This article is about the sport. For the ball used in the sport, see Basketball (ball). For other uses, see Basketball (disambiguation).
Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game, stands with the original equipment for the game, a peach basket and a ball.
|Highest governing body||FIBA|
|First played||December 21, 1891; 126 years ago (1891-12-21). Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.|
|Team members||5 per side|
|Mixed gender||Yes, separate competitions|
|Venue||Indoor court (mainly) or outdoor court (Streetball)|
|Glossary||Glossary of basketball|
|Country or region||Worldwide|
|Olympic||Yes, demonstrated in the 1904 and 1924 Summer Olympics|
Part of the Summer Olympic program since 1936
Basketball is a limited-contact sport played on a rectangular court. While most often played as a team sport with five players on each side, three-on-three, two-on-two, and one-on-one competitions are also common. The objective is to shoot a ball through a hoop 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter and 10 feet (3.048 m) high that is mounted to a backboard at each end of the court. The game was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith.
A team can score a field goal by shooting the ball through the basket being defended by the opposition team during regular play. A field goal scores three points for the shooting team if the player shoots from behind the three-point line, and two points if shot from in front of the line. A team can also score via free throws, which are worth one point, after the other team is assessed with certain fouls. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but additional time (overtime) is mandated when the score is tied at the end of regulation. The ball can be advanced on the court by passing it to a teammate, or by bouncing it while walking or running (dribbling). It is a violation to lift, or drag, one's pivot foot without dribbling the ball, to carry it, or to hold the ball with both hands then resume dribbling.
The game has many individual techniques for displaying skill—ball-handling, shooting, passing, dribbling, dunking, shot-blocking, and rebounding. Basketball teams generally have player positions, the tallest and strongest members of a team are called a center or power forward, while slightly shorter and more agile players are called small forward, and the shortest players or those who possess the best ball handling skills are called a point guard or shooting guard. The point guard directs the on court action of the team, implementing the coach's game plan, and managing the execution of offensive and defensive plays (player positioning).
Basketball is one of the world's most popular and widely viewed sports. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the most significant professional basketball league in the world in terms of popularity, salaries, talent, and level of competition. Outside North America, the top clubs from national leagues qualify to continental championships such as the Euroleague and FIBA Americas League. The FIBA Basketball World Cup and Men's Olympic Basketball Tournament are the major international events of the sport and attract top national teams from around the world. Each continent hosts regional competitions for national teams, like EuroBasket and FIBA AmeriCup.
The FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup and Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament feature top national teams from continental championships. The main North American league is the WNBA (NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championship is also popular), whereas strongest European clubs participate in the EuroLeague Women.
Main article: History of basketball
In early December 1891, Canadian Dr. James Naismith, a physical education professor and instructor at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School (YMCA) (today, Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, was trying to keep his gym class active on a rainy day. He sought a vigorous indoor game to keep his students occupied and at proper levels of fitness during the long New England winters. After rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, he wrote the basic rules and nailed a peach basket onto a 10-foot (3.0 m) elevated track. 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 the bottom of the basket was removed, allowing the balls to be poked out with a long dowel each time.
Basketball was originally played with a soccer ball. These round balls from "association football" were made, at the time, with a set of laces to close off the hole needed for inserting the inflatable bladder after the other sewn-together segments of the ball's cover had been flipped outside-in. These laces could cause bounce passes and dribbling to be unpredictable. Eventually a lace-free ball construction method was invented, and this change to the game was endorsed by Naismith. (Whereas in American football, the lace construction proved to be advantageous for gripping and remains to this day.) 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.
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. Whenever a person got the ball in the basket, his team would gain a point. Whichever team got the most points won the game. The baskets were originally nailed to the mezzanine balcony of the playing court, but this proved impractical when spectators in the balcony began to interfere with shots. The backboard was introduced to prevent this interference; it had the additional effect of allowing rebound shots. 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.
Frank Mahan, one of the players from the original first game, approached Naismith after the Christmas break, in early 1892, asking him what he intended to call his new game. Naismith replied that he hadn't thought of it because he had been focused on just getting the game started. Mahan suggested that it be called "Naismith ball", at which he laughed, saying that a name like that would kill any game. Mahan then said, "Why not call it basketball?" Naismith replied, "We have a basket and a ball, and it seems to me that would be a good name for it." The first official game was played in the YMCA gymnasium in Albany, New York, on January 20, 1892, with nine players. The game ended at 1–0; the shot was made from 25 feet (7.6 m), on a court just half the size of a present-day Streetball or National Basketball Association (NBA) court.
At the time, football was being played with 10 to a team (which was increased to 11). When winter weather got too icy to play football, teams were taken indoors, and it was convenient to have them split in half and play basketball with five on each side. By 1897–1898 teams of five became standard.
See also: College basketball
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 for the game. 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 five years.
Dr. James Naismith was instrumental in establishing college basketball. His colleague C.O. Beamis fielded the first college basketball team just a year after the Springfield YMCA game at the suburban PittsburghGeneva College. Naismith himself later coached at the University of Kansas for six years, before handing the reins to renowned coach Forrest "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. On February 9, 1895, the first intercollegiate 5-on-5 game was played at Hamline University between Hamline and the School of Agriculture, which was affiliated with the University of Minnesota. The School of Agriculture won in a 9–3 game.
In 1901, colleges, including the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, the University of Minnesota, the U.S. Naval Academy, the University of Colorado and Yale University began sponsoring men's games. In 1905, frequent injuries on the football field prompted PresidentTheodore Roosevelt to suggest that colleges form a governing body, 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). The first Canadian interuniversity basketball game was played at the YMCA in Kingston, Ontario on February 6, 1904, when McGill University visited Queen's University. McGill won 9–7 in overtime; the score was 7–7 at the end of regulation play, and a ten-minute overtime period settled the outcome. A good turnout of spectators watched the game.
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.
High school basketball
See also: List of U.S. high school basketball national player of the year awards
Before widespread school district consolidation, most American 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 2016–17 season, 980,673 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 communities.
There is currently no tournament to determine a national high school champion. The most serious effort was the National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament at the University of Chicago from 1917 to 1930. The event was organized by Amos Alonzo Stagg and sent invitations to state champion teams. The tournament started out as a mostly Midwest affair but grew. In 1929 it had 29 state champions. Faced with opposition from the National Federation of State High School Associations and North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that bore a threat of the schools losing their accreditation the last tournament was in 1930. The organizations said they were concerned that the tournament was being used to recruit professional players from the prep ranks. The tournament did not invite minority schools or private/parochial schools.
The National Catholic Interscholastic Basketball Tournament ran from 1924 to 1941 at Loyola University. The National Catholic Invitational Basketball Tournament from 1954 to 1978 played at a series of venues, including Catholic University, Georgetown and George Mason. The National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament for Black High Schools was held from 1929 to 1942 at Hampton Institute. The National Invitational Interscholastic Basketball Tournament was held from 1941 to 1967 starting out at Tuskegee Institute. Following a pause during World War II it resumed at Tennessee State College in Nashville. The basis for the champion dwindled after 1954 when Brown v. Board of Education began an integration of schools. The last tournaments were held at Alabama State College from 1964 to 1967.
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. Barnstorming squads such as the Original Celtics and two all-African American teams, the New York Renaissance Five ("Rens") and the (still existing) Harlem Globetrotters played up to two hundred games a year on their national tours.
