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Basketball Origins

Basketball Activism

Activism & Sports Science



We think of basketball as a sport, but there is lots of science involved. This website will help you investigate ways to make yourself a better athlete, and learn how to measure skills like "explosiveness" and "agility" by constructing your own lab equipment and simulations. The pathway to a STEM career isn't just things like physics and chemistry: hybrid disciplines like ergonomics, sports analytics and medical rehabilitation are exciting ways to combine your interest in atheletics with science, math, technology and health.






Basketball Origins

The game of basketball was created in December 1891, when Dr. James Naismith at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts was looking for an indoor activity. He wrote a set of rules and nailed a peach basket 10 feet above the gym floor. The first official game was played in the YMCA gym in Albany, New York, in 1892. John Kirkland Clark, who attended high school in New York, brought the game with him to Harvard in 1900. Ironically it was at Harvard, a racially restricted, elite institution, where basketball entered the black community.






Basketball Activism


Basketball connects with political activism today in campaigns such as the Miami Heat's "Justice for Trayvon Martin". But it has been mixed with social justice since its origins. In 1904, Washington DC gym teacher Edwin Henderson attended a summer training workshop at Harvard. He brought a new game, basketball, back to DC as as a civil rights tool to get his black students into college. By 1912 "black five" basketball teams had emerged in many major cities. Integration in the 1950s intersected with the civil rights movement: famous sports figures such as Celtics center Bill Russell and UNC coach Dean Smith took on Jim Crow both on and off the basketball courts. The tradition continues today: for example Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, famed for scoring more points in NBA history than any player, was recently appointed a cultural ambassador by Hilary Clinton; authored a book for children on black inventors, and has been a galvinizing voice in Time Magazine and other venus on racial conflicts in Ferguson and elsewhere.





Activism & Sports Science

UNC coach Dean Smith was an innovator in sports activism, using his basketball fame to protest against racism, homophobia, and even nuclear weapons. But he was also an innovator in the use of statistics. A math major in college; as a coach he began collecting the number of points scored per possession, which became the basis for basketball analytics.



A "heat map" such as the above, for example, can reveal hidden patterns. Other sciences used in basketball include ergonomics for determining which muscles need strengthening, histology for injury analysis, and even computer science for creating new measurement tools.