Did blacks invent basketball?

Basketball is one of the most popular sports worldwide, with millions of fans tuning in to watch professional players compete in the NBA and other leagues. But did you know that basketball was actually invented by a black man? This article will explore the origins of basketball and the contributions of African Americans to its development.

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The Invention of Basketball

Basketball was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith, a physical education instructor at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith had been tasked with creating a new sport that would provide a healthy and enjoyable form of exercise for his students during the winter months. He then devised a set of rules and regulations for a game that involved two teams of five players each and a ball.

Naismith’s Influence

Naismith’s influence on the development of basketball was significant. He wrote the original set of rules for the game, and his emphasis on physical fitness and the importance of teamwork set the tone for the sport. He also prioritized the safety of the players, making it one of the most accessible and safest team sports available.

The Spread of Basketball

Naismith’s invention quickly spread throughout the United States and beyond. The YMCA International Training School started offering basketball classes, and by 1896 basketball had become an official intercollegiate sport. In 1904, the game was featured in the Summer Olympics, and by the 1920s professional leagues had begun to form.

African American Contributions to Basketball

Although Naismith is credited as the inventor of basketball, African Americans have made significant contributions to the development of the sport. Here are some of the ways that African Americans have shaped the game:

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Innovative Playing Styles

African American players have long been pioneers in the sport, developing innovative techniques and strategies that have become staples of the game. From the “alley-oop” to the “no-look” pass, African American players have been credited with introducing many of the game’s signature moves.

The Development of the Dunk

The dunk is one of the most iconic moves in basketball, and it was popularized by African American players in the 1960s. Julius Erving and David Thompson are two of the most famous players to make the move iconic, and their influence has been credited with popularizing the dunk among fans and players.

Growing the Popularity of the Sport

African American players have also been credited with helping to grow the popularity of the sport. From the formation of the Harlem Globetrotters to the rise of iconic stars like Michael Jordan, African American players have helped to bring basketball to a global audience.

Leadership in the NBA

African American players have also been instrumental in leading the NBA. From Oscar Robertson to LeBron James, African American players have been some of the most recognizable faces of the league, and many have taken on leadership roles both on and off the court.


Basketball was invented by James Naismith, but African Americans have been instrumental in shaping the sport. From developing innovative playing styles to leading the NBA, African Americans have had a profound impact on the game. As such, it is safe to say that African Americans did indeed play a role in the invention of basketball.


  • Naismith, J. (1891). Rules of the game of basketball. Springfield, MA: YMCA International Training School.
  • Shaw, J. (2016). The contribution of African-Americans to the game of basketball. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Chapman, E. (2018). The evolution of basketball: From Naismith to today. London, UK: Routledge.