Slam Dunk Surprises: Basketball’s Hidden Facts

Updated on July 17, 2023

Greetings, roundball enthusiasts! Buckle up for an amusing ride through the vibrant realm of basketball. We’re about to hop on a 30-stop tour, uncovering some of the most unexpected, giggle-inducing, and simply weird fun facts about basketball. Whether you’re a seasoned baller or just a casual fan, these goofy tidbits are sure to score a few laughs. Let’s bounce into it!

1. Bouncy Basket Beginnings

Can you believe that the initial games of basketball involved a soccer ball and two peach baskets? That’s right! The brainchild of Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physical education teacher, basketball was born in 1891. He devised it as a way to keep his students active during the frosty winter months.

Naismith hung two peach baskets at each end of the gym, kickstarting an exciting new game. However, he ran into a little hiccup: the baskets had no holes in the bottom. So, every time a player scored, someone had to climb up a ladder to retrieve the ball. Talk about a unique way to keep the game interesting!

Vintage basketball game with peach basket

Image Source: National Geographic

2. The Colorful Evolution

Why are basketballs orange, you ask? Well, they didn’t start out that way! Originally, they were dark brown, almost the color of the hardwood floor. This made it pretty tricky for players to spot the ball during the game.

But things changed in the late 1950s when Tony Hinkle, a legendary coach and innovator, proposed using an orange ball for better visibility. Since then, the sport has stuck to the lively orange hue, and the sight of an orange ball flying through the air has become synonymous with the sport.

3. Basketball – The Rib-Tickling Rulebook

Basketball has seen its fair share of bizarre rules. One that would surely leave you chuckling is a rule from the game’s early days: players could only move the ball by passing it from one person to another. Dribbling wasn’t allowed!

Just picture it – players frozen in their spots, tossing the ball back and forth like a high-stakes game of catch. Thankfully, this rule has long since retired, making way for the dynamic dribbling we know today.

Basketball player passing the ball

4. Swish! The Sound of Net

The sound of a basketball swishing through the net is pure joy to any player’s ears. But did you know, basketball games were devoid of this satisfying sound until 1893, two years after the game’s invention? Originally, there were no nets.

The introduction of the net added a whole new sensory element to the game – a delightful swish that accompanies a perfect shot. So, let’s take a moment to appreciate the humble net for the auditory thrill it brings to the game.

5. The Pop Secret of Basketball Inflation

Here’s a fun fact that will bounce right off your page: ever wondered about the exact science that goes into inflating a basketball? Well, prepare for this to blow your mind. The ideal pressure for a standard NBA basketball is 7.5 to 8.5 pounds per square inch. This isn’t just hot air; it’s cold, hard science!

This level of inflation ensures that when the ball is dropped from a height of 6 feet, it rebounds up to the player’s hip level. And that’s why players can dribble and pass the ball with so much ease. Imagine the chaos if the balls were inflated as much as a helium balloon! Games would turn into an odd, uncontrollable spectacle.

So, next time you sit down to watch an NBA game, or even play a round of basketball, remember the incredible inflation information. It’s a ‘pressure-packed’ detail that makes the game what it is!

Player dribbling a basketball

Image source: cottonbro studio /

6. Hoops Without a Backboard

Can you visualize a game of basketball without backboards? Sounds challenging, right? This, however, was the reality in the early days of the game. The backboard was initially brought in not to assist in rebounding shots, but to prevent spectators from disrupting the game.

The audience members would interfere with the ball’s trajectory, leading to the introduction of this now integral component. Today, the backboard assists in banking shots, rebounding, and adding a dramatic flair to buzzer-beaters. Imagine trying to nail that final shot without a backboard to help!

Early basketball with no backboard

Image source:

7. The Highest Score in a Single Game

Basketball games can get pretty high-scoring, but have you ever heard of a game where one of the teams crossed the 150-point mark? It sounds extraordinary, but it happened!

On December 13, 1983, the Detroit Pistons and the Denver Nuggets played the highest-scoring game in NBA history. This wasn’t just an ordinary game. It was a triple-overtime spectacle that witnessed the Pistons triumph over the Nuggets with a score of 186-184. That’s 370 points in total! Even the most efficient NBA teams today would find it challenging to match that record.