In 1946, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) was formed. 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 merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). By the 1950s, basketball had become a major college sport, thus paving the way for a growth of interest in professional basketball. In 1959, a basketball hall of fame was founded in Springfield, Massachusetts, site of the first game. Its rosters include the names of great players, coaches, referees and people who have contributed significantly to the development of the game. The hall of fame has people who have accomplished many goals in their career in basketball. An upstart organization, the American Basketball Association, emerged in 1967 and briefly threatened the NBA's dominance until the ABA-NBA merger 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 has featured many famous players, including George Mikan, the first dominating "big man"; ball-handling wizard Bob Cousy and defensive genius Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics; charismatic center Wilt Chamberlain, who originally played for the barnstorming Harlem Globetrotters; all-around stars Oscar Robertson and Jerry West; more recent big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone; playmakers John Stockton, Isiah Thomas and Steve Nash; crowd-pleasing forwards Julius Erving and Charles Barkley; European stars Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker; more recent superstars LeBron James, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant; and the three players who many credit with ushering the professional game to its highest level of popularity during the 1980s and 1990s: Larry Bird, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, and Michael Jordan.
In 2001, the NBA formed a developmental league, the National Basketball Development League (later known as the NBA D-League and then the NBA G League after a branding deal with Gatorade). As of the 2017–18 season, the G League has 26 teams.
FIBA (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, derived from the French Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball Amateur, was thus "FIBA". Men's basketball was first included at the Berlin 1936 Summer Olympics, 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 of these came in a controversial final game in Munich in 1972 against the Soviet Union, in which the ending of the game was replayed three times until the Soviet Union finally came out on top. In 1950 the first FIBA World Championship for men, now known as the FIBA Basketball World Cup, was held in Argentina. Three years later, the first FIBA World Championship for Women, now known as the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, was held in Chile. Women's basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976, which were held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with teams such as the Soviet Union, Brazil and Australia rivaling the American squads.
In 1989, FIBA allowed professional NBA players to participate in the Olympics for the first time. Prior to the 1992 Summer Olympics, only European and South American teams were allowed to field professionals in the Olympics. The United States' dominance continued with the introduction of the original Dream Team. 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 Redeem Team, won gold at the 2008 Olympics, and the B-Team, won gold at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey despite featuring no players from the 2008 squad. The United States continued its dominance as they won gold at the 2012 Olympics, 2014 FIBA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Worldwide, basketball tournaments are held for boys and girls of all age levels. The global popularity of the sport is reflected in the nationalities represented in the NBA. Players from all six inhabited continents currently play in the NBA. Top international players began coming into the NBA in the mid-1990s, including Croatians Dražen Petrović and Toni Kukoč, Serbian Vlade Divac, Lithuanians Arvydas Sabonis and Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Dutchman Rik Smits and German Detlef Schrempf.
In the Philippines, the Philippine Basketball Association's first game was played on April 9, 1975 at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City. Philippines. It was founded as a "rebellion" of several teams from the now-defunct Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association, which was tightly controlled by the Basketball Association of the Philippines (now defunct), the then-FIBA recognized national association. Nine teams from the MICAA participated in the league's first season that opened on April 9, 1975. The NBL is Australia's pre-eminent men's professional basketball league. The league commenced in 1979, playing a winter season (April–September) and did so until the completion of the 20th season in 1998. The 1998–99 season, which commenced only months later, was the first season after the shift to the current summer season format (October–April). This shift was an attempt to avoid competing directly against Australia's various football codes. It features 8 teams from around Australia and one in New Zealand. A few players including Luc Longley, Andrew Gaze, Shane Heal, Chris Anstey and Andrew Bogut made it big internationally, becoming poster figures for the sport in Australia. The Women's National Basketball League began in 1981.
See also: Women's basketball
Women's basketball began in 1892 at Smith College when Senda Berenson, a physical education teacher, modified Naismith's rules 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. However, the first women's interinstitutional game was played in 1892 between the University of California and Miss Head's School. Berenson's rules were first published in 1899, and two years later she became the editor of A. G. Spalding's first Women's Basketball Guide. Berenson's freshmen played the sophomore class in the first women's intercollegiate basketball game at Smith College, March 21, 1893. The same year, Mount Holyoke 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.
Women's basketball development was more structured than that for men in the early years. In 1905, the Executive Committee on Basket Ball Rules (National Women's Basketball Committee) was created by the American Physical Education Association. These 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 Edmonton Grads, a touring Canadian women's team based in Edmonton, Alberta, operated between 1915 and 1940. The Grads toured all over North America, and were exceptionally successful. They posted a record of 522 wins and only 20 losses over that span, as they met any team that wanted to challenge them, funding their tours from gate receipts. The Grads also shone on several exhibition trips to Europe, and won four consecutive exhibition Olympics tournaments, in 1924, 1928, 1932, and 1936; however, women's basketball was not an official Olympic sport until 1976. The Grads' players were unpaid, and had to remain single. The Grads' style focused on team play, without overly emphasizing skills of individual players. The first women's AAU All-America team was chosen in 1929. Women's industrial leagues sprang up throughout the United States, producing famous athletes, including Babe Didrikson of the Golden Cyclones, and the All American Red Heads Team, which competed against men's teams, using men's rules. By 1938, the women's national championship changed from a three-court game to two-court game with six players per team.
The NBA-backed Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) began in 1997. Though it had shaky attendance figures, several marquee players (Lisa Leslie, Diana Taurasi, and Candace Parker among others) have 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 (1996–98), have folded in part because of the popularity of the WNBA. The WNBA has been looked at by many as a niche league. However, the league has recently taken steps forward. In June 2007, the WNBA signed a contract extension with ESPN. The new television deal ran from 2009 to 2016. Along with this deal, came the first ever rights fees to be paid to a women's professional sports league. Over the eight years of the contract, "millions and millions of dollars" were "dispersed to the league's teams." In a March 12, 2009 article, NBA commissioner David Stern said that in the bad economy, "the NBA is far less profitable than the WNBA. We're losing a lot of money among a large number of teams. We're budgeting the WNBA to break even this year."
Rules and regulations
Main article: Rules of basketball
Measurements and time limits discussed in this section often vary among tournaments and organizations; international and NBA rules are used in this section.
The object of the game is to outscore one's opponents by throwing the ball through the opponents' basket from above while preventing the opponents from doing so on their own. An attempt to score in this way is called a shot. A successful shot is worth two points, or three points if it is taken from beyond the three-point arc 6.75 metres (22 ft 2 in) from the basket in international games and 23 feet 9 inches (7.24 m) in NBA games. A one-point shot can be earned when shooting from the foul line after a foul is made.
Games are played in four quarters of 10 (FIBA) or 12 minutes (NBA). College men's games use two 20-minute halves, college women's games use 10-minute quarters, and United States high school varsity games use 8 minute quarters. 15 minutes are allowed for a half-time break under FIBA, NBA, and NCAA rules and 10 minutes in United States high schools.Overtime periods are five minutes in length except for high school, which is four minutes in length. Teams exchange baskets for the second half. The time allowed is actual playing time; the clock is stopped while the play is not active. Therefore, games generally take much longer to complete than the allotted game time, typically about two hours.
Five players from each team may be on the court at one time.Substitutions are unlimited but can only be done when play is stopped. Teams also have a coach, who oversees the development and strategies of the team, and other team personnel such as assistant coaches, managers, statisticians, doctors and trainers.
For both men's and women's teams, a standard uniform consists of a pair of shorts and a jersey with a clearly visible number, unique within the team, printed on both the front and back. Players wear high-top sneakers that provide extra ankle support. Typically, team names, players' names and, outside of North America, sponsors are printed on the uniforms.
