/bas"kit bawl', bah"skit-/, n.
1. a game played by two teams of usually five players each on a rectangular court having a raised basket or goal at each end, points being scored by tossing the ball through the opponent's basket.
2. the round, inflated ball, approximately 30 in. (76 cm) in circumference, used in this game.
[1890-95, Amer.; BASKET + BALL1]

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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 free throw (worth one point) is awarded to any player fouled (through unwarranted physical contact) by another, two free throws if the foul occurs during the act of shooting. Invented in 1891 by James A. Naismith in Springfield, Mass., U.S., basketball quickly became popular throughout the U.S., with games organized at the school and collegiate level for both sexes. 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 of the U.S. developed rapidly in the latter part of the 20th century. A Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Springfield.

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▪ 2009


      In June 2008 the Boston Celtics, who accounted for more National Basketball Association (NBA) championships than any other franchise, won their record 17th title by thoroughly dominating and dismantling the generally favoured Los Angeles Lakers, closing out the best-of-seven series in six games. Forward Paul Pierce, the unanimous choice of a nine-member media panel as the Finals' Most Valuable Player (MVP), led the Celtics to a 131–92 deciding victory in game six—the largest margin of victory in a clinching game in the history of the championship series. With the title in hand, the Celtics could boast that they had defeated the Lakers 9 of the 11 times that the two storied teams had faced each other in the Finals. Celtics coach Glenn (“Doc”) Rivers (Rivers, Glenn ) was the franchise's sixth head coach to win an NBA championship.

      The Celtics set a record for the most victories at home in an NBA play-off season, finishing 13–1. They also completed the single-best win–loss turnaround in league history, having gone from winning only 24 of 82 regular-season games in 2006–07 to winning a league-leading 66 games during the 2007–08 season. The Celtics were just the third team ever to win the title after missing the previous postseason (the others were the 1974–75 Golden State Warriors and the 1976–77 Portland Trail Blazers). The Celtics' 2008 title was, among other things, a tribute to the team's veteran players. Forward Kevin Garnett and guard Ray Allen had joined the squad in off-season trades from the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Seattle SuperSonics, respectively. Garnett (in his 13th season in the NBA), Allen (in his12th), and Pierce (in his 10th) acquired championship rings for the first time in their playing careers; backup forward P.J. Brown, who joined the team in midseason as a free agent, won a ring for the first time in his 15th season in the league.

      The game-six crowd in Boston's TD Banknorth Garden lustily chanted “Beat L.A.” and “Seven-teen " as Garnett scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Allen scored 26 points and tied a Finals single-game record by hitting seven three-point field goals, and Pierce contributed 17 points and 10 assists. Pierce averaged 21.8 points in the series' six games despite having suffered a sprained knee in game one that required him to use a wheelchair to get to the locker room for examination and treatment before returning to play.

      Aside from the star trio of Pierce, Garnett, and Allen, the Celtics had other significant contributors. Rookie point guard Rajon Rondo, fighting off a foot injury, had 21 points, 8 assists, and 6 steals in the deciding game, and centre Kendrick Perkins, who missed game five because of a shoulder injury, returned as a starter to play more than 13 minutes. On top of their potent offensive game, the Celtics displayed a stifling defense in putting the Lakers away. The five Lakers starters— Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol—collectively shot just 36.2% from the floor (17 for 47) in game six. Bryant, the NBA's regular-season MVP, hit 4 of his first 5 shots but only 3 of his last 17.

      In the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Detroit Shock met in the best-of-five championship series in October. The Shock prevailed, winning its third title in six years, by a score of 76–60 in game three to sweep the series. Forward Katie Smith scored 18 points in the last game and was named MVP of the Finals.

Phil Jasner

      Regarded by many observers as the best team throughout the entire 2007–08 college basketball season, the Memphis Tigers held a commanding 60–51 lead over the Kansas Jayhawks with just two minutes left in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game. Kansas played those final two minutes so well, however, that the two teams were forced to play five minutes of overtime to conclude the tournament. Kansas decisively won that overtime to clinch the game by a score of 75–68 and capture the school's third national title. Memphis, which finished the season with a 38–2 overall record, would be remembered by some observers as the team that gave away the title and by others as one of the best teams not to win an NCAA championship.

      In the final game, Kansas forward Darrell Arthur was brilliant with 20 points and 10 rebounds. It was his play that gave Kansas a chance at the end, but it was Mario Chalmers who made the most important shot in Kansas basketball history—a game-tying three pointer in the final seconds of regulation. Memphis, a poor free-throw shooting team all season, had nevertheless hit an impressive 59 of 71 foul shots during the regional final, the national semifinal, and the first 38 minutes 45 seconds of the championship game, but the Tigers missed four of five foul shots in the final 75 seconds. Notwithstanding the Tigers' struggles at the foul line, the Memphis guards were sensational. Chris Douglas-Roberts had 22 points. Freshman point guard Derrick Rose, with 18 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds, looked like he had won the game for his team with a dominating second-half performance. (The season was Rose's first and last. In June he became the first pick in the National Basketball Association draft.) Kansas, which scored just 51 points in the championship matchup's first 38 minutes, scored 24 more in the final 7 minutes and was a very deserving winner in the end, proving that some games were not over even when it appeared that they were.

      The women's 2008 NCAA championship subplot was Candace versus Candice. Tennessee had Candace Parker, the star player for the Lady Vols, who were looking to defend their 2007 title. Stanford had Candice Wiggins, who won the 2008 Wade Trophy, given annually to the women's college basketball player of the year. (Parker won the Wade Trophy in 2007.) In the championship game, Tennessee won easily, defeating Stanford by a score of 64–48. For the Lady Vols, who finished the season 36–2, it was a record eighth national championship. Stanford finished with a 35–4 season record.

      Parker, playing her final college game before heading to the Women's National Basketball Association to play professionally, scored 17 points. Wiggins became the first woman to have two 40-point games in the same NCAA tournament and finished her six tournament games with an amazing 151 points. Meanwhile, Tennessee's Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt set a new standard each time her team won a game. With a record 983 victories, she was almost certain to get her 1,000th win during the 2008–09 season.

Dick Jerardi

      From the moment the Americans strode onto the court at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to open the men's basketball tournament against host China, it was clear that only one team would be leaving with the gold medal. Because the U.S. men's basketball team had stumbled through international tournaments since the turn of the 21st century, securing no better than bronze medals in two world championships and one Olympics, the media had dubbed this squad the “Redeem Team.”

      In the preliminary round in Beijing, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were team leaders as the U.S. cruised through its group with an average winning margin of 32 points. In the quarterfinals the U.S. swept aside Australia by a score of 116–85, and defending Olympic champion Argentina edged Greece 80–78. China's bid ended in a 94–68 quarterfinal loss to Lithuania, while Spain, the reigning world champion, dispatched Croatia 72–59. In semifinal action the U.S. beat Argentina 101–81, avenging the Americans' loss to the Argentines in the Olympic semifinals in 2004. Spain reached only its second Olympic final with a hard-fought 91–86 win over Lithuania.

      Despite the fact that Spain had lost to the U.S. by 37 points in the preliminary round of the tournament, the final was majestic as the Spanish team pushed the Americans to their limit before succumbing by a score of 118–107. “We should be proud,” said Spanish centre Pau Gasol. “We never backed down.” Wade led the U.S. with 27 points in the gold-medal game. Argentina topped Lithuania 87–75 to take the bronze.

      While the U.S. men were regaining the summit of international basketball, the U.S. women continued their dominance. With a resounding 92–65 win over Australia, the Americans earned their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. The victory brought redemption for U.S. coach Anne Donovan, whose team had settled for the bronze at the 2006 world championships. “That drove me every day from 2006,” she commented. “Now I can have a good night's sleep.” The U.S. benefited from a well-balanced attack in the final, with four players—Kara Lawson, Candace Parker, Lisa Leslie, and Sylvia Fowles—each scoring in double figures. The bronze medal went to the Russian women, who downed China 94–81.

       Great Britain was already looking forward to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The Fédération Internationale de Basketball had warned Great Britain that it would be barred from competing as host unless it improved its international ranking by qualifying for the 2009 EuroBasket finals, to be held in Poland. In September, Sudanese-born Luol Deng, a star for the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association and a British citizen since 2006, helped his adopted country cruise through the qualifying round of play to reach the EuroBasket finals for the first time since 1981. Although a final decision may wait until 2010, it seemed certain that Great Britain's women would be watching from the sidelines after their failure to qualify for the European finals.

Richard Taylor

▪ 2008


 In June 2007 the San Antonio Spurs—featuring players from the U.S. Virgin Islands ( Tim Duncan), France (Tony Parker), The Netherlands (Francisco Elson), Slovenia (Beno Udrih), and Argentina (Manu Ginobli and Fabricio Oberto)—swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in four straight games in the National Basketball Association's (NBA's) best-of-seven championship series. The sweep was the first in the NBA Finals since 2001–02, when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Jersey Nets.

      Parker, the Spurs' point guard in his sixth season, became the first European to be named the Finals' Most Valuable Player (MVP), having averaged 24.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. Parker's award followed that of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, a German who became the first European to be named the regular-season MVP.

      In the process of completely overmatching the Cavaliers, the Spurs won their fourth title in nine seasons, becoming just the fifth team in league history to have earned that many in a similar period of time. Spurs forward Robert Horry won his seventh ring and became only the second player to have won with three different teams. (John Salley was the first, winning with the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Chicago Bulls.) Horry won in 2005 with the Spurs and previously with the Houston Rockets and the Lakers. This was also the fourth championship for Gregg Popovich (Popovich, Gregg ), Spurs coach for 11 years.

      The common denominator on the court for San Antonio's four titles was Duncan, the 2.13-m (7-ft) centre-forward who was the MVP the first three times the Spurs won. Despite shooting an uncharacteristically low 37.3%, Duncan averaged 18.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.25 blocks in the 2007 finals. With his team champions once again, he said, “It never gets old. It never gets old. "

      Overall, the 2007 series lacked aesthetic value, with the Spurs and Cavaliers combining to average just 83.5 points per game. The Spurs, though, displayed a fierce will at the defensive end, with veteran guard Bruce Bowen the key force in minimizing the effect of Cavaliers star 22-year-old LeBron James, who, coming directly from high school, was the number one overall pick in the 2003 draft. James averaged 22.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.8 assists but shot a weak 35.6% from the floor. In his best effort, he was 10-for-30 in game four, which was won 83–82 by the Spurs. The Spurs did not allow any other Cavaliers to take charge in the series, either; James's teammates shot a combined 41.1% from the floor and hit just 18 of 57 three-point attempts. The Cavaliers were hampered by the loss of starting guard Larry Hughes, who was unable to play after game two, having suffered from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

Phil Jasner

  Florida was nobody's national championship choice when the 2005–06 college basketball season began, but at the start of the 2006–07 season, the Gators were just about everybody's choice to repeat. Within a few months, Florida had gone from a roster of unheralded players to one with the most recognizable faces in the sport. In the previous 34 years, only one team, Duke (1991, 1992), had successfully defended its National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship. In an era when few ultrasuccessful underclassmen could resist the call of the National Basketball Association (NBA), few of the championship teams stayed together long enough to try again. Florida was different, and the entire starting lineup decided that attempting to win another NCAA championship, regardless of the expectations, was more important than the money and glory of the NBA.

      At the 2007 Final Four in Atlanta, Florida's first game was against UCLA, the same team it had beaten for the 2006 championship. Florida again dominated in every way, this time winning by 76–66. In the championship matchup on April 2, Florida was the team with the veterans: Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green, and Lee Humphrey. Its opponent, Ohio State, had the two brilliant freshmen Greg Oden and Mike Conley. The pair, who had been high-school teammates in Indianapolis, played well enough in the final game, but they were up against superior forces, and Florida prevailed 84–75. A few days after the championship, with coach Billy Donovan at their sides, Brewer, Noah, Horford, and Green (all juniors) announced that this time they would be going to the NBA. Many basketball fans thought that the players' unselfish style of play and their having previously passed on the NBA when that would have been an easy, understandable decision might be their greatest legacy.

 In women's NCAA action, Tennessee had been the dominant program for years, with six national titles. When the Lady Vols arrived in Cleveland for the 2007 Final Four tournament, however, almost a decade had passed since the team's sixth title. Playing against a Rutgers team that nobody could have predicted would be in the championship game, Tennessee won its seventh national title by playing such superb defense that Rutgers never really had a chance. Tennessee's star, 1.93-m (6-ft 4-in) Candace Parker, scored 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in the Lady Vols' 59–46 final victory and was named the tournament MVP. The title gave Tennessee's Pat Summitt her seventh as a head coach. Summitt's career record of 947–180 was the best of any coach—man or woman—in college basketball history.

Dick Jerardi

      The 2007 continental basketball championships for men and women provided only some of the qualifiers for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) kept the “Olympic dream” burning a little longer by introducing pre-Olympic tournaments to be played in June–July 2008 between the “best of the losers.”

      There was a surprise among the guaranteed men's qualifiers when, after beating Lebanon 74–69, Iran became the first team from outside East Asia to win the Asian championships. It was the first time that two teams from western Asia had contested the final, and Iran's 2.18-m (7-ft 2-in) centre Hamed Ehadadi, who scored from the centre line on the half-time buzzer in the final, attracted unexpected worldwide attention. At the 2008 Olympics, Iran would join host China, Spain (the 2006 world champion), and the other regional qualifiers.

      In the Eurobasket final Russia's American-born point guard J.R. Holden scored a jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining to beat Spain 60–59. Because Spain had already qualified, however, this left the door open for the winner of the bronze-medal game between Lithuania and Greece to take the second European qualifying spot. Lithuania won 78–69, leaving Darius Songaila to comment, “It's not a gold medal, but I'll take this .… Now we're going to focus on the Olympics.” The U.S., which had failed to live up to its past success in global competition since its dismal showing in the 2002 world championships, qualified for Beijing after brushing aside fellow qualifier Argentina 118–81 in the Americas final in Las Vegas. Angola secured its Olympic berth by beating Cameroon 86–72 for the country's ninth African title in 10 competitions. Australia, as usual, dispensed with New Zealand's Tall Blacks to qualify for Oceania. The three final Olympic slots were to be determined by the extra qualifying tournament, which would be contested by teams representing Africa (Cameroon and Cape Verde), the Americas (Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Canada), Asia (Lebanon and South Korea), Europe (Greece, Germany, Croatia, and Slovenia), and Oceania (New Zealand).

      In Olympic women's competition, host China and 2006 world champion Australia would be joined in Beijing by Mali (the qualifier from Africa), the U.S. (Americas), South Korea (Asia), Russia (Europe), and New Zealand (Oceania). Five more teams would qualify through the women's pre-Olympic tournament, comprising teams from Africa (Senegal and Angola), the Americas (Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina), Asia (Japan and Taiwan), Europe (Spain, Belarus, Latvia, and the Czech Republic), and Oceania (Fiji).

Richard Taylor

▪ 2007


 On June 20, 2006, the Miami Heat, having waited through the first 18 seasons of its existence as a National Basketball Association franchise, secured the NBA title in the team's first appearance in the finals, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 95–92 in game six of the best-of-seven series. Miami team president Pat Riley, who replaced Stan Van Gundy on the bench after 21 games, had waited 18 seasons between his fourth and fifth championships as a head coach, while centre Alonzo Mourning (Mourning, Alonzo ) (see Biographies) waited through 13 seasons of his career and endured a kidney transplant before winning for the first time. For all parties the wait was more than worth it. With guard Dwyane Wade emerging as the Most Valuable Player (MVP), the Heat swept the final four games after losing the first two in Dallas. Before game six the Mavericks, also making their initial appearance in the finals, had won six games in succession over the Heat in Dallas.

      Wade, a lightning-quick third-year guard nicknamed “Flash” by Heat centre Shaquille O'Neal, scored 36 points in the last game, hitting 10 of 18 shots from the floor and 16 of 21 from the foul line; he also blended in 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. As spectacular as Wade was in the deciding game, he also scored an imposing 120 points in the middle three games in Miami.

      Winning the final game was anything but easy. The Mavericks led by as many as 14 points in the first quarter and by 11 (42–31) with 4 minutes 39 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The Heat, however, scored 13 of the last 15 points in that quarter and led 49–48 at halftime. A stifling defense, heightened by the performance of backup big man Mourning (eight points, six rebounds, and five blocked shots), left the usually high-octane Mavericks shooting just 37% from the floor. With a three-point Miami lead in the fourth quarter, Wade missed two free throws with 10.3 seconds left. When Heat teammates Udonis Haslem and James Posey battled for the rebound of the second miss and a traveling violation was called, the Mavericks had one last chance, but guard Jason Terry missed a potential game-tying three-point shot with 2.9 seconds left.

      The underlying motivation of the team had come from Riley. “It was our time,” said Riley, who had also won a championship as an assistant coach and another as a player. He told his players on June 8, the day the finals began, that they would win the title on June 20, discounting the possibility of a potential game seven.

