The beauty of basketball is its simplicity: Ball, Basket, Player – that’s really all you need. But since Dr. Naismith birthed this thing in 1891, there have been a few innovations that have revolutionized the sport. And since this is what we spend most of our time doing at POINT 3 - thinking about innovations for the ballplayer - we wanted to pay homage to the all-timers. So, here are our top 5 basketball gear innovations that have helped shape the game we know and love.
1. Bouncing Basketballs
In Dr. Naismith’s original 13 rules, there was no mention of dribbling or bouncing the ball, just that a player couldn’t travel (aka run with the ball). This was in part because they used a soccer ball, which at the time was made from skin or leather, wrapped around an inflated animal bladder – nasty for sure but more to the point, not guaranteed to stay round and bounce evenly. It wasn’t until 3 years later in 1894 when Naismith’s boy, A.G. Spalding produced the first basketball specifically designed to stay round and bounce evenly. Amazingly, it still took until 1916 for the rules to be amended allowing players to shoot after dribbling. But the real hero here is the Industrial Revolution, which in 1942 led to the development of the molded basketball with a rubber bladder, which allowed for handles like this from PONT 3 Alpha Ryan Goodson:
2. Chuck Taylor All-Stars
The #1 selling shoe of all-time, Chucks were originally designed as a basketball sneaker and is what more than 90% of all ballers rocked on the court in the 1960s. The Converse All-Star dropped in 1917, one of the first shoes with rubber soles and an extra tall canvas “upper”, aka the hi-top. In 1921, Chuck Taylor joined the Converse All-Stars company hoops squad and sold kicks at basketball clinics all over the country. More salesman than baller (although he clearly had some game) his big innovation was to add a patch to protect the ankle, which convinced the higher-ups at Converse to give Chuck his own P.E. In the 30s, they added his signature and the rest is basketball innovation history.
3. "Short" Shorts
Nope, not giving John Stockton credit on this one. We date the innovation of “short” basketball shorts back to the 1920s, when ballers wore gear like this on the court:
Everything was made out of wool so you can imagine what the locker rooms smelled like. But as the sport grew in popularity, players wanted freedom of movement on the court, which led to the use of stretchable wool, sleeveless jerseys and those nut-huggers that amazingly, remained in-style for more than 70 years (80 if you count Stockton).
Much to our surprise, Tim Duncan did not invent the backboard. This innovation was born sometime between 1893-96 but it wasn’t to help those early-gen bricklayers – they were actually to prevent fans from touching the balls while in play. By the early 1900s, players started using the backboard to bank in those wack-looking set shots and in 1919, Indiana University had a local glass company create 1.5” thick glass boards so fans in their new gym could see all the action. Innovation for player AND fan…
5. Compression's Grandad: The Jockstrap
We know, the mere mention of jockstraps makes you think of that old guy in the gym who still uses the hook shot as his go-to move. But on the serious tip, what’s more important than keeping all your parts in the right place on the court?? Before there was padded compression, bike shorts or sports bras, there was the jockstrap. Invented in 1874 to help “support” bike jockeys (aka deliverymen) while on the job, the Bike Company (still around, btw) popularized the garment for all forms of athletic activity.
So, what do you think?? Hit us up on any we missed, or just to share your favorite basketball gear innovation…