A limited number of time-outs, clock stoppages requested by a coach (or sometimes mandated in the NBA) for a short meeting with the players, are allowed. They generally last no longer than one minute (100 seconds in the NBA) unless, for televised games, a commercial break is needed.
The game is controlled by the officials consisting of the referee (referred to as crew chief in the NBA), one or two umpires (referred to as referees in the NBA) and the table officials. For college, the NBA, and many high schools, there are a total of three referees on the court. The table officials are responsible for keeping track of each teams scoring, timekeeping, individual and team fouls, player substitutions, team possession arrow, and the shot clock.
Main articles: Basketball (ball), Basketball court, and Backboard (basketball)
The only essential equipment in a basketball game is the ball and the court: a flat, rectangular surface with baskets at opposite ends. Competitive levels require the use of more equipment such as clocks, score sheets, scoreboard(s), alternating possession arrows, and whistle-operated stop-clock systems.
A regulation basketball court in international games is 91.9 feet (28.0 meters) long and 49.2 feet (15 meters) wide. In the NBA and NCAA the court is 94 by 50 feet (29 by 15 meters). Most courts have wood flooring, usually constructed from maple planks running in the same direction as the longer court dimension. The name and logo of the home team is usually painted on or around the center circle.
The basket is a steel rim 18 inches (46 cm) diameter with an attached net affixed to a backboard that measures 6 by 3.5 feet (1.8 by 1.1 meters) and one basket is at each end of the court. The white outlined box on the backboard is 18 inches (46 cm) high and 2 feet (61 cm) wide. At almost all levels of competition, the top of the rim is exactly 10 feet (3.05 meters) above the court and 4 feet (1.22 meters) inside the baseline. While variation is possible in the dimensions of the court and backboard, it is considered important for the basket to be of the correct height – a rim that is off by just a few inches can have an adverse effect on shooting.
The size of the basketball is also regulated. For men, the official ball is 29.5 inches (75 cm) in circumference (size 7, or a "295 ball") and weighs 22 oz (623.69 grams). If women are playing, the official basketball size is 28.5 inches (72 cm) in circumference (size 6, or a "285 ball") with a weight of 20 oz (567 grams). In 3x3, a formalized version of the halfcourt 3-on-3 game, a dedicated ball with the circumference of a size 6 ball but the weight of a size 7 ball is used in all competitions (men's, women's, and mixed teams).
The ball may be advanced toward the basket by being shot, passed between players, thrown, tapped, rolled or dribbled (bouncing the ball while running).
The ball must stay within the court; the last team to touch the ball before it travels out of bounds forfeits possession. The ball is out of bounds if it touches a boundary line, or touches any player or object that is out of bounds.
There are limits placed on the steps a player may take without dribbling, which commonly results in an infraction known as traveling. Nor may a player stop his dribble and then resume dribbling. A dribble that touches both hands is considered stopping the dribble, giving this infraction the name double dribble. Within a dribble, the player cannot carry the ball by placing his hand on the bottom of the ball; doing so is known as carrying the ball. A team, once having established ball control in the front half of their court, may not return the ball to the backcourt and be the first to touch it. A violation of these rules results in loss of possession.
The ball may not be kicked, nor be struck with the fist. For the offense, a violation of these rules results in loss of possession; for the defense, most leagues reset the shot clock and the offensive team is given possession of the ball out of bounds.
There are limits imposed on the time taken before progressing the ball past halfway (8 seconds in FIBA and the NBA; 10 seconds in NCAA and high school for both sexes), before attempting a shot (24 seconds in FIBA, the NBA, and U Sports (Canadian universities) play for both sexes, and 30 seconds in NCAA play for both sexes), holding the ball while closely guarded (5 seconds), and remaining in the restricted area known as the free-throw lane, (or the "key") (3 seconds). These rules are designed to promote more offense.
Basket interference, or goaltending is a violation charged when a player illegally interferes with a shot. This violation is incurred when a player touches the ball on its downward trajectory to the basket, unless it is obvious that the ball has no chance of entering the basket, if a player touches the ball while it is in the rim, or in the area extended upwards from the basket, or if a player reaches through the basket to interfere with the shot. When a defensive player is charged with goaltending, the basket is awarded. If an offensive player commits the infraction, the basket is cancelled. In either case possession of the ball is turned over to the defensive team.
Main articles: Personal foul (basketball) and Technical foul
An attempt to unfairly disadvantage an opponent through certain types of physical contact is illegal and is called a personal foul. These are most commonly committed by defensive players; however, they can be committed by offensive players as well. Players who are fouled either receive the ball to pass inbounds again, or receive one or more free throws if they are fouled in the act of shooting, depending on whether the shot was successful. One point is awarded for making a free throw, which is attempted from a line 15 feet (4.6 m) from the basket.
The referee is responsible for judging whether contact is illegal, sometimes resulting in controversy. The calling of fouls can vary between games, leagues and referees.
There is a second category of fouls called technical fouls, which may be charged for various rules violations including failure to properly record a player in the scorebook, or for unsportsmanlike conduct. These infractions result in one or two free throws, which may be taken by any of the five players on the court at the time. Repeated incidents can result in disqualification. A blatant foul involving physical contact that is either excessive or unnecessary is called an intentional foul (flagrant foul in the NBA). In FIBA, a foul resulting in ejection is called a disqualifying foul, while in leagues other than the NBA, such a foul is referred to as flagrant.
If a team exceeds a certain limit of team fouls in a given period (quarter or half) – four for NBA, NCAA women's, and international games – the opposing team is awarded one or two free throws on all subsequent non-shooting fouls for that period, the number depending on the league. In the US college men's game and high school games for both sexes, if a team reaches 7 fouls in a half, the opposing team is awarded one free throw, along with a second shot if the first is made. This is called shooting "one-and-one". If a team exceeds 10 fouls in the half, the opposing team is awarded two free throws on all subsequent fouls for the half.
When a team shoots foul shots, the opponents may not interfere with the shooter, nor may they try to regain possession until the last or potentially last free throw is in the air.
After a team has committed a specified number of fouls, the other team is said to be "in the bonus". On scoreboards, this is usually signified with an indicator light reading "Bonus" or "Penalty" with an illuminated directional arrow or dot indicating that team is to receive free throws when fouled by the opposing team. (Some scoreboards also indicate the number of fouls committed.)
If a team misses the first shot of a two-shot situation, the opposing team must wait for the completion of the second shot before attempting to reclaim possession of the ball and continuing play.
If a player is fouled while attempting a shot and the shot is unsuccessful, the player is awarded a number of free throws equal to the value of the attempted shot. A player fouled while attempting a regular two-point shot thus receives two shots, and a player fouled while attempting a three-point shot receives three shots.
If a player is fouled while attempting a shot and the shot is successful, typically the player will be awarded one additional free throw for one point. In combination with a regular shot, this is called a "three-point play" or "four-point play" (or more colloquially, an "and one") because of the basket made at the time of the foul (2 or 3 points) and the additional free throw (1 point).
Common techniques and practices
Main article: Basketball position
The basketball locker room in the gymnasium at Princeton has no blackboard, no water fountain, and, in fact, no lockers. Up on the main floor, things go along in the same vein. Collapsible grandstands pull out of the walls and crowd up to the edge of the court. Jolly alumni sometimes wander in just before a game begins, sit down on the players’ bench, and are permitted to stay there. The players themselves are a little slow getting started each year, because if they try to do some practicing on their own during the autumn they find the gymnasium full of graduate students who know their rights and won’t move over. When a fellow does get some action, it can be dangerous. The gym is so poorly designed that a scrimmaging player can be knocked down one of two flights of concrete stairs. It hardly seems possible, but at the moment this scandalous milieu includes William Warren Bradley, who is the best amateur basketball player in the United States and among the best players, amateur or professional, in the history of the sport.