      The Detroit Shock won the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) championship for the second time in four seasons, taking the best-of-five final three games to two over the Sacramento Monarchs. The Shock, coached by former Detroit Pistons star Bill Laimbeer, prevailed 80–75 in game five after forcing a deciding matchup by limiting the Monarchs to only two points in the fourth quarter of game four. Detroit's Deanna Nolan scored 24 points in the last game and was named the MVP of the finals. Katie Smith, the only player among the game's 10 starters not to have previously won a title, helped the Shock with 17 points, while Cheryl Ford added a game-high 10 rebounds.

Phil Jasner

      At the men's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball championship in Indianapolis on April 3, 2006, first-time-finalist Florida faced UCLA (with its record 11 national championships), but the Gators never gave the Bruins a chance and won 73–57 for Florida's first NCAA title. When the 2005–06 college basketball season began, Florida had been an afterthought—out of the preseason polls and out of the minds of basketball cognoscenti. Not even when coach Billy Donovan's team won its first 17 games were the Gators, who did not start a single senior, taken that seriously.

      When Florida lost 6 of 11 games during a midseason slump, the Gators, with a recent history of early NCAA tournament departures, were forgotten. When the 2006 tournament began, however, it was obvious that Florida was playing as well as anybody. Gaining confidence with each game, the Gators stormed through the regional brackets on their way to the Final Four. When they arrived in Indianapolis, they had gone from afterthought to favourite, but they still were not the big story.

      Instead, everybody was talking about George Mason, the team from Fairfax, Va., that had barely made it into the tournament. The Patriots had knocked off Michigan State, North Carolina, and number one seed Connecticut, three teams with a combined eight national championships. None of the regional number one seeds advanced to Indianapolis, while George Mason had gone from never having won an NCAA game to the most amazing run in NCAA history. Reality hit in the national semifinals when Florida continued its amazing play, jumping on George Mason early and never letting up to triumph 73–58.

      Florida defeated George Mason and UCLA just as it had been winning the rest of the season—with great defense, precise passing, and very smart offense. Joakim Noah, the son of French tennis great Yannick Noah, was voted Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after he scored 16 points, along with nine rebounds and a finals-record six blocked shots against the Bruins. Noah and his Florida teammates, all of whom decided to pass up a chance at the National Basketball Association draft and return to defend their title in 2006–07, played with rare flair and an attitude that was impossible to ignore.

 The Maryland Terrapins' women's team also was not given much of a chance of winning an NCAA championship when the season began. Coach Brenda Frese promised a turnaround when she took over the Maryland program in 2002, but, like the Florida Gators, the Lady Terps were very young, and most experts figured that they were a season or two away from being able to beat the best teams. By the time they got to Boston in April for the Final Four, however, the Terps had long since dispelled that notion. First, they upset the North Carolina Tar Heels in the semifinals. After trailing Duke by 13 points in the championship game, the Terps tied the score at the end of regulation time when freshman Kristi Toliver hit a three-point shot; then Maryland won 78–75 in overtime for the school's first NCAA championship. Like Florida, Maryland did not start a single senior. Thus, like the Gators, the Lady Terps would have their entire starting five back to defend their title in 2006–07.

Dick Jerardi

      Though Spain lost its leading player, it still won the country's first Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) men's world championship by overwhelming European champion Greece 70–47 in the final on Sept. 3, 2006, in Saitama, Japan; the victory kept the title in Europe for the third successive time. The Greek players, who seemed drained by their semifinal win over the U.S., were unable to cope with the ferocious perimeter defense of the Spanish, who never trailed after Felipe Reyes put them ahead 10–9. Juan Carlos Navarro and Jorge Garbajosa led Spain with 20 points each, and Mihalis Kakiouzis scored 17 points for Greece. The Spaniards' success came without the intimidating presence of 2.13-m (7-ft)-tall Pau Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies forward who fractured his foot in the closing moments of Spain's 75–74 semifinal win over 2004 Olympic champion Argentina. “We're a great team with and without me,” said Gasol, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player (MVP). His teammates wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words Pau también juega (“Pau is also playing”) as they walked onto the court to face Greece. In Spain's 89–67 quarterfinal victory over Lithuania, Gasol scored 25 points, took down nine rebounds, and blocked three shots.

      The U.S. suffered disappointment again. After having left the 2002 world championships empty-handed and taken home a bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the Americans settled for bronze again in Japan, defeating Argentina 96–81 in the third-place play-off. The stifling U.S. defense earned a devastating 113–73 eight-finals win over Australia and then beat Germany 85–65 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals the U.S. fell to Greece, which had overpowered China 95–64 to reach the last eight and had defeated France 73–56 in the quarterfinals. Coming back from a 12-point first-half deficit against the U.S., the disciplined Greeks shot 63% from the field and 70% from the line; Kakiouzis scored four free throws in the final 35 seconds in the 101–95 victory.

      There was also a first-time winner in the FIBA women's world championships, played in Brazil in September. Penny Taylor scored 28 points in Australia's 91–74 win over Russia in the final and earned the title of tournament MVP. In the semifinals the Russians upset defending champion U.S. 75–68, and Australia eliminated Brazil, which the U.S. crushed 99–59 in the bronze-medal matchup.

Richard Taylor

▪ 2006


      Though the defending 2003–04 National Basketball Association champions the Detroit Pistons wanted to prove their team-oriented approach could create a new NBA dynasty, that plan got derailed in the 2005 NBA finals when the San Antonio Spurs beat the Pistons at their own game in a bruising best-of-seven series. By the time the Spurs wrapped up the title at home on June 23 with an 81–74 victory in game seven, it was hard to tell whether the players or their fans were more exhausted.

      In this hard-fought final series, the Spurs were extended to the limit, mentally and physically. Detroit, which had erased a 0–2 series deficit by winning games three and four, appeared poised to take command at home in the pivotal fifth game. The Spurs trailed in the closing seconds of overtime and were heading toward a third consecutive defeat in the Pistons' stadium, the Palace of Auburn Hills. Canny Spurs veteran Robert Horry, however, seized an opening that saved his team. Seeing his defender, Rasheed Wallace, rotate away from him to prevent an open shot from the corner, the 2.08-m (6-ft 10-in) Horry calmly stepped just outside the three-point line, got the ball, and sank a shot that gave San Antonio the lead for good. The victory set the stage for the Spurs to claim their second NBA title in three seasons and their third since 1999.

      Horry's thrilling shot left Detroit with the daunting challenge of attempting to win the last two games in San Antonio. The Pistons refused to quit, evening the series with a 95–86 victory in game six, but the Spurs then rode their home-court advantage into the winner's circle in the decisive battle. As usual, their clutch performer, Tim Duncan (Duncan, Tim ) (see Biographies), led the way with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Duncan was named the Most Valuable Player of the series.

      In the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), a new champion was crowned to cap the 2004–05 season. The Sacramento Monarchs swept to victory, dealing the Connecticut Sun a second straight setback in the WNBA finals. A crowd of 15,002 spectators in Sacramento's Arco Arena touched off a noisy celebration when the Monarchs hung on to wrap up the title with a 62–59 decision in game four of the best-of-five series. Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith led the way with 15 points, earning MVP laurels in the finals. The WNBA also added a new franchise, the Chicago Sky, to the 2005–06 lineup.

 The University of North Carolina's (UNC's) Sean May grew up with a championship pedigree as the son of former Indiana Hoosier great Scott May, and he lived up to that legacy in the 2005 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament. The spectacular forward scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Tar Heels (33–4) to a nerve-racking 75–70 victory over Illinois (37–2) in the dramatic closing match of the tournament. Without May's performance, the Illini would probably not have been vanquished in this St. Louis matchup between the nation's top-ranked teams. Besides making 10 of 11 field goal attempts and going 6 for 8 at the foul line, the 2.06-m (6-ft 9-in), 120.6-kg (266-lb) junior grabbed 10 rebounds. May's imposing presence under the basket forced Illinois to shoot from outside. The Big Ten Conference champs—who had entered the tournament having lost just one game all season—took 40 shots from three-point range. The Illini made only 12 of those shots, however, and got just 15 baskets from inside the bonus arc. It was that imbalance in the usually consistent Illini offense that frustrated them just one step short of capping a miracle season with their first NCAA crown. The Tar Heels led by 15 points soon after halftime and spent the remainder of the game fighting off frantic Illinois rallies. Instead, it was May—along with rugged defense and some clutch free throws by point guard Raymond Felton—that put the Tar Heels on top and earned UNC its fourth national championship. May, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, scored 16 points during an 11-minute stretch of that explosive closing half, and, in a neat repeat of history, his 26 points overall exactly matched the total scored by his father when Indiana beat Michigan in the 1976 NCAA final.

      For UNC coach Roy Williams, the championship was the fulfillment of a dream he had been pursuing since he first became a collegiate head coach in 1988. Williams had left the University of Kansas after losing the NCAA title game in 2003 to return to North Carolina, where he had served as an assistant under college basketball's all-time winningest coach, Dean Smith. By winning it all in his fifth appearance in the Final Four—and third appearance in the title game—Williams was finally able to silence critics who had said he was unable to win the big one.

      In the women's NCAA tournament, new faces emerged to provide an unexpected ending to the 2004–05 season. Neither Baylor (33–3) nor Michigan State University (33–4) had got to the doorstep of a national championship until they collided in Indianapolis on April 5. Both teams made it to the title game the hard way. In the semifinals Baylor shocked highly regarded Louisiana State University 68–57, and the MSU Spartans upset Tennessee 68–64, dashing Volunteers coach Pat Summitt's hopes for a seventh NCAA title.

      The Lady Bears of Baylor had too much firepower for MSU when they met in the final. Emily Niemann made five of her seven three-point shots in the first half, and 1.85-m (6-ft 1-in) Sophia Young, a native of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, racked up 18 of her game-high 26 points after the intermission. That one-two punch gave Baylor a convincing 84–62 victory over the Spartans and the first NCAA crown for coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson.

Robert G. Logan

      Throughout the summer and early autumn of 2005, men's international basketball focused on the continental championships. The competing countries had two targets—to win medals and to secure places in the Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) men's world championships, to be held in Japan in August and September 2006.

      The U.S. ended 2005 at the top of FIBA's rankings but did little better than stumble into qualification through the Americas championship. Brazil won the Americas tournament for the first time, beating defending champion Argentina 100–88 in the final. Venezuela handed the U.S. its third straight loss in the third-place play-off to gain a place in Japan. An extra qualification spot was given to fifth-place Panama because Argentina automatically qualified for Japan as the 2004 Olympic champion.

      Greece crowned its qualification for Japan with a stunning 78–62 triumph over Germany in Eurobasket, the European championship, held in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro. Australia and New Zealand had no competition to claim Oceania's two world championship places, but the Boomers earned the better seeding with a 3–0 series sweep over the Tall Blacks. China defeated Lebanon 77–61 in the Asia championship final held in Qatar. The host country also qualified with an 89–77 third-place win over South Korea. In the African championship, held in Algiers, Angola retained the title and secured a place in Japan by beating Senegal 70–61.

      Twenty teams qualified for the men's world championships through tournament play: Angola, Argentina (as the reigning Olympic champion), Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Greece, Japan (as the host country), Lebanon, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Panama, Qatar, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain, the U.S., and Venezuela. Four others—Italy, Puerto Rico, Serbia and Montenegro (which as part of Yugoslavia won the title in 2002), and Turkey—were issued wild-card invitations to complete the field.

      São Paulo was scheduled to host the 15th world championship for women in September 2006. Only three countries had ever won gold—the U.S. (seven times), the former Soviet Union (six times), and Brazil (once). The qualifiers in 2005 were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Nigeria, Russia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), and the U.S.

Richard Taylor

▪ 2005


      The Detroit Pistons were the right team to cap a season of turmoil for the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Pistons stunned mighty Los Angeles in the NBA play-off finals to claim the 2003–04 crown, ousting the heavily favoured Lakers in five games. Their triumph signaled the dawn of a new pro basketball era, ending the Lakers' run of four finals appearances and three straight NBA championships in the previous five years. For Detroit Coach Larry Brown, it was doubly sweet. At 63, he became the oldest coach to have won an NBA crown and the only one to have captured titles both in the NBA and in college—Brown's University of Kansas Jayhawks took the 1988 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship.

      The upstart Pistons wasted no time in asserting their dominance when the best-of-seven series switched to their home court after the teams split the first two games in Los Angeles. They swept all three home games, throttling their opponents with a blend of ferocious defense and aggressive rebounding. Their series-ending 100–87 romp in game five on June 15 touched off a wave of celebration in Detroit. It was the Pistons' first NBA title since their vaunted “Bad Boys” won back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. Along with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, tasting defeat for the first time as a coach in 10 NBA finals, the loss also was a bitter disappointment for veteran Karl Malone, who had ended a long career with the Utah Jazz to sign with the Lakers in 2003 in search of his first championship ring.

      It was old-fashioned teamwork and defense by the Pistons that turned this play-off into a one-sided affair, to the delight of basketball purists annoyed by a new generation of jump shooters who neglected such fundamentals as passing. Brown, an old-school coach, insisted on doing things his way when he took over the Pistons after six frustrating years as head man of the Philadelphia 76ers. His players saw that playing together produced results. Five Pistons scored in double figures during the finals, with playmaker Chauncey Billups, named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the series, skillfully directing the offense. Detroit had defeated the Indiana Pacers to win the Eastern Conference final, while in the Western Conference final Los Angeles had topped the Minnesota Timberwolves, anchored by regular-season MVP Kevin Garnett.

      Few suspected that it would be the farewell tour for the Lakers' superstar duo of 2.16-m (7-ft 1-in) centre Shaquille O'Neal and 2.01-m (6-ft 7-in) guard Kobe Bryant. Angered by the prompt dismissal of Jackson after the play-off debacle, O'Neal forced a trade to the Miami Heat. In exchange for him, Los Angeles acquired front-line players Caron Butler, Brian Grant, and Lamar Odom from the Heat, along with a first-round draft choice. In deciding to become the central figure of the biggest NBA deal since 1975, when the Milwaukee Bucks swapped Hall of Fame centre Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers, O'Neal put an end to the long-standing personality clash between himself and Bryant. After a brief flirtation with the Los Angeles Clippers, Bryant elected to stay put, signing a lucrative new contract with the Lakers.

      In the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), another new power arose. The Seattle Storm plucked a human tornado named Betty Lennox from the dispersal draft of players from the defunct Cleveland Rockers, and she led her new team to its first league championship and Seattle's first pro sports crown in 25 years. Lennox, who had played on two WNBA teams that folded, scored a dynamic 23 points in Seattle's convincing 74–60 victory over the Connecticut Sun in the decisive third game of the WNBA finals; she was named series MVP. The Storm also got a big boost from Lauren Jackson's 13 points and seven rebounds, with Kamila Vodichkova adding 14 points. The victory made Anne Donovan the first woman to coach a WNBA champion. After the play-offs, Val Ackerman, the WNBA's only president through its first eight seasons, stepped down to spend more time with her family. The league planned to expand its finals to a best-of-five series in 2005 and hoped to grow to 15 teams with expansions in 2006 and 2007.

      A daily double of unprecedented scope boosted the University of Connecticut men's and women's teams atop the college basketball world. On successive nights—April 5 and 6, respectively— these perennial powerhouses captured the 2004 national championships. It was the first time that the same school had won both of these prestigious tournaments.

      In the men's NCAA tournament, the final rounds of which were held in San Antonio, Texas, UConn's Emeka Okafor towered over everybody, blocking shots and intimidating shooters into hurried attempts. The 2.08-m (6-ft 10-in) native of Nigeria was an obvious choice as Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. He sparked the Huskies (33–6) to a convincing 82–73 triumph over Georgia Tech (28–10) in the title game with 24 points and 15 rebounds, giving Coach Jim Calhoun his second NCAA crown in six years. That enabled Calhoun to join Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Bobby Knight of Texas Tech as the only active coaches with more than one national championship.

      That career-ending binge marked Okafor's 24th double-double of the season. Despite missing some playing time along the way with nagging injuries, he was the main reason why UConn became the first preseason number one pick since Kentucky in 1996 to end up in the same spot. Okafor got plenty of help as the team sprinted to an insurmountable 41–26 halftime lead over Georgia Tech, and teammate Ben Gordon added 21 points to the game's total. It was satisfying revenge for the Yellow Jackets' 77–61 rout of UConn in the preseason National Invitation Tournament.

      The women's NCAA tournament final in New Orleans featured a rematch of the previous year's showdown between traditional rivals Connecticut and Tennessee. It doubled the pleasure for UConn fans, who saw the women's team roll to a second straight decision over the Volunteers and the school's second NCAA crown in as many nights. With Diana Taurasi leading the way, the Huskies (31–4) prevailed 70–61, claiming their third straight women's national title and their fourth in five years. Taurasi scored 17 points and was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. Tennessee (31–4) erased most of an early 30–13 gap, pulling to within 2 points midway through the second half, but the Lady Vols never could catch up. The poised Huskies took control once more and collected their final 10 points on free throws. Shanna Zolman tallied a game-high 19 points for Tennessee.

