London 2012 Guide to…Basketball

  • Peach Baskets

Basketball was invented in 1891, when there were peach baskets instead of nets at either end. This also meant that the ball had to be retrieved each time a player threw it in.

However, to speed things up, a hole was made in the bottom of the basket, which enabled the ball to be pushed out. This was still too slow though, so in 1906, the baskets were finally ditched and metal hoops were introduced. 30 years later and basketball was to make its first official appearance at the Olympic Games, which were held in Berlin.

  • American Domination

So, the men’s basketball competition kicked off in 1936, and they soon started to dominate the game. In fact, they dominated so much that they were to go undefeated during their next 62 Olympic matches, when they finally came up short against the USSR in 1972.

On the women’s side, the Soviet Union controlled the sport following its introduction in 1976. However, between 1984 and 2008 the American team won gold in every Games, aside from one.

  • How the game works

A game is split into four, 10-minute periods, and points are essentially awarded depending on the distance you throw the ball from. Each country will bring a squad of 12 players, but only five are allowed on the court in any one time.

  • Basketball in London

Nearly 300 players will descend on London this summer in the search for Olympic basketball gold. 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams will be divided into two groups, where they will play each other. The top four sides from each group will then progress to the next stage, which adopts a knock-out format.

The Basketball Arena in the Olympic Park will play host to all of the preliminary games and the women’s quarter-final matches. The remaining games – the men’s quarter finals along with all the semi-finals and medal games – will be held at the North Greenwich Arena (aka the O2).

  • Local Hopefuls

Chicago Bulls’ Luol Deng has caught the eye in the NBA, while two players who play in Spain – Joel Freeland and Rob Archiebald will want to help Team GB get as far as possible.

And finally…

Look out for: Yao Ming.

Although he’s now retired, the former Chinese player may well be wandering around to see how his country get on. And at 7 ft 6 in, he should stand out from others.

Not to be confused with: handball, or peach baskets (see above).

Useless but informative fact: 300 basketballs have been set aside for use in London. That’s nearly one per player (288).

Basketball in two words: slam dunk (when a player jumps in the air and forces the ball downwards into the net.

The Olympics Basketball competitions will be taking place between Saturday 28 July and Sunday 12 August.