Bill Bradley is what college students nowadays call a superstar, and the thing that distinguishes him from other such paragons is not so much that he has happened into the Ivy League as that he is a superstar at all. For one thing, he has overcome the disadvantage of wealth. A great basketball player, almost by definition, is someone who has grown up in a constricted world, not for lack of vision or ambition but for lack of money; his environment has been limited to home; gym, and playground, and it has forced upon him, as a developing basketball player, the discipline of having nothing else to do. Bradley must surely be the only great basketball player who wintered regularly in Palm Beach until he was thirteen years old. His home is in Crystal City, Missouri, a small town on the Mississippi River about thirty miles south of St. Louis, and at Crystal City High School, despite the handicap of those earlier winters, he became one of the highest-scoring players in the records of secondary-school basketball. More than seventy colleges tried to recruit him, nearly all of them offering him scholarships. Instead, Bradley chose a school that offered him no money at all. Scholarships at Princeton are given only where there is financial need, and more than half of Princeton’s undergraduates have them, but Bradley is ineligible for one, because his father, the president of a bank, is a man of more than comfortable means.
Bradley says that when he was seventeen he came to realize that life was much longer than a few winters of basketball. He is quite serious in his application to the game, but he has wider interests and, particularly, bigger ambitions. He is a history student, interested in politics, and last July he worked for Governor Scranton in Washington. He was once elected president of the Missouri Association of Student Councils, and he is the sort of boy who, given a little more time, would have been in the forefront of undergraduate political life; as it is, he has been a considerable asset to Princeton quite apart from his feats in the gymnasium, through his work for various campus organizations. In a way that athletes in Ivy League colleges sometimes do not, he fits into the university as a whole. Now his Princeton years are coming to an end, and lately he has been under more recruitment pressure—this time, of course, from the National Basketball Association. In September, however, on the eve of his departure for Tokyo, where, as a member of the United States basketball team, he won a gold medal in the Olympic Games, he filed an application with the American Rhodes Scholarship Committee. Just before Christmas, he was elected a Rhodes Scholar. This has absolutely nonplussed the New York Knickerbockers, who for some time had been suffering delusions of invincibility, postdated to the autumn of 1965, when, they assumed, Bradley would join their team. Two years ago, when the Syracuse Nationals wanted to transfer their franchise and become the Philadelphia ’76ers, the Knicks refused to give their approval until they had received a guarantee that they would retain territorial rights to Bradley, whose college is one mile closer to Philadelphia than it is to New York. Bradley says he knows that he will very much miss not being able to play the game at its highest level, but, as things are now, if Bradley plays basketball at all next year, it will be for Oxford.
To many Eastern basketball fans, what the Knickerbockers will be missing has not always been as apparent as it is today. Three seasons ago, when Bradley, as a Princeton freshman, broke a free-throw record for the sport of basketball at large, much of the outside world considered it a curious but not necessarily significant achievement. In game after game, he kept sinking foul shots without missing, until at the end of the season he had made fifty-seven straight—one more than the previous all-time high, which had been set by a member of the professional Syracuse Nationals. The following year, as a varsity player, he averaged a little over twenty-seven points per game, and it became clear that he was the best player ever to have been seen in the Ivy League—better than Yale’s Tony Lavelli, who was one of the leading scorers in the United States in 1949, or Dartmouth’s Rudy LaRusso, who is now a professional with the Los Angeles Lakers. But that still wasn’t saying a lot. Basketball players of the highest calibre do not gravitate to the Ivy League, and excellence within its membership has seldom been worth more, nationally, than a polite smile. However, Ivy teams play early-season games outside their league, and at the end of the season the Ivy League champion competes in the tournament of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which brings together the outstanding teams in the country and eventually establishes the national champion. Gradually, during his sophomore and junior years, Bradley’s repeatedly superior performances in these games eradicated all traces of the notion that he was merely a parochial accident and would have been just another player if he had gone to a big basketball school. He has scored as heavily against non-Ivy opponents as he has against Ivy League teams—forty points against Army, thirty-two against Villanova, thirty-three against Davidson, thirty against Wake Forest, thirty-one against Navy, thirty-four against St. Louis, thirty-six against Syracuse, and forty-six in a rout of the University of Texas. Last season, in the Kentucky Invitational Tournament, at the University of Kentucky, Princeton defeated Wisconsin largely because Bradley was busy scoring forty-seven points—a record for the tournament. The size of this feat can be understood if one remembers that Kentucky has won more national championships than any other university and regularly invites the best competition it can find to join in its holiday games.
An average of twenty points in basketball is comparable to baseball’s criterion for outstanding pitchers, whose immortality seems to he predicated on their winning twenty games a year. Bradley scored more points last season than any other college basketball player, and his average was 32.3 per game. If Bradley’s shooting this season comes near matching his accomplishment of last year, he will become one of the three highest-scoring players in the history of college basketball. Those who have never seen him are likely to assume that he is seven and a half feet tall—the sort of elaborate weed that once all but choked off the game. With an average like his, it would he fair to imagine him spending his forty minutes of action merely stuffing the ball into the net. But the age of the goon is over. Bradley is six feet five inches tall—the third-tallest player on the Princeton team. He is perfectly coördinated, and he is unbelievably accurate at every kind of shot in the basketball repertory. He does much of his scoring from considerable distances, and when he sends the ball toward the basket, the odds are that it is going in, since he has made more than half the shots he has attempted as a college player. With three, or even four, opponents clawing at him, he will rise in the air, hang still for a moment, and release a high parabola jump shot that almost always seems to drop into the basket with an equal margin to the rim on all sides. Against Harvard last February, his ninth long shot from the floor nicked the rim slightly on its way into the net. The first eight had gone cleanly through the center. He had missed none at all. He missed several as the evening continued, but when his coach finally took him out, he had scored fifty-one points. In a game twenty-four hours earlier, he had begun a thirty-nine point performance by hitting his first four straight. Then he missed a couple. Then he made ten consecutive shots, totally demoralizing Dartmouth.
Bradley is one of the few basketball players who have ever been appreciatively cheered by a disinterested away-from-home crowd while warming up. This curious event occurred last March, just before Princeton eliminated the Virginia Military Institute, the year’s Southern Conference champion, from the N.C.A.A. championships. The game was played in Philadelphia and was the last of a tripleheader. The people there were worn out, because most of them were emotionally committed to either Villanova or Temple—two local teams that had just been involved in enervating battles with Providence and Connecticut, respectively, scrambling for a chance at the rest of the country. A group of Princeton boys shooting basketballs miscellaneously in preparation for still another game hardly promised to be a high point of the evening, but Bradley, whose routine in the warmup time is a gradual crescendo of activity, is more interesting to watch before a game than most players are in play. In Philadelphia that night, what he did was, for him, anything but unusual. As he does before all games, he began by shooting set shots close to the basket, gradually moving back until he was shooting long sets from twenty feet out, and nearly all of them dropped into the net with an almost mechanical rhythm of accuracy. Then he began a series of expandingly difficult jump shots, and one jumper after another went cleanly through the basket with so few exceptions that the crowd began to murmur. Then he started to perform whirling reverse moves before another cadence of almost steadily accurate jump shots, and the murmur increased. Then he began to sweep hook shots into the air. He moved in a semicircle around the court. First with his right hand, then with his left, he tried seven of these long, graceful shots—the most difficult ones in the orthodoxy of basketball—and ambidextrously made them all. The game had not even begun, but the presumably unimpressible Philadelphians were applauding like an audience at an opera.