Robert G. Logan

      If the 2002 world championships had hinted at a power shift in men's international basketball, the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens confirmed it. Even with National Basketball Association (NBA) professionals on the court, the U.S. could no longer match the team-oriented play of its European and South American opponents. The U.S., which arrived in Athens as the tournament favourite, staggered into the quarterfinals after group defeats against Puerto Rico and European champion Lithuania. Puerto Rico's 92–73 win was only the U.S.'s third defeat in 111 Olympic matches (it lost to the former Soviet Union in the 1972 final and the 1988 semifinal) and its first since fielding NBA players.

      Spain reached the last eight with a 5–0 group record, but the U.S.'s 102–94 quarterfinal victory, built on 31 points from Stephon Marbury, relegated the Spaniards to the seventh-place play-off. Argentina recovered from 11 points down in the second half of its quarterfinal to beat Greece 69–64. Italy defeated Puerto Rico 83–70, while Lithuania enjoyed the easiest quarterfinal, routing China 95–75.

      At the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis, Ind., a U.S. group loss to Argentina had opened the door for Yugoslavia to eliminate the Americans in the quarterfinals. Argentina was too strong for the U.S. in Athens too. Emanuel Ginobili, a member of the 2003 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, led Argentina with 29 points in the 89–81 semifinal victory. In the second semifinal Italy defeated Lithuania 100–91. Led by Gianluca Basile, who hit seven three-point shots among his 31 points, Italy completed 18 of 28 three-pointers, turning the tables on long-range specialist Lithuania, which made 15 of 35.

      As in Indianapolis, where Argentina had lost the gold medal game to Yugoslavia, the Olympics produced a final that few would have predicted. Argentina won its first Olympic gold by beating Italy 84–69, with 25 points from Luis Scola. The U.S. settled for bronze, prevailing over Lithuania 104–96.

      The women's tournament in Athens followed the expected script. The U.S. defeated Australia 74–63, repeating its victory over that nation at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. American Tina Thompson led four players in double figures as the U.S. won its third consecutive Olympic gold—with two world championships in between. Russia overcame Brazil 71–62 for the bronze.

Richard Taylor

▪ 2004


      In 2003 San Antonio's Tim Duncan spelled the end for the Los Angeles Lakers' budding dynasty. Duncan's phenomenal performance propelled the San Antonio Spurs past the Lakers in the National Basketball Association's Western Conference play-offs, but that was just a warm-up for the 2.13-m (7-ft) dynamo who already had powered his team to the Midwest Division title in the 2002–03 regular season. In the end, his brilliance doomed the New Jersey Nets to defeat by four games to two in their second straight NBA finals loss.

      New Jersey breezed through early play-off foes to repeat as Eastern Conference champions. When the Nets won game two of the finals 87–85 in San Antonio (after losing game one 101–89), their fans expected guard Jason Kidd to spearhead a breakthrough on his home court. Duncan simply refused to let it happen.

      After winning game three 84–79 and then narrowly losing 77–76, the Spurs took the pivotal fifth game on the road by a score of 93–83 and returned home to wrap up the championship on June 15 before an ecstatic throng of 18,797 in the SBC Center. In the decisive sixth game, Duncan strung together 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks. With his team trailing 72–63 in the fourth quarter, he turned the game around with a blocked shot. The Spurs went on a 19–0 scoring spree in the next 5 minutes and 10 seconds to seal their 88–77 triumph and the NBA title. The fans joined in savouring this farewell gift to retiring Spurs veteran David (“the Admiral”) Robinson.

      Duncan was named series Most Valuable Player in addition to garnering his second straight regular-season MVP honour. Amaré Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns beat out Houston's Chinese phenomenon Yao Ming (see Biographies (Yao Ming )) as Rookie of the Year.

      After their play-off ouster, the Lakers signed veteran free agents Karl Malone and Gary Payton to team with superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in a lineup many touted as unbeatable. On July 18, however, Bryant was indicted on criminal sexual assault charges, and a pall of gloom was thereby cast over the Los Angeles franchise and the entire world of pro basketball. Bryant, hailed as the NBA's most marketable athlete because of his playing skills and squeaky-clean image, had just signed a $45 million endorsement pact with sportswear giant Nike.

      In June the new franchise Charlotte Bobcats, owned by African American business tycoon Robert Johnson (see Biographies (Johnson, Robert )), was officially unveiled. The team would begin playing in the 2004–05 season.

      In the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), the Detroit Shock pulled off a courageous comeback to capture the 2002–03 championship. In the opener of the best-of-three final play-offs, the Shock got trounced 75–63 by the Los Angeles Sparks, who were bidding for their third straight league crown. Responding with the same tenacity displayed by their coach, Bill Laimbeer, in his professional career, the Shock regrouped to take game two 62–61, setting up a winner-take-all showdown in the Palace of Auburn Hills. Thanks to the splendid shooting of 1.96-m (6-ft 5-in) centre Ruth Riley, the Spark prevailed 78–53 before a crowd of 22,076, the largest in WNBA history. Riley, who had led Notre Dame to the 2001 national championship, hit on 11 of 19 shots from the floor for a career-high 27 points. “This was the best basketball game I've ever played,” said Riley, while confetti rained down on the celebrating Shock.

      In 2003 the third time finally proved to be the charm for Coach Jim Boeheim and his Syracuse Orangemen. In the final of the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship in the New Orleans Superdome on April 7, Syracuse repulsed a frantic closing charge by the University of Kansas to prevail 81–78 and present Boeheim with his first NCAA title.

      During the tournament, number three seed Syracuse unleashed a giant-killing spree through higher-ranked opponents by blending its seamless 2–3 zone defense with the all-court brilliance of freshmen Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara. The Orangemen upset number one seed Oklahoma 63–47 in the East Regional final. Then they disposed of the South Region's top seed, Texas, 95–84 in their Final Four matchup. Kentucky and Arizona, the tournament favourites, got knocked off by Marquette and Kansas, respectively, in the other regional finals.

      In his 27 years at Syracuse, the longest tenure among active Division I head coaches, Boeheim had won 652 games, but his team had been turned back twice on the doorstep of an NCAA crown. Kansas Coach Roy Williams had met with equal frustration in three previous trips to the Final Four. After routing Marquette 94–61 in the semifinal, the second-seeded Jayhawks were equally motivated against Syracuse, with the Superdome crowd of 54,524 anticipating a bitter struggle. Instead, the Orangemen, from the Big East Conference, unleashed a blistering attack to open a 53–42 lead at halftime, the highest-scoring first half in NCAA tournament history. The Jayhawks, from the Big 12 Conference, pulled to within three points of the lead at 81–78 only 14 seconds before the end but failed in two more attempts to score.

      Thanks to a combined 38 points from Anthony and McNamara, Syracuse finished with a 30–5 record and gave its coach the 653rd and most rewarding victory of his career. As expected, Anthony elected to drop out after just one college season to enter the NBA draft; he was picked third overall and signed with the Denver Nuggets. Nick Collison paced the Jayhawks (30–8) with 19 points and 21 rebounds. Soon after the tournament ended, Williams departed to take over for Matt Doherty at North Carolina. Kansas quickly lured one of the nation's best young coaches, Bill Self, from Illinois to take over.

      In women's basketball, the Connecticut Huskies, under Coach Geno Auriemma, capped an awesome 37–1 season by defeating six-time champion Tennessee (33–5) by a score of 73–68 in the women's NCAA tournament final. It was UConn's second straight national championship and fourth overall, despite having lost four starting players from the 2001–02 team. Diana Taurasi added the Final Four Most Outstanding Player laurels to her national Player of the Year award. In the final she sparked the Huskies with 28 points while shaking off back and ankle injuries.

Robert G. Logan

      The Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) national team competitions that dominated the sport in 2003 were played with an eye toward the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. By October 2003 all 12 qualifiers for the men's Olympic tournament had been decided. Greece, the host country, and Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia), the 2002 world champion, would be joined by the qualifiers from the five continental championships—Angola, Argentina, Australia, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, China, Puerto Rico, Spain, and the United States.

      After European nations had taken three of the top five places in the 2002 world championships, there was heightened interest in the 2003 European championships. Lithuania won the title for the first time since 1939, defeating defending champion Serbia and Montenegro 98–82 in the quarterfinals and France 74–70 in the semifinals. In the final, guard Arvydas Macijauskas led Lithuania with 21 points in the 93–84 win over Spain. Italy qualified for the Olympics by beating France 69–67 in the bronze-medal game.

      Australia swept New Zealand in the three-game Oceania championship series, although both had already qualified for the Olympics. National Basketball Association star Yao Ming (see Biographies (Yao Ming )) led China to a 7–0 sweep in the Asian championships, beating South Korea 106–96 in the final. Angola qualified by defeating Nigeria 85–65 in the African final.

      The U.S. responded to its sixth-place finish in the 2002 world championships (which broke a 58–0 winning streak in FIBA competitions) by cruising through the Tournament of the Americas in San Juan, P.R., with a record of 10–0 to qualify, along with Argentina and Puerto Rico. The U.S. avenged its 87–80 world championship defeat by crushing Argentina 106–73 in the final, while the home crowd roared Puerto Rico to the final Olympic slot with a 79–66 third-place win over Canada.

      Greece and the U.S., the 2000 Olympic champion, led the women's qualifiers. By October they had been joined by Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Russia, and Spain. Australia and New Zealand had already qualified, while in the Americas tournament Brazil defeated Cuba 90–81 to qualify. The women's European championships were staged in Greece in September. Russia won its first European title since the breakup of the former Soviet Union by beating the Czechs 59–56, while Spain overcame Poland 87–81 to qualify. This left one African and three Asian qualifiers to be determined.

Richard Taylor

▪ 2003


      The Los Angeles Lakers, coached masterfully by Phil Jackson, won their third straight National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in 2002, leaving no doubt that another dynasty had emerged to claim its place among the pro game's all-time great teams. With two superstars, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant (Bryant, Kobe ) (see Biographies), abetted by an able cast of extras, the Lakers proved potent in the clutch.

      Their season, however, had teetered on the brink of disaster in the Western Conference play-off finals with the talent-laden Sacramento Kings. Trailing 3–2 in the best-of-seven series, the Lakers beat back the Kings to take game six. Then they captured the winner-take-all showdown to keep their championship run alive.

      After that emotional escape, rolling to a “three-peat” in the NBA finals proved easy. The upstart New Jersey Nets had survived the Eastern Conference play-offs but were no match for a Shaq attack, going down in the finals in a 4–0 sweep. O'Neal averaged a whopping 36.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in those four games. Battering and bullying his way through would-be defenders, he scored 145 points, shattering the NBA's individual scoring record for a four-game final series.

      Understandably, O'Neal was named Most Valuable Player in the championship round, taking that honour for the third straight time. Only Michael Jordan had accomplished that feat before, doing it twice with the Chicago Bulls (in 1991–93 and 1996–98). A cloud of doubt arrived to hang over the Lakers' “four-peat” aspirations, however, when O'Neal subsequently pulled out of the world championship tournament. The towering veteran elected to have surgery on a painfully arthritic big toe and faced the prospect of missing training camp and perhaps the early part of the 2002–03 season.

      Despite the players' heroics, it was coach Jackson who emerged as the main history maker when the Lakers ended the series and the season with a 113–107 victory over the Nets. It was his 156th play-off win, eclipsing Miami Heat coach Pat Riley's record. Jackson also tied legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach's mark of nine NBA crowns.

      Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, won a bid on December 18 for an NBA-franchised team in Charlotte, N.C., and thus became the first African American NBA team owner.

      A note of sadness emerged on August 5 when Chick Hearn, 85, the Lakers' longtime radio announcer, died after a fall at home. (See Obituaries (Hearn, Francis Dayle ).) Hearn had broadcast an unequaled total of 3,338 consecutive NBA games in his career.

      A dramatic 3-point basket by rookie guard Nikki Teasley in the final seconds gave the Los Angeles Sparks their second straight Women's National Basketball Association title with a 69–66 victory over the New York Liberty. The win sealed a 2–0 finals sweep for the Sparks, led by Lisa Leslie, the most valuable player of the championship series.

      Mike Davis, the unheralded coach of Indiana University's overachieving basketball team, just missed capturing his first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament title. The Hoosiers fell to Maryland 64–52 in the tourney final at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Many basketball experts and even some Indiana fans had ticketed the young coach—Davis turned 42 in September—for failure in the daunting task of succeeding the legendary Bobby Knight. Knight, who had resumed his coaching career at Texas Tech, found himself on the sidelines early in the 2002 NCAA tournament. Davis and the Hoosiers just kept rolling, right into the Final Four.

      The Hoosiers astonished everyone by storming through the South Regional as a number five seed, knocking top-seeded Duke, the defending national champion, off its perch. Then it was on to Atlanta to continue the parade of upsets in Indiana's first Final Four appearance since 1992. The Hoosiers sent number four seed Oklahoma home to reach the winner-take-all showdown with Maryland. By then, the wave of adulation that surrounded Davis had elevated him almost overnight to near cult status.

      Maryland, however, was eager to ease the sting of having lost a big lead—and the game—to Duke a year earlier. The Terrapins boasted a senior-studded lineup, eager to reward coach Gary Williams with his first NCAA championship. Juan Dixon, Maryland's senior all-American guard, tallied a game-high 18 points in the championship clash. His clutch three-point basket snuffed out a second-half Indiana rally and put the Terrapins back in front to stay. Until Dixon's dagger, it seemed another Indiana miracle might be in the making.

      Behind for most of the game, the Hoosiers showed the resilience that had made them a force in the rugged Big Ten conference during the year. They grabbed a short-lived lead midway through the final half, but Dixon's accurate outside shooting down the stretch sealed the victory for Maryland.

      In a bid to avoid NCAA sanctions and ostracism by rival teams, the University of Michigan imposed stiff penalties on its basketball team after acknowledging that several players had accepted illegal payments totaling some $616,000 from a fan. The university agreed to repay postseason receipts, give up scores for about five years of games (including four team championships), and be ineligible for 2003 NCAA and NIT tournaments.

      In women's college basketball, Connecticut was the whole show in 2001–02, with the kind of year undreamed of on any level of competition. The Huskies defeated Oklahoma 82–70 in the NCAA tournament final to capture their third national championship in seven years and their second in three. The victory sealed an incredible 39–0 season record for the team, which rolled up an average victory margin of 35.4 points per game. Surrounded by a cast of talented seniors, Connecticut's charismatic coach Geno Auriemma was able to play his entire roster most nights. That provided valuable experience for the younger Huskies, boding well for their bid to keep Auriemma's domination rolling into the 2003 season. Along with senior captain Sue Bird, who was hailed as one of the nation's top guards, the Huskies lost starters Swin Cash, Tamika Williams, and Asjha Jones. All four of these women were among the first six players chosen in the 2002 WNBA draft, and all promptly made an impact. Although Bird (the number one pick; chosen by the Seattle Storm), Cash (number two), Jones (number four), and Williams (number six) were chosen by different teams, most observers labeled them the best-ever group of WNBA recruits from the same school in the same year.

(Robert G. Logan)

      The basketball calendar in 2002 was dominated by the 14th Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) men's world championships, held in Indianapolis, Ind., August 29 to September 8. Yugoslavia defied all expectation by winning its fifth world crown in the spiritual home of the sport, the United States. The tournament was likely to be remembered as the most extraordinary in the event's 52-year history, because the National Basketball Association (NBA) players representing the U.S. did not even contest a medal.

      The preliminary rounds in Indianapolis were expected to shuffle the pack to produce a final between the U.S. and Yugoslavia, but the tournament soon departed from the script. The U.S. won its preliminary group unbeaten, but Yugoslavia finished second in its group after losing 71–69 to Spain. In the next round Yugoslavia lost 85–83 to Puerto Rico, and the U.S. was beaten 87–80 by Argentina. Suddenly, instead of playing for gold, Yugoslavia and the U.S. faced a sudden-death quarterfinal. Ironically, NBA Sacramento Kings teammates Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic combined for 36 points for Yugoslavia as their homeland held on for an 81–78 win. In the semifinals Argentina outscored Germany 6–2 in the final 45 seconds for an 86–80 win, while Yugoslavia recovered from being down 48–39 at halftime to beat New Zealand 89–78. The final was a triumph for Yugoslavia's Dejan Bodiroga, who scored nine consecutive points in the final 2 min 16 sec of regulation play to force overtime, in which Argentina finally fell 84–77. Germany defeated New Zealand 117–94 for third place, and the U.S. lost 81–75 against Spain to finish sixth.