8. A Game with No Fans

This is one for the history books. On March 12, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA decided to play games without fans for the first time in its history. The arenas that used to echo with the cheers of thousands were eerily quiet.

It was definitely a strange sight to see the players’ voices and the ball’s bounce being the only sounds in the entire arena. This unique situation reminded us of the importance of fans in adding life and excitement to the game.

NBA game being played without fans

Image source:

9. The Shortest Player in NBA History

In a game dominated by towering giants, 5-foot 3-inch Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues stood out. Despite being the shortest player in NBA history, Bogues carved out a successful career that spanned 14 years.

Despite his height, Bogues was a tenacious defender, a swift player, and a terrific passer, proving that height isn’t everything in basketball. His career serves as a fun reminder of the diversity and inclusiveness of the game.

10. When Basketball Meets Water Polo: It’s Splashtastic!

Have you ever wondered what would happen if basketball decided to take a dip? Welcome to the fantastic world of water basketball!

You may think I’m trying to float a joke past you, but it’s true. Water basketball is an actual sport. It combines rules from basketball and water polo into a fun, splashy, and high-energy game. Players showcase their dribbling and shooting skills while keeping their heads above water—talk about multi-tasking!

Water basketball might not be an Olympic sport (yet), but it certainly makes for a great summer activity, especially if you’re looking to make a splash with your friends. Dunking has a whole new meaning in water basketball! So, gear up, put on your swim caps and goggles, and take the fun of basketball to the pool!

11. Slam Dunk for Diplomacy

Basketball isn’t just a game; sometimes, it’s a diplomatic tool. In 2000, then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gifted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il with a basketball signed by Michael Jordan. At the time, it was seen as a symbol of diplomacy between the two nations.

Basketball diplomacy? Definitely one of the quirkier sides of international relations!

Michael Jordan's signed basketball

12. Trick Shots and Toilet Paper

Here’s another fun fact about basketball: In 2020, during the pandemic lockdown, a new trend emerged. People started to make trick shot videos, but instead of basketballs, they used rolls of toilet paper!

From swishing rolls into shopping carts to bouncing them off multiple walls into a basket, creativity was at its peak. Talk about making the best of a lockdown!

13. Basketball’s Oval Ancestor

Let’s bounce into history for our next fun fact about basketball. Today, we’re familiar with the perfectly spherical shape of a basketball, but it wasn’t always so.

During the early days of the game, right after its invention by Dr. James Naismith, basketball was played using a soccer ball. That’s right, a sphere that was more elliptical than round was the sport’s original game ball!

It’s fascinating to imagine how the game dynamics were different with the unpredictable bounces of the soccer ball. The switch to the round and bouncy ball we know today, specifically designed for dribbling and shooting, truly revolutionized the game.

It’s one of those basketball fun facts that reminds us of the sport’s humble and improvised beginnings.

14. The Three-Point Revolution

Basketball without three-pointers is almost unimaginable today. But this wasn’t always the case. The three-point line was not introduced in the NBA until the 1979-80 season.

The addition of this new scoring system was initially met with skepticism. However, it has since become a fundamental part of the game strategy, sparking what many call the “three-point revolution.”

From long-range specialists to centers taking a shot behind the arc, three-pointers have dramatically altered the face of basketball. The next time you cheer for a ‘three,’ remember its relatively recent entry into the basketball rulebook!

15. The Game with One Player

Did you know that there was an official NBA game where one team fielded only a single player? That’s right, due to injuries and fouls, the Minneapolis Lakers ended up with just one player, Don Carlson, on the court during a game in 1950 against the Boston Celtics.

This situation led to a change in rules, ensuring that a team would always have a minimum of five players on the court. Imagine trying to dribble, pass, and shoot all by yourself against a full team!

16. The Basketball Bloomers

Here’s a fun fact about basketball for the fashion-forward fans. In the early 20th century, women basketball players had a unique dress code – they had to wear bloomers!