Bradley has a few unorthodox shots, too. He dislikes flamboyance, and, unlike some of basketball’s greatest stars, has apparently never made a move merely to attract attention. While some players are eccentric in their shooting, his shots, with only occasional exceptions, are straightforward and unexaggerated. Nonetheless, he does make something of a spectacle of himself when he moves in rapidly parallel to the baseline, glides through the air with his back to the basket, looks for a teammate he can pass to, and, finding none, tosses the ball into the basket over one shoulder, like a pinch of salt. Only when the ball is actually dropping through the net does he look around to see what has happened, on the chance that something might have gone wrong, in which case he would have to go for the rebound. That shot has the essential characteristics of a wild accident, which is what many people stubbornly think they have witnessed until they see him do it for the third time in a row. All shots in basketball are supposed to have names—the set, the hook, the lay-up, the jump shot, and so on—and one weekend last July, while Bradley was in Princeton working on his senior thesis and putting in some time in the Princeton gymnasium to keep himself in form for the Olympics, I asked him what he called his over-the-shoulder shot. He said that he had never heard a name for it, but that he had seen Oscar Robertson, of the Cincinnati Royals, and Jerry West, of the Los Angeles Lakers, do it, and had worked it out for himself. He went on to say that it is a much simpler shot than it appears to be, and, to illustrate, he tossed a ball over his shoulder and into the basket while he was talking and looking me in the eye. I retrieved the ball and handed it back to him. “When you have played basketball for a while, you don’t need to look at the basket when you are in close like this,” he said, throwing it over his shoulder again and right through the hoop. “You develop a sense of where you are.”
Bradley is not an innovator. Actually, basketball has had only a few innovators in its history—players like Hank Luisetti, of Stanford, whose introduction in 1936 of the running one-hander did as much to open up the game for scoring as the forward pass did for football; and Joe Fulks, of the old Philadelphia Warriors, whose twisting two-handed heaves, made while he was leaping like a salmon, were the beginnings of the jump shot, which seems to be basketball’s ultimate weapon. Most basketball players appropriate fragments of other players’ styles, and thus develop their own. This is what Bradley has done, but one of the things that set him apart from nearly everyone else is that the process has been conscious rather than osmotic. His jump shot, for example, has had two principal influences. One is Jerry West, who has one of the best jumpers in basketball. At a summer basketball camp in Missouri some years ago, West told Bradley that he always gives an extra hard bounce to the last dribble before a jump shot, since this seems to catapult him to added height. Bradley has been doing that ever since. Terry Dischinger, of the Detroit Pistons, has told Bradley that he always slams his foot to the floor on the last step before a jump shot, because this stops his momentum and thus prevents drift. Drifting while aloft is the mark of a sloppy jump shot. Bradley’s graceful hook shot is a masterpiece of eclecticism. It consists of the high-lifted knee of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Darrall Imhoff, the arms of Bill Russell, of the Boston Celtics, who extends his idle hand far under his shooting arm and thus magically stabilizes the shot, and the general corporeal form of Kentucky’s Cotton Nash, a rookie this year with the Lakers. Bradley carries his analyses of shots further than merely identifying them with pieces of other people. “There arc five parts to the hook shot,” he explains to anyone who asks. As he continues, he picks up a ball and stands about eighteen feet from a basket. “Crouch,” he says, crouching, and goes on to demonstrate the other moves. “Turn your head to look for the basket, step, kick, follow through with your arms.” Once, as he was explaining this to me, the ball curled around the rim and failed to go in.
“What happened then?” I asked him.
“I didn’t kick high enough,” he said.
“Do you always know exactly why you’ve missed a shot?”
“Yes,” he said, missing another one.
“What happened that time?”
“I was talking to you. I didn’t concentrate. The secret of shooting is concentration.”
His set shot is borrowed from Ed Macauley, who was a St. Louis University All-American in the late forties and was later a star member of the Boston Celtics and the St. Louis Hawks. Macauley runs the basketball camp Bradley first went to when he was fifteen. In describing the set shot, Bradley is probably quoting a Macauley lecture. “Crouch like Groucho Marx,” he says. “Go off your feet a few inches. You shoot with your legs. Your arms merely guide the ball.” Bradley says that he has more confidence in his set shot than in any other. However, he seldom uses it, because he seldom has to. A set shot is a long shot, usually a twenty-footer, and Bradley, with his speed and footwork, can almost always take some other kind of shot, closer to the basket. He will take set shots when they are given to him, though. Two seasons ago, Davidson lost to Princeton, using a compact zone defense that ignored the remoter areas of the court. In one brief sequence, Bradley sent up seven set shots, missing only one. The missed one happened to rebound in Bradley’s direction, and he leaped up, caught it with one hand, and scored. Even his lay-up shot has an ancestral form; he is full of admiration for “the way Cliff Hagan pops up anywhere within six feet of the basket,” and he tries to do the same. Hagan is a former Kentucky star who now plays for the St. Louis Hawks. Because opposing teams always do everything they can to stop Bradley, he gets an unusual number of foul shots. When he was in high school, he used to imitate Bob Pettit, of the St. Louis Hawks, and Bill Sharman of the Boston Celtics, but now his free throw is more or less his own. With his left foot back about eighteen inches—“wherever it feels comfortable,” he says—he shoots with a deep-bending rhythm of knees and arms, one-handed, his left hand acting as a kind of gantry for the ball until the moment of release. What is most interesting, though, is that he concentrates his attention on one of the tiny steel eyelets that are welded under the rim of the basket to hold the net to the hoop—on the center eyelet, of course—before he lets fly. One night, he scored over twenty points on free throws alone; Cornell hacked at him so heavily that he was given twenty-one free throws, and he made all twenty-one, finishing the game with a total of thirty-seven points. When Bradley, working out alone, practices his set shots, hook shots, and jump shots, he moves systematically from one place to another around the basket, his distance from it being appropriate to the shot, and he does not permit himself to move on until he has made at least ten shots out of thirteen from each location. He applies this standard to every kind of shot, with either hand, from any distance. Many basketball players, including reasonably good ones, could spend five years in a gym and not make ten out of thirteen left-handed hook shots, but that is part of Bradley’s daily routine. He talks to himself while he is shooting, usually reminding himself to concentrate but sometimes talking to himself the way every high-school j.v. basketball player has done since the dim twenties—more or less imitating a radio announcer, and saying, as he gathers himself up for a shot, “It’s pandemonium in Dillon Gymnasium. The clock is running out. He’s up with a jumper. Swish!” Last summer, the floor of the Princeton gym was being resurfaced, so Bradley had to put in several practice sessions at the Lawrenceville School. His first afternoon at Lawrenceville, he began by shooting fourteen-foot jump shots from the right side. He got off to a bad start, and he kept missing them. Six in a row hit the back rim of the basket and bounced out. He stopped, looking discomfited, and seemed to be making an adjustment in his mind. Then he went up for another jump shot from the same spot and hit it cleanly. Four more shots went in without a miss, and then he paused and said, “You want to know something? That basket is about an inch and a half low.” Some weeks later, I went back to Lawrenceville with a steel tape, borrowed a stepladder, and measured the height of the basket. It was nine feet ten and seven-eighths inches above the floor, or one and one-eighth inches too low.
