When you look at US citizens, there are many sports that seem to be much more popular than others. They, of course, will cost you a little more to attend, but the excitement of being there will make the cost well worth it. The most popular sports in the US today, being watched live and on screens, are:
1. Baseball is one of the top sports being played in the US. Having been played in the US the longest, baseball draws thousands of fans to ball fields each year. There isn’t just professional baseball to keep many Americans busy, though. Parents everywhere like watching their children learn and play the game.
2. Football began as a college sport in the US in the mid-1800s. Football is truly the “American Sport,” since it is played just in the US. It has developed from being played just in college to having professional teams and being played by young people in both elementary and high schools.
3. Basketball is a popular sport around the globe. The number of people around the world playing basketball can be around 500 million. Basketball is one of the professional sports in the US to welcome foreign players onto teams, with numerous players of professional basketball being recruited from other countries and brought to the US to play.
4. Hockey is one of the newer sports increasing in popularity with Americans. It did not originate in the US, but it has found its way into our sporting life and has risen as one of the quickest growing sports. Ice hockey is the most popular form of this sport, with street hockey increasing popularity with older kids.
You may be asking “Where is golf and soccer on this list?” Although both sports are increasing in popularity, neither one meets the level of fans as the sports listed above.
I was introduced to basketball at a very young age. My brother, who is 7 years my senior, worshipped Michael Jordan. He would put up posters of Jordan all over the house, drop hints about how happy he would be if someone would give him the latest Air Jordans for his birthday, and gush about his idol’s latest achievement. Day and night he would prattle on and on about how he would someday play for the NBA, and finally my father, possibly tired of my brother’s relentless ramblings, bought a basketball hoop and attached it to the wall atop our garage.
I was probably 5 back then, and watching my brother come home from school daily and practice shooting orange balls into the hoop set pretty high off the ground (I was very short as a child) gave me a rough idea of the sport.
The game of basketball was created by Dr. James Naismith, who was a Presbyterian minister, and a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School (now known as Springfield College) in the United States. One day, he was tasked to prepare an indoor game that was to be an ‘athletic distraction’ for the students at the School for Christian Workers. He tried and failed to modify outdoor games such as soccer and lacrosse to be played indoors. Then, he remembered a game played during his youth called ‘duck-on-a-rock’, which involved players to knock a ‘duck’ – which was placed on top of a large rock – by throwing smaller rocks at it. The game required accuracy and concentration, and so Dr. Naismith decided it would be a perfect fit for the students.
Dr. Naismith’s version of basketball differed greatly from the game that we know and love today. Originally, the game was played with a soccer ball, and participants of the game had to throw it into two peach baskets that still had their bottoms. The baskets were placed approximately 10 feet off the ground, and each time a score was made, players had to poke the basket with a long rod to get the ball out. Back then, the court was half the size of the courts today, and dribbling was disallowed.
The game was well-received, and it soon became an instant hit. In 1936, for the very first time, basketball was included in the Olympic Games.
Like all sports and games, basketball has its unique set of rules. First, let us cover the basics.
Basketball is a team sport. There are two teams in every game, and five players in every team. Basketball coaches also bring along five additional players in case anyone on the playing team gets injured or banned from resuming the game.
Each player is assigned his own role in the game. This role is usually established based on the player’s height. The tallest in the team plays the role of the ‘center’. The ones of medium height play the ‘forwards’ (‘small forward’ or ‘power forward’), and the shortest play the ‘guards’ (‘point guard’ or ‘shooting guard’).
The team that has the ball is referred to as the ‘offensive team’, while the other is called the ‘defensive team’.
Scores are awarded when a player manages to throw a ball into and through the basket. Different scores are awarded depending on where the shooter was when he made the shot. If he was outside the three-point line, the team would be awarded 3 points. If not, the shot would be worth 2 points. If a player shoots from the free throw line, his team would only be awarded 1 point.
