Court game between two teams of five players. They score by tossing, or shooting, an inflated ball through a raised hoop, or basket, located in their opponent's end of the court. A goal is worth two points, three if shot from outside a specified limit. A player who is fouled (through unwarranted physical contact) by another is awarded one to three free-throw attempts (depending on the circumstances of the foul). A successful free throw is worth one point. Invented in 1891 by James A. Naismith at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., basketball quickly became popular throughout the U.S., with games organized at the high school and collegiate level for both sexes. (For the first game, Naismith used as goals two half-bushel peach baskets, which gave the sport its name.) Women first played the game under a markedly different set of rules. The game developed internationally at a slower pace. The first Olympic basketball contest was held in 1936, and the Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur (FIBA) introduced world championships for men and women in 1950 and 1953, respectively. In the U.S., high school and collegiate championship tournaments are traditionally held in March and generate considerable excitement. A men's professional league was organized in 1898 but did not gain much of a following until 1949, when it was reconstituted as the National Basketball Association (NBA). The first women's professional leagues in the U.S. emerged during the 1970s but failed after a year or two. The current Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), owned by the NBA, was organized in 1997. Club and professional basketball outside the U.S. developed rapidly in the latter part of the 20th century. The Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Springfield.
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