      The U.S. drew some consolation from the women's national team, which retained its title by beating Russia 79–74 in the world championship final in Nanking, China, on September 25. Women's National Basketball Association duo Sheryl Swoopes of the Houston Comets and Lisa Leslie of the L.A. Sparks led the U.S. scorers with 18 and 17 points, respectively.

      European club basketball continued to be split between the world governing body, FIBA, and the breakaway Union des Ligues Européennes de Basket-Ball (ULEB), which attracted the leading clubs and sponsors, major marketing deals, and television coverage. Greek club Panathinaikos won the ULEB's Euroleague title by defeating Kinder Bologna of Italy 89–83 in the 2002 final in Bologna on May 5. Meanwhile, FIBA reorganized its men's competitions, merging the Korac and Saporta cups into the Champions Cup, which in its initial stages featured three conferences: North, South, and West.

Richard Taylor

▪ 2002


United States.

      In 2001 the Los Angeles Lakers continued to dominate the National Basketball Association (NBA). Head coach Phil Jackson at times during the season had to serve as both mediator and conciliator while trying to defuse the animosity between his superstars, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Well before the 2001 play-offs opened, however, the Lakers again were functioning like a finely tuned machine, winning their last eight regular-season games.

      The Lakers breezed through the Western Conference play-offs; the team won 11 straight games to reach the NBA finals unscathed. Heavily favoured over Eastern Conference representative Philadelphia, the Lakers were expected to sweep the 76ers in the best-of-seven series and repeat as NBA champions with a 15–0 record in postseason play. That would have made Jackson's team the first in NBA history to go unbeaten in every play-off round. The grand plan got derailed, however, by a 107–101 overtime loss to the inspired 76ers in game one.

      Although the 2.16-m (7-ft 1-in), 143-kg (315-lb) O'Neal towered over him, 1.8-m (6-ft), 75-kg (165-lb) 76ers point guard Allen Iverson (see Biographies (Iverson, Allen )) was virtually unstoppable in the play-offs, as he had been all season. Iverson outscored O'Neal 48–44 in the opener, but injuries and fierce Los Angeles defensive pressure prevented the superquick guard from carrying his team to another victory. The next four games went to the Lakers, who wrapped up the title with a 108–96 victory in Philadelphia on June 15.

      The NBA's youth movement accelerated sharply in the 2001 draft. The search to find another Michael Jordan dipped more deeply into the high-school ranks even while Jordan, who had become president of the Washington Wizards, made his second comeback as a player at age 38, also bringing back sellout crowds to see him. Of the first eight players drafted, four were making the jump directly from high school to the pros. They included the top two picks, Kwame Brown and Tyson Chandler, along with the fourth and eighth picks, Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop, respectively.

      The NBA also brought its Developmental League (NBDL) plans to fruition. Eight teams, with players at least 20 years old, opened a 56-game inaugural season in November. The NBDL play-offs were set for March 2002.

      In the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), the Los Angeles Sparks swept to their first championship, defeating the Charlotte (N.C.) Sting in the finals. The Sparks' victory ended the Houston (Tex.) Comets' domination in each of the WNBA's first four seasons.

      Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils were the consensus favourites to win the 2001 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship, but sentimental fans and media alike were pulling for the Arizona Wildcats and their coach, Lute Olson. The death of Olson's wife, Bobbi, on January 1 had brought an outpouring of sympathy from across the country.

      After Bobbi's death, Olson's top assistant, Jim Rosborough, had taken over the reins temporarily, but Olson soon discovered that returning to work was therapy for grief. When he went back to the team, the Wildcats went on an emotional winning streak that launched them into the Final Four. That gave Olson—at 66 years and six months—a chance to become the oldest coach to capture an NCAA title; legendary Kansas coach Phog Allen was two months younger when he steered the Jayhawks to the 1952 crown.

      It was not to be. Olson, whose Wildcats had won the title in 1997, was denied his second national championship when Arizona and Duke met on April 2 in the Minneapolis (Minn.) Metrodome. Duke was led by swingman Mike Dunleavy, who hit three straight three-point baskets in a second-half spree. After hitting just one basket in six attempts in the opening half, Dunleavy found the mark for 18 of his 21 points after the intermission. That sort of clutch shooting made the difference in the game. Dunleavy totaled five three-pointers in the championship showdown, and Blue Devil team captain Shane Battier played a critical role at the end of the game, just as he had done throughout his brilliant career. The senior scored the needed baskets to help the Blue Devils survive repeated Arizona rallies and go on to clinch the final 82–72.

      Battier became only the fourth player in college basketball history to compile over 1,500 career points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 steals, and 200 blocked shots. Along with the retirement of his jersey by Duke, Battier was named the outstanding player of the 2001 NCAA Final Four. The unanimous first-team All-American also swept other major honours, including the Wooden and Naismith Player of the Year awards. His accomplishments reflected the way Krzyzewski had been able to recruit athletes who excelled on the court as well as in the classroom. The 54-year-old Krzyzewski had taken the Blue Devils to the Final Four 9 times in 21 years. The victory over Arizona was the third national championship of his career.

      Bobby Knight largely avoided the media in the aftermath of his controversial departure from Indiana University. He did, however, accept another coaching position, becoming the new head basketball coach at Texas Tech. Soft-spoken Mike Davis, a former assistant to Knight at Indiana, stepped successfully into the position vacated by his mentor. After leading the Hoosiers to a stunning 59–58 upset of top-ranked Michigan State on January 7 and steering the team into the NCAA tournament at the close of the season, Davis was rewarded with a four-year contract.

      In the women's ranks, it was Notre Dame's year. The Fighting Irish captured their first NCAA championship by prevailing over Purdue in a 68–66 thriller in St. Louis, Mo. Fittingly, Notre Dame star senior Ruth Riley hit the decisive free throws in the final seconds of the game. Riley's 28 points and 13 rebounds fueled her team's run to the title. Perennial powerhouse Connecticut had beaten the Irish 11 straight times in previous years but lost to them twice during the 2000–01 season. A major factor in that turnabout was Riley, who also earned NCAA Player of the Year honours.

Robert G. Logan

      In 2001 the Fédération Internationale de Basket Amateur (FIBA) was unable to reach an agreement with the Union des Ligues Européennes de Basket-Ball (ULEB), which had organized a European league apart from the FIBA, resulting in competition between the ULEB's Euroleague and the FIBA's SuproLeague. In November the FIBA announced its reorganization into five continental zones beneath the umbrella FIBA-World group.

      The focus of international basketball in 2001 was on the continental championships, which were qualifying tournaments for the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis, Ind. The hotly contested 2001 European championship yielded five qualifiers for the world championships: Yugoslavia, Turkey, Spain, Germany, and Russia, in that order. In the African championship Angola and Algeria qualified. In the Americas competition Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Canada advanced to the worlds; the U.S., as host country of the 2002 event, automatically qualified, despite placing last in the region. In the Asian championship Lebanon mounted a spectacular 75–72 semifinal upset of South Korea to advance to its first world championships, despite losing in the final game to the other Asian qualifier, China. In the Oceania region New Zealand advanced at the cost of Australia, which it defeated in the best-of-three tournament.

      Automatic qualifiers for the women's 2002 world championships were the host country, China, and the 2000 Olympic champion, the U.S. The qualifiers from the European championship were France, Russia, Spain, Lithuania, and Yugoslavia, while Brazil, Cuba, and Argentina advanced from the Americas. China dominated the Asian tournament, with distant contenders Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan also qualifying for the event. Australia bested New Zealand for the qualifying spot in the Oceania championship.

      In August Yugoslavia captured the gold medal in the men's World University Games, defeating China in the final game. For the bronze Germany was bested by the U.S., which had earned a medal in every biennial tournament since 1965, six years after the games were founded in 1959. On the women's side the U.S. won handily, despite an early tournament loss to Canada. China and the Czech Republic took home the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

      The FIBA world championship for young men was hosted in August by Japan, where the U.S. captured the gold with a victory over Croatia. Argentina won the bronze medal game over the Dominican Republic. The world championship for junior women, held in the Czech Republic, was won by the host country in the final seconds over Russia. In the semifinals the Czech Republic had defeated the U.S., which later wrested the bronze medal from Australia. With National Basketball Association pros playing, the U.S. dominated the Goodwill Games in Australia in September, with a gold-medal win over Argentina.

      In club play Maccabi Tel Aviv of Israel won its first European title in 20 years, defeating Panathinaikos BSA of Greece for the SuproLeague championship in May. The Maccabi coach was asked to step down in July after making racial slurs. In the British Basketball League (BBL), the Chester Jets claimed the 2001 trophy over the Newcastle Eagles, while in the BBL championship finals, the Leicester Riders defeated the Sheffield Sharks, who shortly afterward lost their franchise. In the ULEB's Euroleague finals Kinder Bologna of Italy defeated TAU Cerámica of Spain in the five-game series.

Tom Michael

▪ 2001


United States.

      Led by centre Shaquille O'Neal (see Biographies (O'Neal, Shaquille )) and coach Phil Jackson, the Los Angeles Lakers dominated the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the year 2000. The 2.16-m (7-ft 1-in), 143-kg (315-lb) O'Neal proved to be an unstoppable force, averaging 38 points and 16.7 rebounds per game during the NBA finals, which the Lakers won by defeating the Indiana Pacers. Under Jackson's tutelage, O'Neal, who was voted Most Valuable Player for the regular season, the All-Star game, and the finals, became more of a team player and in doing so emerged to the point where he could now be compared to such NBA giants as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Pacers did not go quietly in the finals, however, but put up a fierce battle before falling to the Lakers in six games. In the pivotal fifth game in Indianapolis, Ind., O'Neal fouled out in overtime, but his 21-year-old teammate Kobe Bryant stepped up to hit three clutch baskets to seal a 120–118 Los Angeles victory and take what proved to be an insurmountable lead of three games to one.

      The rival coaches also played starring roles in the finals. Jackson, who had rocketed to fame as coach of the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, earned his seventh NBA title and proved that his ability was not grounded by the absence of Jordan on the roster. In a major blow to the world of professional basketball, Pacers coach Larry Bird, who as a player for the Boston Celtics in the 1980s had helped the NBA achieve unprecedented popularity, announced before the finals began that he would step down whether or not his team won the title. A man of his word, as always, Bird retired at the end of the season. Rookie coach Glenn (“Doc”) Rivers of the Orlando Magic upset Jackson and Bird to win the Coach of the Year award.

      In women's basketball the Houston Comets won their fourth consecutive Women's National Basketball Association championship by sweeping the New York Liberty two games to none in the best-of-three final series. Houston's one-two punch—Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper—tallied 32 of the Comets' last 36 points in the clincher. Just when it seemed the Liberty would force a third game, Cooper stunned the crowd with a three-point basket to tie the game only seconds before the end of regulation play, and the Comets pulled away in overtime. Houston joined the NBA's Boston Celtics as the only professional basketball teams to have won four consecutive titles.

      On April 3, 2000—21 years after legendary guard Earvin (“Magic”) Johnson led the school to its first National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championship—Michigan State University captured its second NCAA title with a resounding 89–76 victory over the University of Florida. This time Michigan State was led by another outstanding playmaker, Mateen Cleaves, a spirited 1.9-m (6-ft 2-in) point guard. Cleaves, who had taken Johnson's advice to return for his senior year before entering the NBA draft, lifted the Spartans with an emotional effort in the first half of the championship game. Early in the second half, however, he limped off the floor with a twisted right ankle. Florida trailed only 50–44 at that juncture, but a dramatic comeback was not to be. Cleaves eventually returned to help his teammates lock up the game, and the Spartans closed out their spectacular 32–7 season.

      In the season's aftermath major controversy swirled around Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight. On May 15 the university's president, Myles Brand, concluded a seven-week investigation of the coach that had been triggered by former player Neil Reed's accusation that Knight had choked him during a 1997 practice. Reed's charges were bolstered by a videotape that showed Knight momentarily grabbing the player's neck. Knight, who had been involved in a number of outbursts over the years—including a notorious 1985 incident in which he flung a chair across the court during a game—was suspended for three games and forced to agree to a “zero-tolerance” policy that stated that he would lose his job if any outbursts occurred in the future.

      Knight, who had coached at Indiana for 29 years, did not last long under the agreement. On September 10 he was fired for what Brand said were violations of the policy guidelines. The firing came in the wake of an incident in which Knight grabbed a student by the arm and allegedly cursed at him after the student had greeted him informally.

      The Knight firing was not the only coaching bombshell of 2000. North Carolina head coach Bill Guthridge announced his surprising decision to step down after leading his team to the NCAA Final Four twice since taking over the reins from Dean Smith in 1997. Guthridge's departure supposedly left the door open for Roy Williams of Kansas, who once played at North Carolina and remained a favourite among many Tar Heels fans. In the end, however, Williams decided to stay at Kansas, and another former Tar Heel player, Matt Doherty—fresh from a sensational head coaching debut at Notre Dame—left the Fighting Irish to return to his alma mater. Mike Brey moved from Delaware to fill the Notre Dame vacancy, and Lon Kruger, who had rebuilt Illinois into a Big Ten Conference contender, defected to the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA, with Tulsa's Bill Self taking over the reins of the Illini.

      In women's college basketball Connecticut, ranked number one, routed number two Tennessee by a score of 71–52 for the Huskies' first NCAA championship since 1995. That Connecticut and Tennessee were the tournament finalists surprised no one, although Connecticut's margin of victory astounded most followers of the fast-growing women's game.

      Tennessee, used to dominating all comers, managed only 10 points in the opening half of the title showdown. A swarming Connecticut defense limited Tamika Catchings, the NCAA women's Player of the Year, to five points in those decisive 20 minutes, and Tennessee was unable to mount a serious second-half threat. The loss thwarted coach Pat Summitt's bid to lead Tennessee to an unprecedented seventh NCAA crown.

Robert G. Logan

      The world technical commission of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) met in Munich, Ger., in June 2000 and confirmed new rule changes, which were implemented around the world after the Olympic Games concluded in October. In the future all games were to be played in four quarters of 10 minutes' duration (rather than two halves of 20 minutes); the shot clock (the time within which a team must shoot when it gains possession of the ball) was reduced from 30 seconds to 24 seconds; and the time allowed for a team to get the ball from its back court into the front court was reduced from 10 to 8 seconds. The FIBA also introduced the free circulation of players for international club competition.

      Without doubt the highlight of the year on the court was the staging of the Games of the XXVII Olympiad in Sydney, Australia. Twelve teams contested each basketball tournament, men's and women's, with the United States looking to retain both titles. This they did, but not as easily as some observers had expected. The American men pipped Lithuania by only two points (85–83) in their semifinal and then beat France 85–75 in an enthralling final. The French, who defeated the Australians 76–52 in the semifinals, secured their highest Olympic placing since they won silver in the 1948 Games in London. The American women had a slightly easier ride to gold, beating South Korea 78–65 in the semifinal and then topping Australia comfortably in the final 76–54.

      In the major European basketball events of 2000, the young men's competition was won by Slovenia, runners-up in the previous competition in 1998, which defeated Israel in the final. The young women's title was won by Russia, with the Czech Republic finishing in second place. France and Russia captured the championships in the junior men's and junior women's championships, respectively. Sagesse (Lebanon) won the 11th Asian Basketball Confederation Champions Cup for men. The South American Champions Cup for men, played in Venezuela, produced victory for the home team Trotamundos.

      The major club competition during the 1999–2000 European season, the men's EuroLeague, was won by Panathinaikos BSA (Greece). AEK Athens (Greece) lifted the European Saporta Cup; Limoges CSP (France) took the European Korac Cup; and SCP Ruzomberok (Slovakia) retained the women's EuroLeague title. The Ronchetti Cup went to Italy, with Lavezzini Basket of Parma defeating the 1999 winner, Sandra Gran Canaria (Spain).

Mark Hannen

▪ 2000


United States.

      Before David (“the Admiral”) Robinson (see Biographies (Robinson, David )) could lead the San Antonio Spurs to their first National Basketball Association (NBA) championship, the entire 1988–99 season came perilously close to being canceled. Team owners called a lockout in 1998, shortly after superstar Michael (“Air”) Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their sixth world title and third in a row.

      Just before a “drop-dead date” for calling off the season, threatened by NBA Commissioner David Stern, the players and owners negotiated a settlement that would run for six seasons, uninterrupted by labour strife, with an option for a seventh. It appeared the lessons of the bitter 1994 major league baseball strike had sunk in just in time to prevent serious erosion of the NBA's fan base. With Jordan expected to announce his retirement, ending the string of automatic sellouts he had generated in every arena across the country, the league realized that its survival could be at stake. So did the players, who agreed to terms that limited salaries across the board, helping to ease damage from the split between huge-payroll major-market teams and cash-strapped smaller-market teams.

      NBA teams staged abbreviated training camps, opened their doors to let fans in free for a pair of exhibition games, then opened a shortened, 50-game, regular-season schedule in February. The All-Star game was a casualty of the lockout, but fans returned to watch the players get back in shape throughout a campaign that won few points for style, especially with scoring down drastically.