Being a deadly shot with either hand and knowing how to make the moves and fakes that clear away the defense are the primary skills of a basketball player, and any player who can do these things half as well as Bradley can has all the equipment he needs to make a college team. Many high-scoring basketball players, being able to make so obvious and glamorous a contribution to their team in the form of point totals, don’t bother to develop the other skills of the game, and leave subordinate matters like defense and playmaking largely to their teammates. Hence, it is usually quite easy to parse a basketball team. Bringing the ball up the floor are playmaking backcourt men—selfless fellows who can usually dribble so adeptly that they can just about freeze the ball by themselves, and who can also throw passes through the eye of a needle and can always be counted on to feed the ball to a star at the right moment. A star is often a point-hungry gunner, whose first instinct when he gets the ball is to fire away, and whose playing creed might he condensed to “When in doubt, shoot.” Another, with legs like automobile springs, is part of the group because of an unusual ability to shag rebounds. Still another may not be especially brilliant on offense but has defensive equipment that could not be better if he were carrying a trident and a net. The point-hungry gunner aside, Bradley is all these. He is a truly complete basketball player. He can play in any terrain; in the heavy infighting near the basket, he is master of all the gestures of the big men, and toward the edge of play he shows that he has all the fast-moving skills of the little men, too. With remarkable speed for six feet five, he can steal the ball and break into the clear with it on his own; as a dribbler, he can control the ball better with his left hand than most players can with their right; he can go down court in the middle of a fast break and fire passes to left and right, closing in on the basket, the timing of his passes too quick for the spectator’s eye. He plays any position—up front, in the post, in the backcourt. And his playmaking is a basic characteristic of his style. His high-scoring totals are the result of his high percentage of accuracy, not of an impulse to shoot every time he gets the ball. He passes as generously and as deftly as any player m the game. When he is dribbling, he can pass accurately without first catching the ball. He can also manage almost any pass without appearing to cock his arm, or even bring his hand back. He just seems to flick his fingers and the ball is gone. Other Princeton players aren’t always quite expecting Bradley’s passes when they arrive, for Bradley is usually thinking a little bit ahead of everyone else on the floor. W hen he was a freshman, he was forever hitting his teammates on the mouth, the temple, or the back of the head with passes as accurate as they were surprising. His teammates have since sharpened their own faculties, and these accidents seldom happen now. “It’s rewarding to play with him,” one of them says. “If you get open, you’ll get the ball.” And, with all the defenders in between, it sometimes seems as if the ball has passed like a ray through several walls.
Bradley’s play has just one somewhat unsound aspect, and it is the result of his mania for throwing the ball to his teammates. He can’t seem to resist throwing a certain number of passes that are based on nothing but theory and hope; in fact, they are referred to by the Princeton coaching staff as Bradley’s hope passes. They happen, usually, when something has gone just a bit wrong. Bradley is recovering a loose ball, say, with his back turned to the other Princeton players. Before he turned it, he happened to notice a screen, or pick-off, being set by two of his teammates, its purpose being to cause one defensive man to collide with another and thus free an offensive man to receive a pass and score. Computations whir in Bradley’s head. He hasn’t time to look, but the screen, as he saw it developing, seemed to be working, so a Princeton man should now be in the clear, running toward the basket with one arm up. He whips the ball over his shoulder to the spot where the man ought to be. Sometimes a hope pass goes flying into the crowd, but most of the time they hit the receiver right in the hand, and a gasp comes from several thousand people. Bradley is sensitive about such dazzling passes, because they look flashy, and an edge comes into his voice as he defends them. “When I was halfway down the court, I saw a man out of the corner of my eye who had on the same color shirt I did,” he said recently, explaining how he happened to fire a scoring pass while he was falling out of bounds. “A little later, when I threw the pass, I threw it to the spot where that man should have been if he had kept going and done his job. He was there. Two points.”
Since it appears that by nature Bradley is a passer first and a scorer second, he would probably have scored less at a school where he was surrounded by other outstanding players. When he went to Princeton, many coach’s mourned his loss not just to themselves but to basketball, but as things have worked out, much of his national prominence has been precipitated by his playing for Princeton, where he has had to come through with points in order to keep his team from losing. He starts slowly, as a rule. During much of the game, if he has a clear shot, fourteen feet from the basket, say, and he sees a teammate with an equally clear shot ten feet from the basket, he sends the ball to the teammate. Bradley apparently does not stop to consider that even though the other fellow is closer to the basket he may be far more likely to miss the shot. This habit exasperates his coaches until they clutch their heads in despair. But Bradley is doing what few people ever have done—he is playing basketball according to the foundation pattern of the game. Therefore, the shot goes to the closer man. Nothing on earth can make him change until Princeton starts to lose. Then he will concentrate a little more on the basket.
Something like this happened in Tokyo last October, when the United States Olympic basketball team came close to being beaten by Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavian team was reasonably good—better than the Soviet team, which lost to the United States in the final—and it heated up during the second half. With two minutes to go, Yugoslavia cut the United States’ lead to two points. Bradley was on the bench at the time, and Henry Iba, the Oklahoma State coach, who was coach of the Olympic team, sent him in. During much of the game, he had been threading passes to others, but at that point, he says, he felt that he had to try to do something about the score. Bang, bang, bang—he hit a running one-hander, a seventeen-foot jumper, and a lay-up on a fast break, and the United States won by eight points.
Actually, the United States basketball squad encountered no real competition at the Olympics, despite all sorts of rumbling cumulus beforehand to the effect that some of the other teams, notably Russia’s, were made up of men who had been playing together for years and were now possibly good enough to defeat an American Olympic basketball team for the first time. But if the teams that the Americans faced were weaker than advertised, there were nonetheless individual performers of good calibre, and it is a further index to Bradley’s completeness as a basketball player that Henry Iba, a defensive specialist as a coach, regularly assigned him to guard the stars of the other nations. “He didn’t show too much tact at defense when he started, but he’s a coach’s basketball player, and he came along,” Iba said after he had returned to Oklahoma. “And I gave him the toughest man in every game.” Yugoslavia’s best man was a big forward who liked to play in the low post, under the basket. Bradley went into the middle with him, crashing shoulders under the basket, and held him to thirteen points while scoring eighteen himself. Russia’s best man was Yuri Korneyev, whose specialty was driving; that is, he liked to get the ball somewhere out on the edge of the action and start for the basket with it like a fullback, blasting everything out of the way until he got close enough to ram in a point-blank shot. With six feet five inches and two hundred and forty pounds to drive, Korneyev was what Iba called “a real good driver.” Bradley had lost ten pounds because of all the Olympics excitement, and Korneyev outweighed him by forty-five pounds. Korneyev kicked, pushed, shoved, bit, and scratched Bradley. “He was tough to stop,” Bradley says. “After all, he was playing for his life.” Korneyev got eight points.
Bradley was one of three players who had been picked unanimously for the twelve-man Olympic team. He was the youngest member of the squad and the only undergraduate. Since his trip to Tokyo kept him away from Princeton for the first six weeks of the fall term, he had to spend part of his time reading, and the course he worked on most was Russian History 323. Perhaps because of the perspective this gave him, his attitude toward the Russian basketball team was not what he had expected it to be. With the help of three Australian players who spoke Russian, Bradley got to know several members of the Russian team fairly well, and soon he was feeling terribly sorry for them. They had a leaden attitude almost from the beginning. “All we do is play basketball,” one of them told him forlornly. “After we go home, we play in the Soviet championships. Then we play in the Satellite championships. Then we play in the European championships. I would give anything for five days off.” Bradley says that the Russian players also told him they were paid eighty-five dollars a month, plus housing. Given the depressed approach of the Russians, Bradley recalls, it was hard to get excited before the Russian-American final. “It was tough to get chills,” he says. “I had to imagine we were about to play Yale.” The Russians lost, 73”59.
