Get Inspired: How to play Basketball

Basketball has come a long way since it was invented by a Canadian - Dr James Naismith - in Springfield, US, in 1891 as a means to keep his gym class active on a rainy day.

Star players in the American National Basketball Association (NBA) such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are now some of the most recognisable and highly-paid athletes on the planet.

Men's basketball was introduced to the Olympics in 1936, with women given their own competition in 1976. In 1989, basketball's governing body Fiba voted to allow NBA stars to compete in the Olympics.

Great Britain fielded men's and women's teams at London 2012 - the first time they have competed at the Olympics since London last hosted the Games in 1948.

Why is it good for you?

Basketball is a fast-moving game, where an hour's play can burn between 630-750 calories.

The sport's mixture of running, jumping, pivoting and twisting helps improve balance and build endurance.

It is also an excellent way to boost coordination and balance through dribbling, passing and shooting the basketball.

As it is a team game, basketball is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people.

Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.

Get involved

More than 300,000 people are estimated to play basketball each month in the United Kingdom.

It is a cheap game to set-up, with only a hoop and basketball required for a rudimentary match. Thousands of outdoor courts can be found across the country in parks and recreation areas where you can play for free.

For people looking to receive coaching, play as part of a team and compete in a league, there are approximately 1,000 clubs in the UK which can be found in sport centres, schools, colleges, universities and gyms.

London 2012: Basketball at the Olympics explained (Part one)

Find your local club by using the England Basketball,  Basketball Northern Ireland,  Basketball Scotland  and Basketball Wales  club finders. The 'Try Basketball  scheme by England Basketball  is giving people of all ages throughout the country the chance to play the sport, with many sessions costing nothing to take part in.

Basketball Wales run a number of leagues and coaching courses  for both children and adults, while Basketball Scotland  provides detailed training for under-14 players through their Future Starz  programme.

Basketball Northern Ireland  runs a number of training camps  for boys and girls aged 8-18 who are looking to improve their skills.

More on the British Basketball website 


The popularity of basketball spread quickly following Dr Naismith's invention of the sport in 1891, with students from abroad who had studied in Springfield taking the game far and wide.

Did you know?

The silver medals won by the USA's men at the 1972 Olympics remain in a vault at the IOC as the team refused to accept them following the highly-controversial defeat by Russia in the final (which ended their 63-match unbeaten run at the Games). US captain Ken Davis has a clause in his will stating that a member of his family will never be allowed to go and collect his medal.

The first game involved a football and two baskets normally used to carry peaches as the target. Someone would retrieve the ball after every basket, with the bottom only removed in 1906 to create the hoop now used today.

An Olympic demonstration sport as early as 1904, the first international games were played in the 1920s and men's basketball was introduced to the Olympics in 1936

By 1950, the first World Championship for men was held in Argentina. Three years later, the first World Championship for women took place in Chile, with the opening Olympic competition following in 1976.

Over 450 million people now play basketball at a competition and grassroots level, and the sport claims to be closing on football as the world's most popular. 

More on the IOC website 

Are you inspired to try Basketball? Or maybe you are an enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the game by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.