Former NBA player, professors discuss history, dynamics of basketball


Taylor Barron

Senator Bill Bradley gave a keynote speech on the topic of Basketball and American Culture this Thursday at the Etta Harber Alumni Center.

Tiffany Hinman

Invented in 1891, the game of basketball began with only 13 rules before arriving at UT in 1906 as it grew into the multi-million dollar industry it is today.

The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports presented its “Basketball and American Culture” symposium Thursday, coinciding with the display of James Naismith’s “Original Rules of Basket Ball” at the Blanton Museum of Art. Naismith’s original document consists of two pages that list the 13 rules transcribed in 1891. 

“[Basketball] is the gift that never stops giving,” Bill Bradley, keynote speaker, NBA Hall of Fame member and former U.S. Senator, said. “The game is full of great joy and great memory. It needs to be celebrated.”

Bradley played for the U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1964. The New York Knicks drafted Bradley after he left the University of Oxford in 1967 and served six months active duty as an officer in the Air Force Reserves. He retired from the Knicks in 1977 and took office as a U.S. Senator the same year.

Bradley said the game is constantly transforming. He discussed the differences between present concepts of basketball compared to concepts during his career.

“When I played basketball we were told the one thing to never do is lift weights,” Bradley said. “Take a look at the basketball players today and then. When I played we played with the feet, but now it is played with upper body strength. The game has changed.”

Skidmore College professor Daniel Nathan said the sport has permeated the world in addition to transforming it. He said what started as an urban game, mostly practiced in Jewish communities, has diffused to international cultures. Nathan said 29 of the 30 NBA teams now feature at least one international player.

“NBA teams are more eclectic than ever, culturally, nationally, ethnically and racially,” Nathan said. “Basketball promotes a cross-cultural exchange and respect.”

Janice Todd, Stark Center co-director, said people across the world are drawn to the sport because it is unlike any other. Todd emphasized Naismith’s drafting of the sport as history. She said Naismith’s written rules separate it from sports that share similar qualities.

“They are two sheets of paper and in some ways very plain and very simple, but they are the only artifact that we have in the world of sports that can show the creation of a game,” Todd said. “Most games have evolved over time from something else into something different.”

Naismith’s “Original Rules of Basket Ball” will be on display at the Blanton Museum of Art until January 13.

Printed on Friday, November 30, 2012 as: Ex-NBA star, speakers laud basketball's legacy