When Bradley talks about basketball, he speaks with authority, explaining himself much as a man of fifty might do in discussing a profession or business. When he talks about other things, he shows himself to be a polite, diffident, hopeful, well-brought-up, extremely amiable, and sometimes naïve but generally discerning young man just emerging from adolescence. He was twenty-one last summer, and he seems neither older nor younger than his age. He is painfully aware of his celebrity. The nature of it and the responsibility that it imposes are constantly on his mind. He remembers people’s names, and greets them by name when he sees them again. He seems to want to prove that he finds other people interesting. “The main thing I have to prevent myself from becoming is disillusioned with transitory success,” he said recently. “It’s dangerous. It’s like a heavy rainstorm. It can do damage or it can do good, permitting something to grow.” He claims that the most important thing basketball gives him at Princeton is “a real period of relief from the academic load.” Because he is the sort of student who does all his academic course work, he doesn’t get much sleep; in fact, he has a perilous contempt for sleep, partly because he has been told that professional basketball players get along on almost none of it. He stays up until his work is done, for if he were to retire any earlier he would be betraying the discipline he has placed upon himself. When he has had to, he has set up schedules of study for himself that have kept him reading from 6 A.M. to midnight every day for as long as eight weeks. On his senior thesis, which is due in April (and is about Harry Truman’s senatorial campaign in 1940), he has already completed more research than many students will do altogether. One of his most enviable gifts is his ability to regiment his conscious mind. After a game, for example, most college players, if they try to study, see all the action over again between the lines in their books. Bradley can, and often does, go straight to the library and work for hours, postponing his mental replay as long as he cares to. If he feels that it’s necessary, he will stay up all night before a basketball game; he did that last winter when he was completing a junior paper, and Princeton barely managed to beat a fairly unspectacular Lafayette team, because Bradley seemed almost unable to lift his arms. Princeton was losing until Bradley, finally growing wakeful, scored eight points in the last two minutes. Ivy League basketball teams play on Friday and Saturday nights, in order to avoid travelling during the week, yet on Sunday mornings Bradley gets up and teaches a nine-thirty Sunday-school class at the First Presbyterian Church. During his sophomore and junior years at the university, he met a class of seventh-grade boys every Sunday morning that he was resident in Princeton. If the basketball bus returned to Princeton at 4:30 A.M., as it sometimes did, he would still be at the church by nine-thirty. This year, having missed two months while he was in the Far East, he is working as a spot teacher whenever he is needed. Religion, he feels, is the main source of his strength, and because he realizes that not everybody shares that feeling today, he sometimes refers to “the challenge of being in the minority in the world.” He belongs to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization that was set up eight years ago, by people like Otto Graham, Bob Pettit, Branch Rickey, Bob Feller, Wilma Rudolph, Doak Walker, Rafer Johnson, and Robin Roberts, for the advancement of youth by a mixture of moral and athletic guidance. Bradley has flown all over the United States to speak to F.C.A. groups. One of his topics is a theory of his that conformists and nonconformists both lack moral courage, and another is that “the only way to solve a problem is to go through it rather than around it”—which has struck some listeners as an odd view for a basketball player to have. Nevertheless, Bradley often tells his audiences, “Basketball discipline carries over into your life,” continuing, “You’ve got to face that you’re going to lose. Losses are part of every season, and part of life. The question is, can you adjust? It is important that you don’t get caught up in your own little defeats.” If he seems ministerial, that is because he is. He has a firm sense of what is right, and apparently feels that he has a mission to help others see things as clearly as he does. “I don’t try to be overbearing in what I believe, but, given a chance, I will express my beliefs,” he says. After the Olympics were over, he stayed in the Far East an extra week to make a series of speeches at universities in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
As a news story once said of Bradley—quite accurately, it seems—he is everything his parents think he is. He approximates what some undergraduates call a straight arrow—a semi-pejorative term for unfortunates who have no talent for vice. Nevertheless, considerable numbers of Princeton undergraduates have told me that Bradley is easily the most widely admired student on the campus and probably the best liked, and that his skill at basketball is not the only way in which he atones for his moral altitude. He has worked for the Campus Fund Drive, which is a sort of Collegiate Gothic community chest, and for the Orange Key Society, an organization that, among other things, helps freshmen settle down into college life. One effect that Bradley has had on Princeton has been to widen noticeably the undergraduate body’s tolerance for people with high ethical standards. “He is a source of inspiration to anyone who comes in contact with him,” one of his classmates says. “You look at yourself and you decide to do better.”
Bradley has built his life by setting up and going after a series of goals, athletic and academic, which at the moment have culminated in his position on the Olympic basketball team and his Rhodes Scholarship. Of the future beyond Oxford, he says only that he wants to go to law school and later “set a Christian example by implementing my feelings within the structure of the society,” adding, “I value my ultimate goals more than playing basketball.” I have asked all sorts of people who know Bradley, or know about him, what they think he will be doing when he is forty. A really startling number of them, including teachers, coaches, college boys, and even journalists, give the same answer: “He will be the governor of Missouri.” The chief dissent comes from people who look beyond the stepping stone of the Missouri State House and calmly tell you that Bradley is going to be President. Last spring, Leonard Shecter, of the New York Post, began a column by saying, “In twenty-five years or so our presidents are going to have to be better than ever. It’s nice to know that Bill Bradley will be available.” Edward Rapp, Bradley’s high-school principal, once said, “With the help of his friends, Bill could very well be President of the United States. And without the help of his friends he might make it anyway.”
Some of Bradley’s classmates, who think he is a slave to his ideals, call him The Martyr, though he is more frequently addressed as Brads, Spin, Star, or Horse. He is also called Hayseed, and teased about his Missouri accent. Additional abuse is piled on him by his five roommates, who kid him by saying that his good grades are really undeserved gifts from a hero-worshipping faculty, and who insistently ask him to tell them how many points he scored in various bygone games, implying that he knows exactly but is feigning modesty when he claims he doesn’t. He is a good-looking, dark-haired boy whose habits of dress give him protective coloration on the Princeton campus; like nearly everyone else, he wears khaki trousers and a white shirt. His room is always littered, and he doesn’t seem to care when he runs out of things; he has been known to sleep without sheets for as long as five weeks, stretched out on a bare mattress under a hairy bit of blanket. He drives automobiles wildly. When he wastes time, he wastes it hurriedly rather than at leisure. He dates with modest frequency—girls from Smith, Wellesley, Vassar, Randolph-Macon, Manhattanville. Just before leaving his room to go dress for a basketball game, he invariably turns on his hi-fi and listens to “Climb Every Mountain,” from “The Sound of Music.” He is introspective, and sometimes takes himself very seriously; it is hard, too, for him to let himself go. His reserve with people he doesn’t know well has often caused him to be quite inaccurately described as shy and sombre. He has an ambiguous, bemused manner that makes people wonder on occasion whether he is in earnest or just kidding; they eventually decide, as a rule, that half the time he is just kidding.