There are, of course, several things to take note of to ensure one’s team does not make a ‘foul’. There are the ways to categorize a ‘foul’:
Personal foul. Any type of illegal physical contact is considered a personal foul. This can include any type of the following:
Illegal pick/screen – when a player intentionally sticks out a limb and makes physical contact with a player from the opposing team to block the path of the opposing team’s player
Personal fouls are awarded penalties in the form of free throws.
This happens when a player is pushed or ran over by a player from the opposing team. The ball is given to the team to which the foul was committed.
This occurs when a player from the team did not position himself in time to prevent his opponent from throwing the ball, thus making illegal personal contact.
Flagrant foul. A flagrant foul is violent contact with a player from the opposing team.
Intentional foul. An intentional foul is when a player makes physical contact with his opponent without a clear effort to steal the ball.
Technical foul. When a player (or even the coach of the team) uses foul language, obscenities, impolite gestures, or even argue, a technical foul has been committed.
If a player has committed 5 fouls, then he can no longer be part of the game and must leave the court immediately.
Basketball players should also know not to break the rules of the game, otherwise they would be committing a violation. These are some examples:
Walking/Traveling. The action of taking more than 2 step without dribbling the ball is called walking or traveling. This is not allowed in the game.
Carrying/Palming. This occurs when a player resumes dribbling after letting the ball lie in one or both hands. Players must also keep his hands atop the ball at all times.
Double dribble. A player that momentarily stops dribbling the ball before doing so again, or dribbling the ball with both hands, has committed a double dribble violation. It is similar to carrying/palming.
Held ball. A held ball is when players of opposing teams have their hands firmly on the ball. The referee then must determine to which team the ball belongs.
A defensive player is allowed to block the ball while it is making its way to the basket, and doing so is known as ‘goaltending’. However, an offensive player is prohibited from doing so.
Backcourt violation. When the offensive team has made its way across the mid-court line with the ball, they are not allowed to go back across the line (while they still have the ball). Otherwise, they would be committing a backcourt violation.
Time restrictions. Players are generally allowed to hold the ball for five seconds before having to pass it on to their teammates.
Of course, basketball would be nothing without its superstars popularizing the game.
As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, Michael Jordan – or MJ for short – is a celebrated basketball player. He played for 15 seasons in the NBA (National Basketball Association). From 1984 to 1993 and from 1995 to 1998, he played for the Chicago Bulls, before joining the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003. He has won the NBA championships six times, the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award six times (thus setting a record), the NBA Most Valuable Player Award five times, and was an NBA All-Star fourteen times. And these are just a few examples. Michael Jordan may be retired, but his legacy still lives on.
Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson Jr. is another basketball superstar. He was point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and played in the NBA for 13 seasons. He managed to secure the NBA championships five times, the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award and the NBA Most Valuable Player award three times respectively, and became an NBA All-Star twelve times. Like Jordan, he is retired.
Kobe Bryant is also a household name, who is presently playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. So far, he has won the NBA championships five times, won the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player twice, the NBA Most Valuable Player once, and is a seventeen-time NBA All-Star.
Basketball is not a game created for the males. There are top female basketball players as well.
Maya Moore plays forward for the Minnesota Lynx. At 26 years of age, she has already won numerous awards and accolades. For example, in 2014, she won the WNBA (Women’s National basketball Association) Most Valuable Player award. She is a four-time WNBA All-Star, and won the WNBA All-Star Game MVP just this year.
Another female basketball player worth mentioning is Candace Parker (sister of former basketball player Anthony Parker). Like Maya Moore, she plays the position of forward. She has played for the Los Angeles Sparks since 2008. She was a two-time WNBA MVP, and a three-time WNBA All-Star, to say the least.
Without my brother’s nonstop ramblings about basketball and the antics of Bugs Bunny and gang in the hit movie Space Jam, I would probably never understand the appeal of the game. I would still probably think of it as a bunch of tall men or women fighting over an orange ball with a snakeskin-like texture. Now that I am able to understand the game a little better, I can see why basketball is one of the world’s most-played sport.