      As expected, the Bulls were noncontenders because of the loss of their Big Three—Jordan, who retired to great fanfare soon after the labour settlement, Scottie Pippen, who joined the Houston Rockets, and Dennis Rodman, who briefly played for the Los Angeles Lakers—along with coach Phil Jackson, who later signed a lucrative contract as the Lakers' new coach. Los Angeles and the Utah Jazz, led by the regular season's Most Valuable Player, Karl (“the Mailman”) Malone, folded in the play-offs, opening the door for San Antonio.

      In the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks became the NBA's surprise team, charging down the stretch to save the job of their embattled coach, Jeff Van Gundy. The Knicks went all the way to the NBA finals before falling to the Spurs in five games.

      The Women's NBA had a successful season, burying its rival, the American Basketball League, which folded in midseason. The top ABL players were absorbed by the WNBA, but the Houston Comets rolled undeterred to their third straight championship. With superstars Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper leading the way, the Comets beat the New York Liberty 2–1 in the best-of-three championship series to continue their WNBA dynasty. They dedicated the season to teammate Kim Perrot, who died of cancer shortly before the play-offs began.

      The two teams expected to dominate college basketball fought it out for the 1999 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship; Duke and Connecticut had been ranked numbers one and two on the preseason list of the top 25 collegiate teams. It had been 34 years since the NCAA final had matched the only two teams to hold the number one ranking during the regular season. Ignoring speculation that trying to keep pace with Duke would be fatal, Connecticut's Huskies held off the Blue Devils' frantic rally for a 77–74 victory and their first NCAA title.

      This was the eighth time coach Mike Krzyzewski had taken Duke to the Final Four since 1986, but the Huskies refused to fold under intense pressure in the first Final Four appearance for coach Jim Calhoun, who had the right recipe to shatter the Blue Devils' 32-game winning streak and 37–2 season. The dominating presence of 1.98-m (6-ft 6-in) Richard Hamilton, the playmaking of 1.78-m (5-ft 10-in) Khalid El-Amin, and tenacious team defense capped Connecticut's 34–2 season. Hamilton, who led all scorers with 27 points, sank two free throws with just under four minutes to go, snapping a 68–68 tie. He added a three-point basket that confronted Duke fans in the throng of 41,340 spectators with a five-point deficit, something they had seldom seen all season. The Blue Devils fought back to within one point in the final minute but got no closer.

      The Big Ten Conference served notice that it was returning to elite status by placing two teams in the Final Four. Michigan State had been expected to get there, but few foresaw Ohio State's emergence to challenge Connecticut in the NCAA semifinals. Off-court problems for Minnesota and Purdue, however, dimmed the conference's lustre. Minnesota coach Clem Haskins got a $1.5 million buyout of his contract after it was disclosed that some players had been illegally assisted in writing reports and preparing classwork. Four Minnesota players were suspended for the NCAA tournament loss to Gonzaga University after a former employee of the university's academic counseling unit alleged that she had written papers for more than 20 players, dating back to 1993. Purdue, hit hard by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions as a result of recruiting, benefits, and ethical conduct violations, lost one basketball scholarship for the next two seasons, which cut their maximum to 12 in each year, and had the number of campus visits by prospective recruits reduced. The university also could have to repay up to $400,000 in NCAA tournament receipts from 1999 and each of the following two years. Purdue was appealing what Athletic Director Morgan Burke labeled as “excessive” penalties, but it was a blow to the basketball program and to coach Gene Keady, one of the most respected men in his profession.

      In women's basketball, Purdue swept to its first NCAA title (and ended Tennessee's NCAA championship run at three straight) by defeating Duke 62–45 in the final to wrap up a magnificent 34–1 season. The brilliant coaching of Carolyn Peck, coupled with the leadership of Ukari Figgs and Stephanie White-McCarty in the final, touched off a wild celebration back home in West Lafayette, Ind. Peck, the first black woman to coach an NCAA tournament victor, left Purdue after having coached there for two seasons to become the head coach of the Orlando Miracle, a WNBA expansion franchise.

Robert G. Logan

      During 1999 the Central Board of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the world governing body based in Munich, Ger., met in Barcelona, Spain, and made some important decisions in order to help propel the sport into the 21st century. The major question concerned the free circulation of players. From September 2000, clubs in Europe would be permitted to field an unlimited number of European players, ending the dual system that existed between the European Union and the rest of the continent. Clubs would be limited to two non-European players, but this rule was only obligatory for European and international competitions, with national federations free to make their own rules. The board also reduced the shot clock from 30 to 24 seconds and changed the 10-second rule, which states the time in which the ball must be brought into the front court, to an 8-second rule.

      Games in the final rounds of the European championships were among the major basketball events of 1999. The men's competition was a wide-open event and was won by Italy, which gained the championship for the first time since 1983. In the final, played in Paris, the Italians eventually overpowered Spain 64–56. The women's finals were played in Warsaw and were won by the host nation, which beat France in the final to capture its first-ever championship.

      Brazil lifted the South American championship title, outclassing Argentina in the final, while in the Centrobasket championship finals played in Cuba, the host team won the men's and women's titles, with Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic the respective runners-up. At the Asian championship for women, held in Shizuoka, Japan, South Korea achieved the gold and Malaysia took silver; at the men's Asian championship in Fukuoka, Japan, China defeated South Korea in the final. Angola secured the 20th African men's championship on home soil with a victory (79–72) over Nigeria.

      The major club competition during the 1998–99 European season, the men's EuroLeague, was won by Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania), which defeated Kinder Bologna (Italy) 82–74 in the final in Munich. In the other European competitions, Benetton Treviso (Italy) lifted the European Saporta Cup by beating Parmesa Valencia (Spain), FC Barcelona (Spain) defeated Spanish rival Adecco Estudiantes Madrid to take the European Korac Cup, SCP Ruzomberok (Slovakia) captured the women's EuroLeague with a victory over Pool Comense Como (Italy), and the Ronchetti Cup went to Spain with Sandra Gran Canaria defeating Lachen Ramat-Hasharon (Italy).

      Vasco da Gama (Brazil) won the 4th South American Basketball Club League for men. A Brazilian team also won the South American Championship for Women.

Mark Hannen

▪ 1999


United States.

      In 1998 the unsinkable Michael Jordan and the incomparable Chicago Bulls rolled to their sixth National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in eight years, capping a difficult 1997-98 season with their third straight crown. Along the way they left a trail of excitement and controversy throughout the country but especially in Chicago. Astonishingly, the long-playing feud between front-office boss Jerry Krause and Bulls coach Phil Jackson did not derail the title run. Neither did the animosity between Krause and Scottie Pippen (see BIOGRAPHIES (Pippen, Scottie )), the second Bulls superstar. Incensed by the management's unwillingness to renegotiate his contract, Pippen repeatedly insisted he would finish his career elsewhere in the NBA.

      Throughout the season, whenever the air got thick with charges and countercharges flying between Krause and his employees, "Air" Jordan would stage another of his routinely magnificent performances to put the spotlight back on basketball. His task was a little easier because Dennis Rodman's incentive-laden contract induced the flamboyant Bulls rebounding specialist to keep his customary attention-grabbing antics under wraps for most of the season.

      In the play-offs Jordan, perhaps the world's most recognizable and respected athlete, saved his best for last. With the Bulls trailing in the last minute, he scored on a driving layup and a jump shot from the foul circle to beat the Utah Jazz 87-86 in the decisive sixth game of the finals. For the second straight year, Jordan frustrated Utah's Karl ("The Mailman") Malone and John Stockton in the title showdown, winning his sixth finals Most Valuable Player award (along with his fifth regular-season MVP) and proving he was still the NBA's best player.

      When it all finally ended with another huge victory celebration in Chicago, Jackson kept his season-long promise to walk away from his coaching hot seat. "This was our last dance, and it was a wonderful waltz," Jackson said, casting a pall over the victory festivities. It was interpreted by many fearful Bulls fans as the first move toward breaking up this NBA dynasty. Immediately, the furor about Jordan's future reemerged. He repeatedly vowed to retire if Jackson and Pippen left the Bulls but then hedged during a summer of uncertainty.

      The NBA owners added another complication—not just for Jordan but for the entire league—when they imposed a July 1 lockout over stalled negotiations for a new labour agreement with the NBA Players Association. The move put contract signings and player transfers between teams in limbo. It also gave Jordan, Pippen, and the Bulls some extra time to ponder the future of the franchise.

      In women's basketball the Houston Comets, led by two-time MVP Cynthia Cooper, won its second consecutive Women's NBA title, beating the Phoenix Mercury 80-71 in the decisive final game in the best-of-three series. The Columbus Quest captured its second American Basketball League championship. On December 22 the ABL filed for bankruptcy and canceled the remainder of the season.

      Those "Comeback Cats," the Kentucky Wildcats, continued an old tradition of success for a new keeper of their basketball flame in 1997-98. Coach Tubby Smith directed Kentucky to its seventh National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship in his first season as head coach. It was a triumphal journey for the first African-American to hold that post, although far from an easy one. Utah opened a 10-point halftime lead on Smith's team in the San Antonio (Texas) Alamodome, a hole too deep to escape in any previous NCAA tournament final. Yet it was Kentucky pulling away at the end for a decisive 78-69 victory over the Runnin' Utes.

      Few of Kentucky's rabid fans anticipated that Smith would so swiftly fill the shoes of departed coach Rick Pitino, whose popularity had reached near-cult status. After taking the Wildcats to the 1996 national championship and then losing 1997's title game to Arizona in overtime, Pitino had moved to the NBA, accepting a lucrative offer to coach the Boston Celtics. Despite having such a difficult act to follow, Smith won over the skeptics with his confident coaching style and sense of humour.

      Kentucky needed all of that togetherness to reach the Final Four for the third straight year in the wide-open NCAA tournament. In early rounds the Wildcats had to come from behind in the second half to erase a 17-point deficit against Duke and wipe out Stanford's 10-point edge. Utah, however, coached by the popular Rick Majerus, provided the sternest test. Paced by centre Michael Doleac, the Runnin' Utes relied on their season-long staples, rebounding and defense, to take a 41-31 lead into the intermission. After that, Kentucky double-teamed Doleac, and fatigue became a major factor in the turnaround. The Utes could not cope with Kentucky guard Jeff Sheppard, who added clutch defense to his 16 points. Sheppard was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four for having given the Wildcats the spark they needed to pull away in the closing minutes.

      Just before the Final Four began, a chill went through the nation's collegiate basketball coaches, assembled in San Antonio for their annual meeting. Two Northwestern University basketball players were under federal indictment for allegedly having conspired to shave points in three games during the 1995 season, thereby creating the potential for large profits in betting on those games by gamblers in on the fix. The case renewed fears that gambling on sporting events was a major problem on college campuses throughout the U.S. The NCAA distributed a sports-wagering information packet at the Final Four, condemning the potential threat to the integrity of sports contests posed by gambling.

      In women's basketball the Tennessee dynasty rolled on, capturing its third straight national championship with a convincing 93-75 victory over Louisiana Tech in the NCAA tournament final at Kansas City, Mo. The Tennessee team, which boasted an awesome array of talent under coach Pat Summitt (see BIOGRAPHIES (Summitt, Pat Head )) was unbeaten in all 39 games during the 1997-98 season and extended its unprecedented winning streak to 45 over two years. The best—or perhaps the worst for frustrated opponents of the Lady Volunteers—might still be down the road. "I firmly believe [Tennessee] is the best women's team ever assembled," said Baylor coach Sonja Hogg. "People will expect them to win the national championship again, and for many more years." Freshman Tamika Catchings's 27 points led the way for the Lady Vols in the NCAA tournament final, and teammate Chamique Holdsclaw, voted the Most Outstanding Player for her Final Four performance, was the nation's dominant woman athlete through the entire season.


      In 1998 basketball was the world's second largest sport in terms of participation, with more than 250 million players in over 203 countries, all of which were affiliated with the International Basketball Federation, the world governing body.

      The final rounds of the world championships for men and women were the major international basketball events of the year. Yugoslavia was installed as the favourite for the men's gold medal once it was confirmed that U.S. Dream Team IV would not be participating owing to the NBA lockout. Yugoslavia let no one down, defeating Russia 64-62 in the final played in Athens. The U.S. overcame the host nation, Greece, to win the bronze. More than 332,000 spectators attended the entire championship tournament, with more than 1,830,000,000 people worldwide watching the event on television. In the women's championship in Berlin, the U.S. beat Russia 71-65 in the final, its sixth world basketball crown.

      Brazil won the South American men's championship with a 96-72 victory over Paraguay in the final played in Santa Fe, Arg. The third Southeast Asia championship for men, played in Manila, was won by the host nation, the Philippines, which defeated Thailand in the final. The 15th African championship for women was played in Nairobi, Kenya, and was won by Senegal, which defeated the Democratic Republic of the Congo 73-59 in the final.

      The major club competition during the 1997-98 European season, the European Championship for Men's Clubs, was won by Kinder Bologna (Italy), which defeated AEK Athens (Greece), runner-up the previous season, 58-44 in Barcelona, Spain. In other European competitions, BC Zalgiris (Lithuania) gained the European Cup by beating Stefanel Milan (Italy); Verona (Italy) defeated Crvena Zvezda (Yugoslavia) to take the European Korac Cup; Bourges (France) retained the Women's European Champions Cup with a victory over Getafe Madrid (Spain); and the Ronchetti Cup went to Hungary with Sopron defeating ASPTT Cede (France).

      In January in Remington, Ind., the Harlem Globetrotters, the world-famous American team of basketball entertainers, played their 20,000th game.


▪ 1998


United States.

      . In 1997 it took the advent of two new women's leagues, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the American Basketball League (ABL), finally to divert some attention from Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. Dominating the competition as usual, Jordan drove the Bulls to their fifth National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in seven years with his matchless mixture of superb skill and indomitable will.

      The Bulls' "Drive for Five" was not easy, despite Chicago's 69 regular-season victories, because the Utah Jazz put up a terrific fight before falling four games to two in the best-of-seven NBA finals. Once again, forward Dennis Rodman provided the sideshow with his multicoloured hair and penchant for the outrageous. He was heavily fined and suspended for kicking a photographer during a regular-season game. He returned in time for the play-offs, during which he was fined again for making derogatory remarks about Utah's Mormon community. The Bulls, sparked by the incomparable Jordan, who also won his fifth play-off Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, rose to every challenge, including the twin threat of Utah's Karl ("The Mailman") Malone (the regular-season MVP) and John Stockton in the finals.

      Bulls' fans were more concerned about whether the whole dynasty would unravel after the playoffs. Jordan vowed to retire immediately if the Bulls traded forward Scottie Pippen or failed to sign Coach Phil Jackson for another year. Without "Air" Jordan's commanding presence, the NBA in general and the Chicago franchise in particular would see a golden era end abruptly, but to the fans' immense relief, the Jordan saga continued. The superstar, reacting favourably to Jackson's rehiring, agreed to a one-year, $36 million contract.

      Meanwhile the NBA's coaching merry-go-round picked up speed. Rick Pitino led the charge by switching from the University of Kentucky to become coach and general manager of the Boston Celtics, and the Orlando Magic lured 68-year-old Chuck Daly out of retirement. Larry Brown jumped from the Indiana Pacers to the Philadelphia 76ers, and Celtics' icon Larry Bird, an Indiana native, signed to coach the Pacers.

      In the midst of all this activity, the women's leagues opened their inaugural seasons with high hopes and considerable fanfare. With the global image and marketing skills of the NBA helping with promotion, the WNBA gained the larger share of media and fan attention as well as the majority of stars from colleges, the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, and other countries. The WNBA consisted of two four-team conferences: the Eastern Conference, comprising the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets, and New York Liberty; and the Western Conference, consisting of the Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs, and Utah Starzz. The Comets, guided by league MVP Cynthia Cooper, defeated the Liberty, led by Rebecca Lobo, 65-51 in a one-game final play-off on August 30 to capture the first WNBA championship.

      The ABL, which began playing in October 1996, also enjoyed a competitive debut season. It consisted of eight charter members: the Atlanta Glory, Columbus Quest, New England Blizzard, and Richmond Rage in the Eastern Conference; and the Colorado Xplosion, Portland Power, San Jose Lasers, and Seattle Reign in the Western Conference. The Quest and the Rage clashed in the best-of-five final play-offs in March 1997, with Columbus prevailing three games to two. Valerie Still, named the top play-off performer, sparked the Quest to a 31-9 regular-season record. After the regular season the ABL announced the addition of the expansion Long Beach StingRays in the Western Conference and the move of the Rage from Richmond to Philadelphia.