Bradley calls practically all men “Mister” whose age exceeds his own by more than a couple of years. This includes any N.B.A. players he happens to meet, Princeton trainers, and Mr. Willem Hendrik van Breda Kolff, his coach. Van Breda Kolff was a Princeton basketball star himself, some twenty years ago, and went on to play for the New York Knickerbockers. Before returning to Princeton in 1962, he coached at Lafayette and Hofstra. His teams at the three colleges have won two hundred and fifty-one games and lost ninety-six. Naturally, it was a virtually unparalleled stroke of good fortune for van Breda Kolff to walk into his current coaching job in the very year that Bradley became eligible to play for the varsity team, but if the coach was lucky to have the player, the player was also lucky to have the coach. Van Breda Kolff, a cheerful and uncomplicated man, has a sportsman’s appreciation of the nuances of the game, and appears to feel that mere winning is far less important than winning with style. He is an Abstract Expressionist of basketball. Other coaches have difficulty scouting his teams, because he does not believe in a set offense. He likes his offense free-form.
Van Breda Kolff simply tells his boys to spread out and keep the ball moving. “Just go fast, stay out of one another’s way, pass, move, come off guys, look for one-on-ones, two-on-ones, two-on-twos, three-on-threes. That’s about the extent,” he says. That is, in fact, about the substance of basketball, which is almost never played as a five-man game anymore but is, rather, a constant search, conducted semi-independently by five players, for smaller combinations that will produce a score. One-on-one is the basic situation of the game—one man, with the ball, trying to score against one defensive player, who is trying to stop him, with nobody else involved. Van Breda Kolff does not think that Bradley is a great one-on-one player. “A one-on-one player is a hungry player,” he explains. “Bill is not hungry. At least ninety per cent of the time, when he gets the ball, he is looking for a pass.” Van Breda Kolff has often tried to force Bradley into being more of a one-on-one player, through gentle persuasion in practice, through restrained pleas during timeouts, and even through open clamor. During one game last year, when Princeton was losing and Bradley was still flicking passes, van Breda Kolff stood up and shouted, “Will . . . you . . . shoot . . . that . . . ball?” Bradley, obeying at once, drew his man into the vortex of a reverse pivot, and left him standing six feet behind as he made a soft, short jumper from about ten feet out.
If Bradley were more interested in his own statistics, he could score sixty or seventy-five points, or maybe even a hundred, in some of his games. But this would merely be personal aggrandizement, done at the expense of the relative balance of his own team and causing unnecessary embarrassment to the opposition, for it would only happen against an opponent that was heavily outmatched anyway. Bradley’s highest point totals are almost always made when the other team is strong and the situation demands his scoring ability. He has, in fact, all the mechanical faculties a great one-on-one player needs. As van Breda Kolff will point out, for example, Bradley has “a great reverse pivot,” and this is an essential characteristic of a one-on-one specialist. A way of getting rid of a defensive man who is playing close, it is a spin of the body, vaguely similar to what a football halfback does when he spins away from a would-be tackler, and almost exactly what a lacrosse player does when he “turns his man.” Say that Bradley is dribbling hard toward the basket and the defensive man is all over him. Bradley turns, in order to put his body between his opponent and the ball; he continues his dribbling but shifts the ball from one hand to the other; if his man is still crowding in on him, he keeps on turning until he has made one full revolution and is once more headed toward the basket. This is a reverse pivot. Bradley can execute one in less than a second. The odds are that when he has completed the spin the defensive player will be behind him, for it is the nature of basketball that the odds favor the man with the ball—if he knows how to play them. Bradley doesn’t need to complete the full revolution every time. If his man steps away from him in anticipation of a reverse pivot, Bradley can stop dead and make a jump shot. If the man stays close to him but not close enough to be turned, Bradley can send up a hook shot. If the man moves over so that he will be directly in Bradley’s path when Bradley comes out of the turn, Bradley can scrap the reverse pivot before he begins it, merely suggesting it with his shoulders and then continuing his original dribble to the basket, making his man look like a pedestrian who has leaped to get out of the way of a speeding car.
The metaphor of basketball is to he found in these compounding alternatives. Every time a basketball player takes a step, an entire new geometry of action is created around him. In ten seconds, with or without the ball, a good player may see perhaps a hundred alternatives and, from them, make half a dozen choices as he goes along. A great player will see even more alternatives and will make more choices, and this multiradial way of looking at things can carry over into his life. At least, it carries over into Bradley’s life. The very word “alternatives” bobs in and out of his speech with noticeable frequency. Before his Rhodes Scholarship came along and eased things, he appeared to be worrying about dozens of alternatives for next year. And he still fills his days with alternatives. He apparently always needs to have eight ways to jump, not because he is excessively prudent but because that is what makes the game interesting.
The reverse pivot, of course, is just one of numerous one-on-one moves that produce a complexity of possibilities. A rocker step, for example, in which a player puts one foot forward and rocks his shoulders forward and backward, can yield a set shot if the defensive man steps back, a successful drive to the basket if the defensive man comes in too close, a jump shot if he tries to compromise. A simple crossover—shifting a dribble from one hand to the other and changing direction—can force the defensive man to over-commit himself, as anyone knows who has ever watched Oscar Robertson use it to break free and score. Van Breda Kolff says that Bradley is “a great mover,” and points out that the basis of all these maneuvers is footwork. Bradley has spent hundreds of hours merely rehearsing the choreography of the game—shifting his feet in the same patterns again and again, until they have worn into his motor subconscious. “The average basketball player only likes to play basketball,” van Breda Kolff says. “When he’s left to himself, all he wants to do is get a two-on-two or a three-on-three going. Bradley practices techniques, making himself learn and improve instead of merely having fun.”
Because of Bradley’s super-serious approach to basketball, his relationship to van Breda Kolff is in some respects a reversal of the usual relationship between a player and a coach. Writing to van Breda Kolff from Tokyo in his capacity as captain-elect, Bradley advised his coach that they should prepare themselves for “the stern challenge ahead.” Van Breda Kolff doesn’t vibrate to that sort of tune. “Basketball is a game, he says. “It is not an ordeal. I think Bradley’s happiest whenever he can deny himself pleasure.” Van Breda Kolff’s handling of Bradley has been, in a way, a remarkable feat of coaching. One man cannot beat five men—at least not consistently—and Princeton loses basketball games. Until this season, moreover, the other material that van Breda Kolff has had at his disposal has been for the most part below even the usual Princeton standard, so the fact that his teams have won two consecutive championships is about as much to his credit as to his star’s. Van Breda Kolff says, “I try to play it just as if he were a normal player. I don’t want to overlook him, but I don’t want to over-look for him, either, if you see what I’m trying to say.” Bradley’s teammates sometimes depend on him too much, the coach explains, or, in a kind of psychological upheaval, get self-conscious about being on the court with a superstar and, perhaps to prove their independence, bring the ball up the court five or six times without passing it to him. When this happens, van Breda Kolff calls time out. “Hey, boys,” he says. “What have we got an All-American for?” He refers to Bradley’s stardom only when he has to, however. In the main, he takes Bradley with a calculated grain of salt. He is interested in Bradley’s relative weaknesses rather than in his storied feats, and has helped him gain poise on the court, learn patience, improve his rebounding, and be more aggressive. He refuses on principle to say that Bradley is the best basketball player he has ever coached, and he is also careful not to echo the general feeling that Bradley is the most exemplary youth since Lochinvar, but he will go out of his way to tell about the reaction of referees to Bradley. “The refs watch Bradley like a hawk, but, because he never complains, they feel terrible if they make an error against him,” he says. “They just love him because he is such a gentleman. They get upset if they call a bad one on him.” I asked van Breda Kolff what he thought Bradley would be doing when he was forty. “I don’t know,” he said “I guess he’ll be the governor of Missouri.”