. The size of the hips, or a shoe in a different place, made the decision making tough. But in the end, the logo was based on three different poses from various players.

Spalding teamed up with the WNBA to create a ball that would catch the eye, and not be too disturbing at the same time. They wanted something traditional, yet something new. They had many balls made with many different colors, and tried each of them out at Madison Square Garden. The one that caught their eye was of course, the alternating orange and white.

Now on to the uniforms. Although the WNBA was thinking creative, they got more than they bargained for when they hired designers to make the uniforms. They came up with everything from dresses and skirts to jumpers. After several designs, on May 21, 1997, the WNBA unveiled the team uniforms. They consisted of two different shorts and three different jerseys, each designed towards the female body. We should be thankful!

The WNBA adopted most of the rules used by the NCAA, thus making the transition from college to pros easier for the women. They use the 19-foot, 9-inch three-point line, a 30-second shot clock, two 20-minute halves, eleven player rosters and a collegiate regulation size basketball. The NBA uses a bigger three-point line, basketball, has larger teams, and a longer game, but they have a shorter shot clock.

Everything is in place from the logos down to the rules; it was now time to start the season. The WNBA inaugural season began on June 21, 1997 with the New York Liberty taking on the Los Angeles Sparks at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. Sparks guard, Penny Toler scored the first basket in WNBA history, but the sparks fell short to Liberty 67-57.

The Houston Comets led wire-to-wire, knocking off the New York Liberty 65-51 to claim the first WNBA Championship in 1997. Cynthia Cooper was named the game’s MVP with a 25-point effort. The Comets would continue their dominance in the league, winning 4 straight WNBA Championships. But the Los Angeles Sparks would break their record, by winning their first WNBA championship in 2001.

On July 14, 1999, two years after the start of the league, the WNBA held the first All-Star game at Madison Square Garden. The Western Conference all-stars led by the games Most Valuable Player and Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie, defeated the Eastern Conference by a score of 79-61. The birth of this new league has created a bright addition to womens sports. The organization has many ways for the fans to get involved with the teams. The WNBA was the first major sports league to provide a complete live cybercast of a draft exclusively over the Internet. The league website, WNBA.com, is continuously rising, as a favorite among the fans to get all the up-to-date info on the happenings in the WNBA.

The WNBAs focus has two initiatives: WNBA Be Active, and the WNBA Breast Health Initiative. WNBA Be Active is a grassroots program that targets boys and girls ages 11-14 with the goal of encouraging them to be physically active. The WNBA has a partnership with the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO), to draw national attention to the issue of breast cancer. Sears has recently teamed up with the duo to offer more exciting events to raise money. They have a celebrity game called, Shoot for Breast Health where celebrities from movies, television, and music compete to raise money for the NABCO. The players wear pink jerseys, and play with a pink and white WNBA basketball. Each player/celebrity photographed with the special pink and white ball, Sears donates $1,000 to the NABCO. Just one of the many things the WNBA does to get the community involved.

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Dr. James Naismith and the Invention of the Sport of Basketball. (2022, Nov 18). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/dr-james-naismith-and-the-invention-of-the-sport-of-basketball-essay

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