      . Arizona's stunning 84-79 overtime upset over Kentucky in the championship game of the men's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament championship provided a fitting climax to an exciting season. As interest in women's basketball was reaching new heights, on both collegiate and professional levels, Tennessee's 68-59 conquest of Old Dominion in the NCAA final gave the Lady Volunteers their second straight national title.

      The meteoric rise in interest, media coverage, and quality of play throughout women's college basketball continued in 1996-97. Although attendance at women's games lagged well behind the overall NCAA figure of 30 million for men's competition during the season, it rose to an unprecedented total of 6.4 million. Tennessee's triumphal sweep through the tournament was accompanied by record attendance and television ratings. In a dramatic Midwest Regional showdown, Tennessee eliminated previously unbeaten Connecticut 91-81 to end the 33-1 Lady Huskies' dream of a second undefeated season in three years.

      Competition in the men's ranks was equally ferocious. The Arizona Wildcats put it all together at the right time, upsetting a trio of teams seeded number one in their regionals—Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Arizona stunned Kansas, almost everybody's pretournament choice, and then moved into the Final Four by surviving a nerve-shattering overtime battle with Providence.

      It was the shot at vindication needed by Arizona Coach Lute Olson. His team had finished fifth in the Pacific-10 race and went into the tournament seeded fourth in the Southeast Regional, expected to continue its frustrating habit of early NCAA exits. Not this time. Arizona proved it belonged by ousting favoured North Carolina 66-58 to put an Olson-coached team in the title clash for the first time.

      Arizona then made the most of its opportunity, silencing a mostly hostile crowd of 47,028 in the Indianapolis (Ind.) RCA Dome. Skeptics thought Kentucky's blend of experience and Pitino coaching legerdemain would be too much to overcome. The Southeast Conference powerhouse had survived a bruising semifinal struggle with Big Ten champion Minnesota 78-69, but its hopes for back-to-back NCAA titles got run down. Despite a roster with no seniors, Olson's Wildcats outfought the defending champions, using blazing speed and defensive pressure to shut down Kentucky's shooters. Arizona's three-guard lineup, featuring Miles Simon and Michael Dickerson, along with 1.85-m (6-ft 1-in) freshman playmaker Mike Bibby, created havoc. A match-up zone defense limited Kentucky's all-American Ron Mercer to three first-half points, and Simon earned his tournament Most Outstanding Player laurels with a game-high 30 points. Kentucky rallied late to tie the game at 74-74 and force overtime but had too little left to sustain its momentum. Arizona scored all 10 of its overtime points at the free-throw line.

      Still, the outstanding achievement of the year belonged to North Carolina's legendary coach, Dean Smith. (BIOGRAPHIES (Smith, Dean Edwards ).) The Tar Heels' second-round NCAA tournament decision over Colorado was the 877th victory of Smith's career, breaking the all-time record set by Kentucky's Adolph Rupp. Smith added two more victories in the East Regional before bowing to Arizona in the NCAA semifinals.

      In other developments, the Big Ten Conference decided to join the crowd by staging a postseason tournament, to begin in 1998. That left the Pacific-10 Conference and the Ivy League as the only major holdouts for a postseason tourney. In Chicago, De Paul University fired Coach Joey Meyer, ending a 55-year family reign over the Blue Demons, 43 of them under Joey's father, the legendary Ray Meyer.


      The Fédération Internationale de Basketball, the world governing body of the sport, boasted a membership of 202 national federations in 1997. In addition, there were some 250 million basketball players worldwide and nearly 2,000 international referees.

      The final rounds of the European championships for men and women were the major basketball events of 1997 in Europe. Yugoslavia, favoured to win the men's gold medal, succeeded in defeating Italy 61-49 in the final, which was played in Barcelona, Spain. Russia took bronze with a 97-77 win over Greece. In the women's competition in Budapest, Lithuania won the gold medal, beating Slovakia 72-62 in the final. Germany defeated Hungary 86-61 to capture the bronze.

      The second world championship for men 22 and under was played in Melbourne, Australia, and was won by the host nation, which defeated Puerto Rico 88-73 in the final. The fourth world championship for junior (18 and under) women took place in Natal, Braz., and was won by the United States, which defeated Australia 78-74 in the final. The European winners at the cadet (under 16) level were Yugoslavia in the men's championship and Russia in the women's tournament. Runners-up were Russia and the Czech Republic, respectively.

      The major club competition during the 1996-97 European season, the European Championship for Men's Clubs, was won by Olympiakos (Greece), which defeated Barcelona (Spain), runner-up the previous season as well, 73-58 in Rome. In the other European competitions, Real Madrid (Spain) won the European Cup by beating Verona (Italy); Aris Salonica (Greece) defeated the Turkish team Bursa to take the European Korac Cup; Bourges (France) gained the Women's European Champions Cup with a victory over the reigning champions, Wuppertal (Germany); and the Ronchetti Cup went to Moscow with C.S.K.A. defeating Parma (Italy). These championships marked the 40th anniversary of international club competitions in Europe. During the 1996-97 season 236 teams participated in the European competitions, watched by a record 2.6 million spectators.

      A new event, Euro Stars, was contested for the first time in December 1996. The cream of players from the East and West played out a thrilling contest (the East winning 117-114) in front of 14,000 spectators in the Abdi Ipecki Arena in Istanbul.

      During the year the sport recorded the deaths of five important basketball personalities: Federico Slinger (Uruguay), Abdel Azim Ashry (Egypt), Raimundo Saporta (Spain), Luis Andres Martin (Argentina), and Michel Rouiller (Switzerland).


▪ 1997


United States.
      In professional basketball, the Chicago Bulls soared even higher than superstar Michael Jordan in an astonishing 1995-96 season. They set an all-time league record by winning 72 regular-season games while losing only 10 and then went on to win their fourth National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in six years.

      The Bulls did fall short of their quest to chalk up another record for play-off dominance, having to settle for an overall 15-3 postseason record. The Seattle SuperSonics staved off the threat of being shut out in the best-of-seven finals by winning twice on their home floor.

      But even that worked out well, because it enabled the Bulls to win the title on their home court, where an adoring audience watched them put away the Sonics 87-75 in game 6. Their slight fade in the final series also added fuel to the debate over whether these Bulls, rather than the 69-13 Los Angeles Lakers of 1971-72, the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers (68-13), or the 1985-86 Boston Celtics (67-15) actually deserved to be recognized as the all-time greatest NBA team.

      There was little, if any, argument, however, about the greatest player of them all. Jordan, shining even brighter than before in his first full year back from a brief retirement, was the unstoppable force in Chicago's success. At 33, he did not hang in the air en route to one of his crowd-arousing slam dunks quite as long as he used to. But his unmatched skills, instinct for the game, and, above all, his burning desire to win were undimmed by time.

      Jordan proved it over and over in 1995-96, gaining both the regular-season and play-off Most Valuable Player awards. It was the fourth time he had earned each of those accolades, and he also added his league-record eighth NBA scoring title to break Wilt Chamberlain's record.

      Nevertheless, Jordan had an outstanding supporting cast, with two more superstars, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman (see BIOGRAPHIES (Rodman, Dennis Keith )), in the mix. His rebounding prowess, multihued hair, and bizarre off-court antics made Rodman a Chicago favourite in his first year with the Bulls.

      With contemplative Coach Phil Jackson (see BIOGRAPHIES (Jackson, Philip Douglas )) using the right bench psychology, the Bulls were virtually unbeatable. They hoped to keep it going, at least for one more year, by signing Jordan for $30 million, Rodman for $7 million, and Jackson for $1.5 million.

      The Kentucky Wildcats and their charismatic coach, Rick Pitino, dominated college basketball throughout the 1995-96 season. Pitino finally won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament championship that had eluded him since 1989 at Kentucky and at Providence in a 1987 Final Four appearance.

      But this was to be Kentucky's—and Pitino's—year. The Wildcats shook off an early-season loss to Massachusetts and took over the number one spot in the weekly Top 25 polls by consistently blowing away Southeastern Conference (SEC) opponents. With just one more regular-season loss, Kentucky stormed into the NCAA tournament as the odds-on favourite.

      Because Kentucky had not won the tournament since 1978 and had suffered a traumatic last-second loss to Duke in the 1992 NCAA East Regional final, a heavy burden accompanied the Wildcats when they arrived in the New Jersey Meadowlands on March 30 to take on the Minutemen of Massachusetts in the semifinal game. This time the Wildcats were able to avenge their early-season loss, ousting the Minutemen 81-74. It was Kentucky's first victory margin of less than 20 points in the tournament.

      The final game of the tournament pitted Kentucky against Syracuse, a Cinderella team that had surprised everybody, including its own fans, by last defeating Mississippi State 77-69 in the other semifinal. Along the way, Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim emerged as a hero of sorts, shedding the reputation he had acquired, perhaps unfairly, of being unable to win the big games. In reaching the finals, Syracuse increased its NCAA tourney victory total over the years to 35—the most ever won by a team that did not win the title.

      In the final Kentucky had more than the sticky Syracuse zone defense to overcome before nailing down an emotional 76-67 victory to end its 18-year drought between NCAA championships. Tense and erratic, as though they were overwhelmed by all the expectations on their shoulders, the Wildcats almost blew a 13-point lead in the second half, allowing Syracuse to cut the gap to 64-62 with just 4 minutes and 46 seconds left.

      It was then that Kentucky's best player, Tony Delk, rallied his squad with emotional fervour during a time-out. Wildcat fans in the throng of 19,229 nervously pondered the probabilities of another collapse, but their fears were soon dispelled. When Delk missed a three-point shot, Walter McCarty denied Syracuse a chance to go for the tying points by tipping in the rebound, and Derek Anderson, a transfer from Ohio State, nailed a three-pointer for the biggest basket of the game. Kentucky then pulled ahead to win by a final score of 76-67.

      Overall, it was Delk's marksmanship that made the difference. The sharpshooting guard contributed seven of the winners' dozen three-point baskets, tying the individual record for an NCAA championship game that had been set by Indiana's Steve Alford in 1987 and Oklahoma's David Sieger in 1988.

      Nebraska, better known as a football power, pulled off a surprise by winning the National Invitation Tournament with a 60-56 decision over St. Joseph's of Philadelphia. It took the Cornhuskers 100 years—spent mostly in obscurity on the court—to emerge, but they rode the clutch free throws of Erick Strickland, named the tourney's Most Valuable Player, to victory in the final.

      In women's basketball, Tennessee trounced Georgia 83-65 on March 31 in Charlotte, N.C., to capture its fourth NCAA tournament championship. When Kentucky took the men's title a day later, the SEC became the first conference to have won both NCAA basketball tournaments in the same season. (ROBERT G. LOGAN)

      The Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., was the major event of 1996 in international basketball. The U.S. team was the overwhelming favourite to win the gold medal in men's competition and fulfilled expectations by defeating Yugoslavia 95-69 in the final. Lithuania finished third. In the women's tournament the United States completed a host-country sweep by defeating Brazil 111-87 in the final. Australia was third.

      In Europe a major concern was the effect of the Bosman ruling on the sport. In 1995 soccer player Jean-Marc Bosman had taken his contractual dispute to the European courts, and his success there led to basketball's playing boundaries' being thrown wide open. Players at the end of their contracts could now move freely throughout the European Union member countries and would no longer be considered "foreign" players.

      The Fédération Internationale de Basketball, the world governing body for basketball, during the year launched a new competition for the top clubs in Europe to replace the European championship. The EuroLeague began for men on September 18 and for women on October 2. The guaranteed number of games and television and marketing contracts were designed to provide a guaranteed income for the clubs, which was crucial to their future.

      In Africa the 18th championship for men was won by Angola, which defeated Senegal 68-55 in the final. The European champions at Junior (under 18) level were Croatia in men's competition and Russia in the women's tournament. Runners-up were France and Slovakia, respectively.

      The major club competition during the 1995-96 European season, the European Championship for Men's Clubs, was won by Panathinaikos (Greece), which defeated Barcelona (Spain) 67-66 in Paris. In other European competitions Taugres (Spain) took the European Cup by beating PAOK Salonika (Greece); Efes Pilsen Istanbul (Turkey) defeated Stefanel Milan of Italy to win the European Korac Cup; BTU Wuppertal (Germany) gained the women's European Champions Cup with a victory over defending champions SFT Como (Italy); and the Ronchetti Cup stayed in France as Tarbes defeated S.C. Alcamo (Italy).

      In South America the Basketball Club League for Men was won by Olimp Venado Tuerto of Argentina. Leites Nestle of Brazil won the 11th South American Championship for Women's Champion Clubs. (MARK HANNEN)

▪ 1996


United States.
      Without Tyus Edney, it appeared that UCLA might not have one more big game left to cap a colossal 1994-95 season. But the Bruins did, even though the 1.8-m (5-ft 10-in) Edney made only a token appearance during their 89-78 victory over defending champion Arkansas in the finals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament. Sidelined by a sprained right wrist, sustained in UCLA's 74-61 NCAA semifinal victory over Oklahoma State, Edney could only watch and hope on the bench.

      The senior guard had distinguished company a few rows behind in the crowd of 38,340 packing the Kingdome in Seattle, Wash., for this showdown. Legendary coach John Wooden, who had masterminded UCLA to an unprecedented string of 10 national championships, 7 of them in a row, also was there to see history re-created. The Bruins had not captured another NCAA title since Wooden retired 20 years earlier.

      When all hope seemed lost in the West Regional quarterfinal, Edney saved the Bruins by taking the ball and the outcome into his hands. With Missouri on the verge of a stunning upset, leading 74-73 only 4.8 seconds before the end, Edney drove the length of the court to bank in a dramatic game-winning basket at the final horn.

      Arkansas had been discovering all season that the road to a second straight NCAA crown would be more than twice as tough. Still, it survived some close calls to come within 40 minutes of joining Duke as the second repeat college basketball champion in 22 years.

      The Razorbacks defeated their first four NCAA tournament foes by a total of 15 points and then regrouped to oust North Carolina 75-68 in the semifinal. Unfortunately for Arkansas, its path to the throne room was blocked by UCLA. Led by sophomore Cameron Dollar, the Bruins jumped ahead early, repulsed a second-half Arkansas surge, and eased away at the finish.

      Ed O'Bannon led UCLA with a game-high 30 points and 17 rebounds. When he was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, he showed why the Bruins had racked up a 31-2 season record. Pulling Edney onto the platform, he declared, "Yo, yo, yo, that's the real MVP right there."

      UCLA had won 10 of 11 previous NCAA finals with Wooden at the helm. This 11th triumph widened the Bruins' lead over Kentucky and Indiana, each with five championships, in the all-time tournament rankings.

      In women's basketball, Connecticut completed a storybook season by winning a ferocious NCAA tournament final from Tennessee 70-64. The Huskies' courageous second-half comeback made them the second unbeaten national champion in women's NCAA basketball history.

      Connecticut finished with a 35-0 record, one game better than the perfect slate turned in by Texas in 1986. In a dream matchup of the country's two top teams, Connecticut overcame a shaky start by all-American Rebecca Lobo (see BIOGRAPHIES (Lobo, Rebecca )) and Jennifer Rizzotti to repeat a regular-season victory over the Lady Vols (34-3).

      Both teams peaked at the right moment. Connecticut routed Stanford 87-60, and Tennessee had little trouble beating Georgia 73-51 in the semifinals.

      Only one player could overshadow the entire 1995 National Basketball Association (NBA) play-off picture, even after his team was eliminated in the second round of the Eastern Conference pairings. Because Michael Jordan elected to come out of retirement near the end of the regular season, a second straight NBA title for Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets could not command full attention.

      Nonetheless, it was still quite a show when the Rockets swept the best-of-seven final series from the Orlando Magic, providing a somewhat anticlimactic finish to some exciting battles in earlier play-off rounds. In the last act, the 2.13-m (7-ft) Olajuwon was so overpowering that he embarrassed 2.16-m (7-ft 1-in) Magic superstar Shaquille O'Neal and his visibly nervous teammates.

      Adding a fourth crown to the trio that the Chicago Bulls had won in 1991-93 would have been tough enough for Jordan. But the 32-year-old guard, who went back to the Bulls after a fling in baseball's minor leagues, was not the same gravity-defying missile he had been. Jordan's shooting touch failed to come back with him, nor was he able to show fans the spectacular hang time that made him the most celebrated athlete of his generation.

      Houston won only 47 games during the season and was not expected to be a strong play-off factor. However, a late-season trade that reunited Olajuwon with his former University of Houston teammate Clyde Drexler turned things around for the struggling club. The champions responded by beating the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, and San Antonio Spurs in Western Conference preliminaries, advancing to the showdown with Orlando.

      There Olajuwon and Drexler provided almost all of the magic there was to see. What was supposed to be a duel of superstar centres, pitting Olajuwon's experience against O'Neal's potential, turned out to be a mismatch. The Rockets won the first two games in Orlando and went home to Houston with a stranglehold on their championship defense.