Bloomers were voluminous pants, cinched at the waist and the knees, which were considered appropriate for athletic activities. It’s a far cry from the jerseys and shorts we’re accustomed to seeing today. Isn’t it fun to realize how far basketball and its style have evolved?

photo of early women's basketball team in bloomers

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

17. Magic Number 100

In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain achieved something unbelievable. He scored 100 points in a single game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks. This feat has never been repeated in the NBA.

Scoring 100 points in a single game is a mind-boggling achievement that underlines Chamberlain’s prowess and skill. Today, Chamberlain’s 100-point game stands as one of the most remarkable records in basketball history.

18. World’s Most Lopsided Game

Talk about dominance! The most lopsided game in professional basketball history happened in 1991 when the Cleveland Cavaliers crushed the Miami Heat 148-80, winning by a whopping 68 points.

Whether you’re a Cavaliers fan basking in the glory or a Heat supporter recalling the nightmare, this game remains a fascinating, unusual entry in the history books. It goes to show just how unpredictable and exciting a game of basketball can be.

Cleveland Cavaliers team 1991

Image source:

19. The Tale of Two Balls

Here’s a double fun fact about basketball: Did you know that women’s basketballs are slightly smaller than men’s? The standard circumference of a men’s basketball is about 29.5 inches, while a women’s basketball is approximately 28.5 inches.

This difference exists to account for the generally smaller hand size of female players, allowing them to handle the ball with the same ease as their male counterparts. It’s a small but important distinction in the name of fairness and inclusivity in basketball.

20. The Nameless First Game

For our next fun fact about basketball, let’s rewind back to the very first game. What’s intriguing is that the game we know and love today started off without even having a proper name!

In December 1891, when Dr. James Naismith initiated the first match at a YMCA training school, he simply described it as a “new game.” There was no grand announcement or a catchy name ready. It was an experiment to create an indoor game that would keep his students active during the winter.

The name “Basket Ball” only came about weeks later, coined from the very basic elements of the game: a ball and a basket. Today, it’s known worldwide and simply cannot be mistaken for anything else.

Dr. James Naismith

21. First Public Basketball Game

The first public basketball game took place in 1893 in Springfield, Massachusetts. What’s more, it was a game played by women! The spectators witnessed something they never had before: a new sport where teams tried to throw a ball into opposing peach baskets.

The sight of women running, dribbling, and shooting in their bloomers must have been a spectacle in itself! This game marked the beginning of basketball as a spectator sport, leading to the worldwide phenomenon we know and love today.

22. Dribbling Wasn’t Always a Thing

Here’s an unbelievable fact: there was a time in basketball history when dribbling didn’t exist! In the initial rules set out by Dr. James Naismith, players could only move the ball by passing it.

Dribbling was later introduced to make the game more dynamic and challenging. It’s hard to imagine a game without the sound of a basketball rhythmically hitting the court. Just shows how much basketball has evolved over the years!

23. The Tale of the Tallest and Shortest

NBA’s history saw the simultaneous play of its tallest and shortest players. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, 7-foot-7-inch Gheorghe Mureșan and 5-foot-3-inch Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues shared the court.

Their height difference made for some amazing photographs and highlighted the range of physiques that can succeed in basketball. It’s not all about size but skills, agility, and technique too!

Mureșan and Bogues

24. The Origins of the Jump Shot

Jump shots are integral to modern basketball, but they haven’t always been around. Kenny Sailors is credited with popularizing the jump shot in the 1940s.

Before that, players used to shoot with both feet on the ground. The introduction of the jump shot added an extra layer of complexity and elegance to the game. Sailors’ innovation has since been adopted by every player who wanted to get their shot off over a taller defender.

25. The Not-So-Timely Timeout

Ever noticed that the last few minutes of a tight basketball game seem to stretch on forever? This has a lot to do with the strategic use of timeouts. In the NBA, each team is allotted a set number of timeouts that they can call to halt the game.

But did you know that the longest ever NBA game, a match between the Indianapolis Olympians and the Rochester Royals in 1951, didn’t have any timeouts? It lasted six overtimes, a total of 78 minutes of playtime! Now that’s what we call intense!

26. The Record Breaking Scorekeeper

Here’s a fun fact from outside the court. Harvey Pollack, a statistician, served the NBA for an incredible 68 years! Known as the “Super Stat,” Pollack is the only person to have been involved in the NBA since its inception in 1946 until his death in 2015.

