Basketball in Europe
Origin of Basketball:
Basketball was invented in Massachusetts by Dr. James Naismith in 1891. From there, basketball has evolved in the USA through various professional competitions such as the ABA (American Basketball League) and the current league, the NBA (National Basketball Association) and the sport has always been played in a uniformed format.
Basketball comes to Europe:
The first game of basketball played in Europe was in 1893 at a YMCA in Paris, France. A possible reason for the international interest in Europe was because the sport was created in an international constitution in the US (Larry Fox, 1974).
How it’s played in Europe:
European players have changed how the way basketball is played. Since the emergence of Toni Kukoc, the first established Euro player, they have been known to be great shooters of the basketball, as well as pesky defenders who use their very effective soccer heritage to “act” by their exaggerated falling over, widely known as flopping.
The main aspect of the Europeans game is the unique shooting ability of their big men. Players that are now playing in the NBA such as Dirk Nowitzki (213 cm) and Mehmet Okur (210 cm) are both great three-point shooters, something the league hadn’t seen from taller players prior to their arrival on Basketball’s biggest stage.
Basketball has become so big in Europe that they have started up a competition called Euro-league. Twenty-four teams from all around Europe play through a season until one team is named Euro-league champion. It is the second largest competition in the world (second to the NBA) which draws players from all over the globe.
Although not on the level of soccer, basketball is certainly making in-roads on soccer as possibly the second most popular team sport in Europe.
Competitive with the best in the world
Europe has always posed the most dangerous threat to the vice grip that the Americans have on the Olympic Gold medal. The Soviet Union won Gold at the Munich games in 1972 and in 1980 when the USA boycotted the Olympics, European teams took the entire medal collection with gold going to Yugoslavia, silver to Italy, and bronze to the Soviet Union. Most recently the Spanish team defeated the Americans at the 2002 World Championships (FIBA Europe).
Why so popular?
In a continent that has always been plagued by wars and racial divisions, sport has always had an uncanny knack to build bridges as opposed to walls (not unlike Berlin). Any popular sport somehow breaks the barriers, as people forget who hates who as they get caught up in their own competitiveness. Basketball has provided and will continue to provide an outlet for many nations who are or were in unsure times.
The possible other reason for the popularity of the game in Europe is, like soccer, you can play it by yourself. A lot of kids in Europe and even adults find themselves alone and they are able to hone their skills by themselves.
Basketball is arguably the second most popular team sport in the world but the Europeans have taken to it. They have some of the best players and teams in the world and will continue to produce them as time goes on.