      Late in June seven NBA players, dissatisfied with the new labour agreement with the owners, filed a class action antitrust lawsuit against the NBA. They challenged the league's salary cap, draft, and free-agent system and invited their union to join them. The NBA responded on July 1 by locking out the players until a new collective bargaining agreement was reached. On September 13 the players voted to ratify the previous labour agreement. The dissident players did not challenge the vote, and the lockout was ended. (ROBERT G. LOGAN)

      A number of championships throughout the Continent caused 1995 to be an exciting year for European basketball. Especially prominent were the European championships for men and women, held in Athens and Brno, Czech Rep., respectively. In Athens, Yugoslavia returned to prominence in world basketball by defeating Lithuania 96-90 in a final that was regarded by many as the most exciting in 20 years. In the women's tournament Ukraine won the championship for the first time, defeating Italy 77-66.

      In Asia championships for men and women were held for the 18th and 16th time, respectively. At the men's tournament in Seoul, China was victorious, with Korea runner-up. In Shizuoka, Japan, the women's championship was also won by China, with Korea again placing second.

      The European champions at Cadet (under 16) level were Croatia in the men's tournament and Russia in the women's competition. Runners-up were Spain and Italy.

      The major club competition during the 1995-96 European season, the European Championship for Men's Clubs, was won by Real Madrid (Spain), which defeated Olympiakos (Greece) 73-61 in the final at Zaragoza, Spain. In other European tournaments Treviso (Italy) won the European Cup by beating Vitoria Álava (Spain); Alba Berlin (Germany) defeated Olimpia Stefanel Milan of Italy to take the European Korac Cup; Como (Italy) retained the Women's European Champions Cup with a victory over Dorna Valencia (Spain); and the Ronchetti Cup went to France, with Bourges defeating Parma (Italy).

      The World Student Games (Universiade) finished a great year of basketball with its finals in Japan. The men's championship was won by the U.S., which completely overpowered the host nation 141-81. (MARK HANNEN)

▪ 1995


United States.
      Duke University, a titan in the power-packed Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), continued to prove that nothing succeeds like success in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament. In 1994, for the fourth time in five years, the Blue Devils reached the championship game of the tourney. Under Coach Mike Krzyzewski they were appearing in the Final Four for the seventh time in nine years. Such a dominant stretch had not been equaled on the collegiate basketball scene since UCLA's unprecedented run of nine national championships in a 10-year dynasty (1964-73).

      This time Duke's past success could not succeed against a coach and a team that refused to fail, however. Arkansas, fueled by the desire burning inside Coach Nolan Richardson, rallied in the final game to beat Duke 76-72 and capture its first NCAA title.

      The poise of Duke's seniors seemed to be taking command early in the second half when a string of 11 straight points built a 48-38 lead for the Blue Devils. But the Razorbacks, from the tough Southeastern Conference, had been overcoming such adversity all season, despite the lack of a senior among the players Richardson relied on most.

      Arkansas pulled ahead, then wilted briefly when Grant Hill's three-point basket pulled the Blue Devils into a 70-70 tie with just 1 1/2 minutes remaining. At this crucial time Scotty Thurman of Arkansas responded with the crusher, a decisive three-pointer on the last tick of the 24-second shot clock. Only 50.7 seconds were left, and Duke could not recover from that knockout punch.

      "Scotty made a tough shot even though I was right on him," said Duke's Antonio Lang, who led his team with 15 points. "I still don't know how it went in," Richardson said. "I'm not surprised that Thurman hit the biggest shot of his career when we needed it most," the victorious coach continued. "That's the way these kids have been picking each other up since our first game."

      The Razorbacks, capping a 31-3 crusade orchestrated by Richardson's emotion, also proved they could handle the pressure of being ranked number one in the weekly polls for the last two months of the 1993-94 schedule. Their suffocating defense turned the tide in the championship clash, forcing Duke's tournament-tested veterans into an abnormally high total of 23 turnovers. Corliss Williamson, a tireless 2.01-m (6-ft 7-in) power forward, lived up to his "Big Nasty" nickname with a game-high 23 points. He was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

      In women's basketball North Carolina's Charlotte Smith sank a three-point shot in the final second of the NCAA championship game to produce a stunning 60-59 upset over perennial power Louisiana Tech. Smith, a 1.83-m (6-ft) junior with the ability to dunk a basketball, found the range from outside to bring the nationally televised final to an exciting finish. Smith's heroics snapped a 25-game winning streak for Louisiana Tech (31-4). North Carolina won the title in its first trip to the Final Four.

      The final duels were a fitting climax to an exciting college season. Not all of the action took place on the court, especially in mid-January when the Black Coaches Association (BCA) threatened a selective strike of Saturday games. Led by Richardson and John Thompson of Georgetown University, they were protesting new NCAA regulations aimed at tightening academic requirements for student athletes. The BCA coaches also were angered by a decision to cut the annual basketball scholarship limit from 15 to 13.

      The walkout was avoided by last-minute negotiations. The underlying issues still ensured NCAA convention fireworks between the university presidents, who were determined to have a larger voice in athletic policy making, and their basketball coaches. Caught in the middle were the players, who faced harsh NCAA penalties, including the loss of their scholarships, if they elected to join the protest. With the aid of federal mediators, the two sides indicated that the issues might be settled without such drastic action. The university presidents stood firm on their insistence for higher standards but suggested that they could be implemented along with safeguards to avoid undue problems for minority students.

      In professional competition life without Michael Jordan was both possible and profitable, as the National Basketball Association (NBA) discovered during the 1993-94 season. Somehow, though, without No. 23 of the Chicago Bulls soaring for one of his crowd-pleasing skywalks, it did not seem to be quite as much fun. Although Bulls fans were not expecting much without Jordan, their team made a strong showing throughout the 1993-94 campaign. The Bulls took the New York Knicks to the seven-game limit in an exciting Eastern Conference play-off semifinal before bowing out to snap their championship run at three straight.

      The Knicks then defeated the Indiana Pacers to meet Western Conference champion Houston in the finals, setting up a struggle between two of the NBA's finest big men. It was 2.13-m, 116-kg (7-ft, 255-lb) Hakeem Olajuwon (see BIOGRAPHIES (Olajuwon, Hakeem )) of the Rockets against 2.13-m, 109-kg (7-ft, 240-lb) Patrick Ewing of the Knicks. Both centres, known around the league as consummate team players, hungered for their first taste of an NBA championship. But only one could satisfy his appetite and, in the end, it was Olajuwon, the league's Most Valuable Player for the season and series.

      Ewing and the Knicks electrified New York by taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven final play-off but needed one more victory in Houston to wrap it up. Olajuwon prevented that from happening on his home court by taking personal charge of both backboards. The veteran from Nigeria was a dominating force while the Rockets hung on to even the series with a pulse-pounding 86-84 decision in game 6.

      That narrowed the whole season down to the June 22 climax. It was Olajuwon's night, with his 25 points and 10 rebounds powering Houston to a 90-84 victory and the NBA championship ring he had coveted for a decade.

      A circle of competition also was closed by this confrontation. In 1984 Ewing had led Georgetown past Olajuwon and the University of Houston in the NCAA final. Instead of gloating, Olajuwon reached out to comfort the vanquished Ewing. (ROBERT G. LOGAN)

      The major events of the year in international basketball were the world championships for men and women, which were held in Toronto and Sydney, Australia, respectively. As expected, the United States won the men's championship for the third time, defeating Russia 137-91 in the final. Croatia beat Greece for third place. In the women's tournament Brazil won the title, defeating China 96-87 in the final. This was the first time in the history of the competition that a country other than the U.S. or the Soviet Union had finished first.

      The second European championship for men 23 and under was held in Slovenia. In the final, Belarus, one of the nations in Europe formed by the division of the Soviet Union, defeated Italy 96-91. The European champions at the junior (under-18) level were Lithuania in the men's competition and Italy in the women's. Finishing second were Croatia and Spain, respectively.

      The European Championship for Men's Clubs, the major club competition during the 1993-94 European season, was retained by Joventut Badalona (Spain), which defeated Olympiakos (Greece) 59-57 in a thrilling final in Tel Aviv, Israel. In the other European competitions, Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia) won the European Cup by beating Vitoria Álava (Spain), P.A.O.K. Salonica (Greece) defeated Trieste (Italy) to take the European Korac Cup, Como (Italy) won the Women's European Champions Cup with a victory over Dorna Valencia (Spain), and the Ronchetti Cup remained in Italy with Cesena defeating fellow Italian defending champions Primizie Parme.

      In South America, Leite Moza from Brazil won the 10th South American Championship for Women's Clubs, defeating fellow Brazilians Unimed in the final. The 32nd men's championship was retained by Atenas (Argentina), which beat Olimpia, also from Argentina.

      The fourth Commonwealth championship for men was held in Sungei Penang, Malaysia. Canada won the gold medal, with England taking silver and Nigeria bronze.

      The international governing body of amateur basketball made some minor but important adjustments to the rules of the game. The four main changes included recognizing the front foot as the pivot when determining a traveling call, replacing the one-and-one rule with two free throws, taking an inbounds pass from wherever the ball leaves the court (previously, it could be taken from the baseline); and making the alley-oop a legal move. (MARK HANNEN)

▪ 1994


United States.

      Losing a second straight bid for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship in 1993 proved more than twice as painful for the University of Michigan's "Fabulous Five." The Wolverines reached the final game of the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row only to fall short once more. A year earlier Duke had routed them 71-51. This time the Big Ten team lost to another Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) member, North Carolina, in a 77-71 heartbreaker.

      A mental error in the closing seconds by Chris Webber, the leader of Michigan's sophomore-studded lineup, enabled the Tar Heels to hang on. It was Webber's last game with "Fab Five" teammates Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson because the 2.05-m (6-ft 9-in) centre-forward had elected to drop out of school and enter the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft.

      The thrilling finish in the New Orleans Superdome gave North Carolina's coach, Dean Smith, his second national title. The only major college coaches to win more were John Wooden of UCLA with 10, Kentucky's Adolph Rupp with 4, and Indiana's Bobby Knight with 3.

      With Michigan trailing 73-71 in the final minute, Webber rebounded a missed free throw by Pat Sullivan of North Carolina. He dribbled downcourt and into the right corner. Then, inexplicably, Webber signaled for a time-out although the Wolverines had none left to take. The penalty for this mistake was a two-shot technical foul and possession of the ball for North Carolina. Fittingly, Donald Williams sank both free throws with 11 seconds to go, assuring the Tar Heels their first NCAA crown since Michael Jordan's basket won the title for them 11 years earlier on the same court.

      Regardless of their loss, Webber and his teammates pulled off a remarkable feat by reaching the title game in both of their seasons together. For most teams, led by seniors, reaching the Final Four just once is a dream that seldom comes true. Under Coach Steve Fisher the Wolverines peaked at tournament time. On a mission to erase the 1992 humiliation by Duke, they survived two overtime scares to reach the last step on their climb. They wanted a rematch with Duke, but the Blue Devils' quest for their third straight NCAA crown ended in the second round of the Midwest Regional with an 82-77 loss to California.

      North Carolina also had to play an extra period in getting past Cincinnati 75-68 in the East Regional final. Smith's team joined Michigan, Kansas, and Kentucky in New Orleans, La., for the April 3 semifinals. The Tar Heels ousted Kansas 78-68, while Michigan overcame a four-point deficit in overtime to get past Kentucky 81-78.

      That set up a championship duel two nights later between the nation's premier basketball conferences. The ACC prevailed for the third straight year after a hotly contested final. The Tar Heels's 2.13-m (7-ft) centre, Eric Montross, battled Webber under both baskets, although it was Williams' game-high 25 points and four clutch free throws at the end that made the difference. Amazingly, Williams duplicated his semifinals performance—25 points and five of seven baskets from the three-point range—to be named Most Valuable Player of the Final Four.

      When the 1993-94 season began, a rules change had been made to speed up play and reduce excessive fouling in the final minutes. The NCAA men's basketball committee voted to cut the shot clock from 45 to 35 seconds, although the women's rules group elected to stay with the 30-second clock it had used since 1969.

      Other significant rules changes would stop the clock after baskets in the final minute of regulation time or overtime and eliminate automatic turnovers on closely guarded players who did not pass or dribble within five seconds. The new rules package was not as radical as the introduction of the 45-second shot clock in 1985, which virtually eliminated stalling tactics.

      In women's basketball, Sheryl Swoopes poured in an NCAA tournament final-game record 47 points, sparking Texas Tech to the national championship with an 84-82 victory over Ohio State. The 1.83-m (6-ft) Swoopes even topped the men's NCAA finals mark of 44 points, set by UCLA's Bill Walton in 1973. A sellout crowd of 16,141 in Atlanta, Ga., marveled at the moves and shooting touch of the transfer student from South Plains College, Levelland, Texas. Along with Swoopes's talent, her outgoing personality contributed to the growth of interest in the women's game.

      The Chicago Bulls proved that the third time really was the charm by defeating the Phoenix Suns in six games to capture the 1993 NBA championship. It put the Bulls in select company as the first NBA team to string together three titles since the Boston Celtics pulled off the hat trick (as part of a run of eight consecutive championships) in 1964-66.

      As always, Michael Jordan (see BIOGRAPHIES (Jordan, Michael )) was the driving force behind this coup. The 1.98-m (6-ft 6-in) guard spurred the Bulls through the 82-game regular season and into the play-offs with sheer force of will fueling his explosive blend of ability and desire. Even though Jordan and teammate Scottie Pippen went to training camp late, drained from helping the U.S. Olympic men's basketball "Dream Team" win the gold medal, in the end it made no difference. As usual, the regular-season grind served merely to whet Jordan's appetite for the "Three-Peat" he coveted.

      But when the crucial moment came in the final play-off series, at the end of the sixth game in Phoenix, Ariz., it was veteran John Paxson who wore the laurel leaves. Paxson's three-point basket in the closing seconds broke the Suns' backs and their fans' hearts, sweeping the Bulls from behind to a 99-98 decision and wrapping up the best-of-seven title series with a 4-2 edge for Chicago.

      Ironically, New York Knicks coach Pat Riley had copyrighted the term Three-Peat. The Bulls had eliminated the Knicks in a bruising six-game Eastern Conference final series, but Riley, the NBA's Coach of the Year, stood to reap a handsome profit on sales of Three-Peat merchandise.

      When the Bulls capitalized on the Suns' stage fright to jump ahead 2-0 in the final play-off, the outcome of the head-to-head matchup between close friends Jordan and Phoenix superstar Charles Barkley, who had been named the league's Most Valuable Player, was assured. The Bulls also positioned themselves for a fourth straight title soon after this one by signing 2.1-m (6-ft 11-in) European superstar Toni Kukoc to a lucrative long-term contract.

      In the midst of Jordan's triumph, tragedy soon turned the cheers to shocked silence. A nationwide wave of sympathy followed the news that James Jordan, Michael's father, had been murdered in North Carolina, apparently in late July. Then, in October, the superstar stunned his fans around the world when he announced his retirement.


World Basketball.
      The year was a busy one for European basketball, with a number of tournaments throughout the continent. The major event of the year was the final round of the 28th European championships for men, for which Germany acted as host. For the first time, owing mainly to the number of new Eastern European nations, 16 teams contested the final round. The tournament favourite was Croatia, which, as part of the former Yugoslavia, had supplied most of the team that had won the title in 1991. However, Croatia was defeated by Russia in the semifinals. In the other semifinal Germany defeated Greece. A capacity crowd of 10,000 in Munich then watched an enthralling final that resulted in a dramatic 71-70 win for the home nation—the winning point coming from a Christian Welp free throw with four seconds left on the clock.

      The finals of the 24th European championships for women were held in Perugia, Italy. In the final Spain defeated France 82-76 to win the championship for the first time. The European champions at cadet (under 16) level were Greece in the men's competition and Russia in the women's. Placing second in both competitions was Spain.

      Two world championship titles were also contested during the year. The first world championship for men 22 and under was played in Valladolid, Spain, and was won by the U.S., with France as runner-up. In the third world championship for junior women at Seoul, South Korea, Australia was victorious, with Russia in second place.

      The 13th African championship for women was won by Senegal, which defeated Kenya 89-43 in the final. In the first Asian championship for men 22 and under, held in Seoul, Taiwan defeated Korea 80-77 in the final.

      The major club competition during the 1992-93 European season, the European championship for men's clubs, was won by Limoges (France). In a thrilling final at Athens, Limoges defeated Benetton Treviso (Italy) 59-55. In other European competitions Aris Salonika (Greece) won the European Cup by beating Efes Istanbul (Turkey), and CB Dorna Valencia (Spain) retained the Women's European Champions Cup with a victory over Como (Italy).

      In South America the 35th men's championship, played in Guarantigueta, Brazil, was won by the host nation 82-76 over Argentina in the final. In the club competitions Unimed from Brazil won the ninth South American championship for women's clubs, defeating fellow Brazilians Leite Moca in the final round; the 31st men's championship was won by Atenas (Argentina) 76-73 over Franca (Brazil) in the final.