From tracking rebounds before it was an official stat to hand-writing the “100” sign held by Wilt Chamberlain, Pollack’s contributions to the game are enormous. He exemplifies how basketball isn’t just about the players but everyone who contributes to the experience.

Harvey Pollack

Image source:

27. Shot Clock’s Impact on Scoring

Here’s a fun fact for the number-loving basketball fan. The introduction of the shot clock in 1954 drastically increased scoring in games. Before its introduction, teams often stalled games to maintain their lead, leading to lower scoring games.

But with the shot clock, teams had only 24 seconds to take a shot, leading to a faster pace and higher scoring games. So, next time you enjoy a high-scoring match, you know who to thank – the humble shot clock!

28. The Original Celtics

No, we’re not talking about the Boston Celtics. The original Celtics were a New York-based team that played in the 1920s. Not related to the Boston team, these Celtics were nevertheless pivotal to the growth of basketball. They popularized the sport and were one of the first teams to play according to contracts.

So while they might not be as famous as their namesakes, the original Celtics made significant contributions to the sport we love today. Just another reminder that basketball history is full of surprises!

Original Celtics

Image source:

29. The Dunking Dilemma

The slam dunk is a much-loved part of today’s basketball games. However, did you know that dunking was once banned in college basketball? From 1967 to 1976, the NCAA banned slam dunks to try and reduce injury and to level the playing field between different height categories of players.

This rule was often called the “Lew Alcindor rule” after the tall UCLA player (who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) who used to dunk frequently. Thankfully for us fans, the rule was overturned, and dunks have been crowd-pleasers ever since.

30. Space Jam’s Influence on the NBA

Our final fun fact about basketball is a tribute to the blend of pop culture and sport. The 1996 film “Space Jam,” starring NBA superstar Michael Jordan, didn’t just make waves in the box office. It also significantly contributed to promoting NBA to a global audience.

The blend of animation and live-action, coupled with Jordan’s charismatic performance, attracted millions to the sport. It’s safe to say that some of today’s biggest basketball stars might have been inspired by watching MJ play alongside Bugs Bunny!

Space Jam


What are 5 historical facts about basketball?

  1. Basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physical education instructor, in 1891.
  2. The first basketball game was played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets.
  3. The first public basketball game was played by women in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1893.
  4. The first “hoops” were actually just peach baskets, and the first backboards were made of wire.
  5. The NBA was founded in New York City on June 6, 1946, as the Basketball Association of America (BAA).

What is a fun fact about the NBA?

The shortest player ever to play in the NBA is Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, who stood just 5 feet 3 inches tall. At the same time, the tallest players in NBA history, Gheorghe Mureșan and Manute Bol, each stood 7 feet 7 inches tall.

Where did the name basketball come from?

The name “basketball” comes from the sport’s early days when players aimed to shoot a ball into a peach basket. The aim of the game was to “basket the ball,” hence the name basketball.

Who created basketball?

Basketball was created by Dr. James Naismith in December 1891. Naismith was trying to create a new game to keep his students active during the winter while indoors. He developed the basic rules and nailed a peach basket onto the elevated track, and basketball was born.

How many basketball players in the world?

As of our knowledge cutoff in 2023, it’s estimated that there are over 450 million basketball players in the world.

Why is basketball a sport?

Basketball is considered a sport because it involves physical exertion, skill, and competition between two teams. Players aim to score points by shooting the ball into the opposing team’s basket, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Why do people find basketball interesting?

People find basketball interesting for many reasons. It’s a fast-paced game with lots of scoring, which makes it exciting to watch. The strategy, skill, and athleticism involved in the game also draw in fans. Plus, the NBA and other leagues do a great job of marketing their stars, making them interesting figures both on and off the court.

What was used before a basketball?

Before the invention of basketballs, players used a soccer ball in the game’s earliest form. It wasn’t until later that the first basketballs were created.

What is a skill in basketball?

There are several essential skills in basketball, including shooting, passing, dribbling, rebounding, and playing defense. Mastering these skills allows a player to contribute to their team in multiple ways, making the game more enjoyable and competitive.

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