      Off the court the basketball world mourned the death of Drazen Petrovic (see OBITUARIES (Petrovic, Drazen )), who died in a car accident near Ingolstadt, Germany, on June 7.


* * *

 game played between two teams of five players each on a rectangular court, usually indoors. Each team tries to score by tossing the ball through the opponent's goal, an elevated horizontal hoop and net called a basket.

      The only major sport strictly of U.S (United States). origin, basketball was invented by James Naismith (Naismith, James A.) (1861–1939) on or about December 1, 1891, at the International Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Training School (now Springfield College), Springfield, Massachusetts, where Naismith was an instructor in physical education.

 For that first game of basketball in 1891, Naismith used as goals two half-bushel peach baskets, which gave the sport its name. The students were enthusiastic. After much running and shooting, William R. Chase made a midcourt shot—the only score in that historic contest. Word spread about the newly invented game, and numerous associations wrote Naismith for a copy of the rules, which were published in the January 15, 1892, issue of the Triangle, the YMCA Training School's campus paper.

      While basketball is competitively a winter sport, it is played on a 12-month basis—on summer playgrounds, in municipal, industrial, and church halls, in schoolyards and family driveways, and in summer camps—often on an informal basis between two or more contestants. Many grammar schools, youth groups, municipal recreation centres, churches, and other organizations conduct basketball programs for youngsters of less than high school age. Jay Archer, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, introduced “biddy” basketball in 1950 for boys and girls under 12 years of age, the court and equipment being adjusted for size.


The early years
 In the early years the number of players on a team varied according to the number in the class and the size of the playing area. In 1894 teams began to play with five on a side when the playing area was less than 1,800 square feet (167.2 square metres); the number rose to seven when the gymnasium measured from 1,800 to 3,600 square feet (334.5 square metres) and up to nine when the playing area exceeded that. In 1895 the number was occasionally set at five by mutual consent; the rules stipulated five players two years later, and this number has remained ever since.

      Since Naismith and five of his original players were Canadians, it is not surprising that Canada was the first country outside the United States to play the game. Basketball was introduced in France in 1893, in England in 1894, in Australia, China, and India soon thereafter, and in Japan in 1900.

      While basketball helped swell the membership of YMCAs because of the availability of their gyms, within five years the game was outlawed by various associations because gyms that had been occupied by classes of 50 or 60 members were now monopolized by only 10 to 18 players. The banishment of the game induced many members to terminate their YMCA membership and to hire halls to play the game, thus paving the way to the professionalization of the sport.

      Originally, players wore one of three styles of uniforms: knee-length football trousers; jersey tights, as commonly worn by wrestlers; or short padded pants, forerunners of today's uniforms, plus knee guards. The courts often were of irregular shape with occasional obstructions such as pillars, stairways, or offices that interfered with play. In 1903 it was ruled that all boundary lines must be straight. In 1893 the Narragansett Machinery Co. of Providence, Rhode Island, marketed a hoop of iron with a hammock style of basket. Originally a ladder, then a pole, and finally a chain fastened to the bottom of the net was used to retrieve a ball after a goal had been scored. Nets open at the bottom were adopted in 1912–13. In 1895–96 the points for making a basket (goal, or field goal) were reduced from three to two, and the points for making a free throw (shot uncontested from a line in front of the basket after a foul had been committed) were reduced from three to one.

      Baskets were frequently attached to balconies, making it easy for spectators behind a basket to lean over the railings and deflect the ball to favour one side and hinder the other; in 1895 teams were urged to provide a 4-by-6-foot (1.2-by-1.8-metre) screen for the purpose of eliminating interference. Soon after, wooden backboards proved more suitable. Glass backboards were legalized by the professionals in 1908–09 and by colleges in 1909–10. In 1920–21 the backboards were moved 2 feet (0.6 metre), and in 1939–40 4 feet, in from the end lines to reduce frequent stepping out-of-bounds. Fan-shaped backboards were made legal in 1940–41.

      A soccer ball (football) was used for the first two years. In 1894 the first basketball was marketed. It was laced, measured close to 32 inches (81 cm), or about 4 inches (10 cm) larger than the soccer ball, in circumference, and weighed less than 20 ounces (567 grams). By 1948–49, when the laceless molded ball was made official, the size had been set at 30 inches (76 cm).

      The first college to play the game was either Geneva College (Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania) or the University of Iowa (Iowa, University of). C.O. Bemis heard about the new sport at Springfield and tried it out with his students at Geneva in 1892. At Iowa, H.F. Kallenberg, who had attended Springfield in 1890, wrote Naismith for a copy of the rules and also presented the game to his students. At Springfield, Kallenberg met Amos Alonzo Stagg (Stagg, Amos Alonzo), who became athletic director at the new University of Chicago (Chicago, University of) in 1892. The first college basketball game with five on a side was played between the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa in Iowa City on January 18, 1896. The University of Chicago won, 15–12, with neither team using a substitute. Kallenberg refereed that game—a common practice in that era—and some of the spectators took exception to some of his decisions.

      The colleges formed their own rules committee in 1905, and by 1913 there were at least five sets of rules: collegiate, YMCA–Amateur Athletic Union, those used by state militia groups, and two varieties of professional rules. Teams often agreed to play under a different set for each half of a game. To establish some measure of uniformity, the colleges, Amateur Athletic Union, and YMCA formed the Joint Rules Committee in 1915. This group was renamed the National Basketball Committee (NBC) of the United States and Canada in 1936 and until 1979 served as the game's sole amateur rule-making body. In that year, however, the colleges broke away to form their own rules committee, and during the same year the National Federation of State High School Associations likewise assumed the task of establishing separate playing rules for the high schools. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Rules Committee for men is a 12-member board representing all three NCAA divisions. It has six members from Division I schools and three each from Divisions II and III. It has jurisdiction over colleges, junior colleges, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and Armed Forces basketball. There is a similar body for women's play.

Growth of the game
  Basketball grew steadily but slowly in popularity and importance in the United States and internationally in the first three decades after World War II. Interest in the game deepened as a result of television exposure, but with the advent of cable television, especially during the 1980s, the game's popularity exploded at all levels. Given a timely mix of spectacular players—such as Earvin (“Magic”) Johnson (Johnson, Magic), Julius Erving (Erving, Julius) (“Dr. J”), Larry Bird (Bird, Larry), and Michael Jordan (Jordan, Michael)—and the greatly increased exposure, basketball moved quickly to the forefront of the American sporting scene, alongside such traditional leaders as baseball and football. Four areas of the game developed during this period: U.S. high school and college basketball, professional basketball, women's basketball, and international basketball.

U.S. high school and college basketball
      Basketball at the high school and college levels developed from a structured, rigid game in the early days to one that is often fast-paced and high-scoring. Individual skills improved markedly, and, although basketball continued to be regarded as the ultimate team game, individualistic, one-on-one performers came to be not only accepted but used as an effective means of winning games.

      In the early years games were frequently won with point totals of less than 30, and the game, from the spectator's viewpoint, was slow. Once a team acquired a modest lead, the popular tactic was to stall the game by passing the ball without trying to score, in an attempt to run out the clock. The NBC, seeing the need to discourage such slowdown tactics, instituted a number of rule changes. In 1932–33 a line was drawn at midcourt, and the offensive team was required to advance the ball past it within 10 seconds or lose possession. Five years later, in 1937–38, the centre jump following each field goal or free throw was eliminated. Instead, the defending team was permitted to inbound the ball from the out-of-bounds line underneath the basket. Decades passed before another alteration of like magnitude was made in the college game. After experimentation the NCAA Rules Committee installed a 45-second shot clock in 1985, restricting the time a team could control the ball before shooting, and one year later it implemented a three-point shot rule for baskets made beyond a distance of 19.75 feet (6.0 metres).

      More noticeable alteration in the game came at both the playing and coaching levels. Stanford University's Hank Luisetti (Luisetti, Hank) was the first to use and popularize the one-hand shot in the late 1930s. Until then the only outside attempts were two-handed push shots. In the 1950s and '60s a shooting style evolved from Luisetti's push-off one hander to a jump shot, which is released at the top of the jump. West Virginia University guard Jerry West and Purdue University's Rick Mount were two players who demonstrated the devastating effectiveness of this shot.

      Coaching strategy changed appreciably over the years. Frank W. Keaney, coach at Rhode Island University (Rhode Island, University of) from 1921 to 1948, is credited with introducing the concept of “fast break” basketball, in which the offensive team rushes the ball upcourt hoping to get a good shot before the defense can get set. Another man who contributed to a quicker pace of play, particularly through the use of the pressure defense, was Adolph Rupp (Rupp, Adolph), who became the University of Kentucky (Kentucky, University of)'s coach in 1931 and turned its program into one of the most storied in basketball history.

      Defensive coaching philosophy, similarly, has undergone change. Whereas pioneer coaches such as Henry Iba of Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State University) or Long Island University's Clair Bee taught strictly a man-to-man defense, the zone defense, developed by Cam Henderson of Marshall University in West Virginia, later became an integral part of the game (see below Play of the game (basketball)).

      Over the years one of the rules makers' chief concerns was to neutralize the advantage of taller players. At 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 metres) Joe Lapchick was considered very tall when he played for the Original Celtics in the 1920s, but, as even taller players appeared, rules were changed in response. To prevent tall players from stationing themselves near the basket, a rule was instituted in 1932–33 prohibiting the player with the ball from standing inside the foul lane with his back to the basket for more than three seconds; the three-second rule later applied to any attacking player in the foul lane. In 1937–38 a new rule forbade any player from touching the ball when it was in the basket or on its rim (basket interference), and in 1944–45 it became illegal for any defending player to touch the ball on its downward flight toward the basket (goaltending).

      Nevertheless, with each passing decade, the teams with the tallest players tended to dominate. Bob Kurland (7 feet [2.13 metres]) led Oklahoma A&M (Oklahoma State University) to two NCAA championships in the 1940s and led the nation in scoring in 1945–46. In the same era George Mikan (Mikan, George) (6 feet 10 inches [2.08 metres]) scored more than 550 points in each of his final two seasons at DePaul University before going on to play nine professional seasons in which he scored more than 11,000 points. Mikan was an outstanding player, not only because of his size but because of his ability to shoot sweeping hook shots with both hands.

      In the 1950s Bill Russell (Russell, Bill) (6 feet 9 inches [2.06 metres]) led the University of San Francisco to two NCAA championships before going on to become one of the greatest centres in professional basketball history. Wilt Chamberlain (Chamberlain, Wilt) (7 feet 1 inch [2.16 metres]) played at the University of Kansas before turning professional in the late 1950s and is regarded as the greatest all-around big man ever to play. It remained, however, for Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem)), also 7 feet 1 inch, to most influence the rules. After his sophomore year (1966–67) at the University of California (California, University of) at Los Angeles (UCLA), the dunk shot was banned from collegiate basketball, ostensibly because the rules committee felt, again, that the big men had too great an advantage. The rule was rescinded beginning with the 1976–77 season, and the dunk shot became an important part of the game, electrifying both fans and players.

      So too have the small- and medium-size players affected the game's development. Bob Cousy (Cousy, Bob), playing at Holy Cross College and later for the Boston Celtics, was regarded as one of the game's first great playmakers. He was among the first to use the behind-the-back pass and between-the-legs dribble as effective offensive maneuvers. Later such smaller players as Providence College's Ernie DiGregorio, the University of North Carolina's Phil Ford, and Indiana's Isiah Thomas (Thomas, Isiah) proved the importance of their role. Between those two extremes are players such as Louisiana State University's Pete Maravich, who set an all-time collegiate scoring record of 44.5 points per game in the 1969–70 season; Magic Johnson, the point guard who led Michigan State University to a championship in 1979 and the Los Angeles Lakers to several NBA championships; Oscar Robertson (Robertson, Oscar), a dominating performer for the University of Cincinnati in the late 1950s and for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1970s; Larry Bird (Bird, Larry) of Indiana State University, a forward of exceptional versatility who led the Boston Celtics to several championships; and Michael Jordan, a great all-around player with the University of North Carolina in the 1980s who is widely considered the best professional player in the history of the sport.

      Nothing influenced the college game's growth more than television, however. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) championship games were televised nationally from 1963, and by the 1980s all three major television networks were telecasting intersectional college games during the November-to-March season. Rights fees for these games soared from a few million dollars to well over $50 million by the late 1980s. As for broadcasting the NCAA finals, a television contract that began in 2003 gave the NCAA an average of $545 million per year for the television rights; this exponential growth in broadcast fees reflected the importance of these games to both networks and advertisers.

      Profits such as these inevitably attract gamblers, and in the evolution of college basketball the darkest hours have been related to gambling scandals. But, as the game began to draw more attention and generate more income, the pressure to win intensified, resulting in an outbreak of rules violations, especially with regard to recruitment of star players.

      The most identifiable phase of college basketball in America is the postseason tournament held in March—popularly known as March Madness. Interest in the NCAA tournament paralleled the growth of the game. The first basketball tournament was staged by the Amateur Athletic Union in 1897 and was won by New York City's 23rd Street YMCA, later to become a traveling professional team known as the New York Wanderers. Although the YMCA was prominently identified with the game in its early years, it did not hold its first national tournament until 1923, and that event took place until 1962. The first national tournament for colleges was held in 1937 and was conducted by an organization in Kansas City, Missouri, that later became the NAIA.

      New York City basketball writers organized the first National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1938, but a year later the New York City colleges took control of the event. Until the early 1950s the NIT was considered the most prestigious American tournament, but, with the growth of the college-run NCAA championship, the NIT became a consolation event for teams that failed to make the NCAA selections.

      The first NCAA tournament was played in 1939, and its growth took place in three stages. The first era ran through 1964, when it was essentially a tournament for champions of various conferences. There were just eight teams in the 1939 field, and by 1963 it had been expanded to 25 teams, all champions of their respective conferences, plus several successful independent teams. The most outstanding teams of the 1940s and '50s participated in both the NCAA and NIT tournaments, but, after the gambling scandals that followed the 1950 NIT championship, a rule was passed prohibiting a team from playing in both. Afterward the NCAA tournament progressively outgrew the NIT.

 In 1964 the second era dawned as the UCLA Bruins, coached by John Wooden (Wooden, John), began a period of domination over the NCAA field. From that season until 1975 Wooden led his teams to 10 NCAA championships. Only championships won by Texas Western University (now University of Texas at El Paso) in 1966 and North Carolina State in 1974 interrupted UCLA's reign. In the eyes of many, the UCLA dynastic period probably had a regressive effect on the game's growth; a sport with such high predictability lost some of its attractiveness.

      The third growth stage came with the end of UCLA's dominance. Champions began to emerge from all sections of the country. From the field of 25 in 1974, the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 participants, including not only conference championship teams but other outstanding teams from the same conferences as well. Three weeks of play culminate with the Final Four weekend, an event now comparable in general public interest and media attention to the Super Bowl and World Series. Championships at the Division II, Division III, and NAIA levels also continued to grow in interest, reaping some of the fallout from the popularity of Division I.

      About 17,000 high schools in the United States have basketball teams. All 50 states annually conduct statewide tournaments. Most states also conduct annual tournaments for girls.

Professional basketball
 The professional game first prospered largely in the Middle Atlantic and New England states. Trenton (New Jersey) and the New York Wanderers were the first great professional clubs, followed by the Buffalo (New York) Germans, who started out in 1895 as 14-year-old members of the Buffalo YMCA and, with occasional new members, continued for 44 years, winning 792 out of 878 games.

      A group of basketball stylists who never received the acclaim they deserved (because in their heyday they played for various towns) consisted of Edward and Lew Wachter, Jimmy Williamson, Jack Inglis, and Bill Hardman. They introduced the bounce pass and long pass as offensive weapons and championed the rule (adopted 1923–24) that made each player, when fouled, shoot his own free throw.

      Before World War II the most widely heralded professional team was the Original Celtics, which started out in 1915 as a group of youngsters from New York City, kept adding better players in the early 1920s, and became so invincible that the team disbanded in 1928, only to regroup in the early 1930s as the New York Celtics. They finally retired in 1936. The Celtics played every night of the week, twice on Sundays, and largely on the road. During the 1922–23 season they won 204 of 215 games.

 Another formidable aggregation was the New York Renaissance (the Rens), organized by Robert Douglas in 1923 and regarded as the strongest all-black team of all time. During the 1925–26 campaign they split a six-game series with the Original Celtics. During the 1932–33 season the Rens won 88 consecutive games. In 1939 they defeated the Harlem Globetrotters and the Oshkosh All Stars in the world championship pro tournament in Chicago. Among the great professional clubs were the teams of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and East Liverpool, Ohio, as well as the New York Nationals, the Paterson (New Jersey) Crescents, and the South Philadelphia Hebrew All Stars—better known as the Sphas.

      The first professional league was the National Basketball League (NBL), formed in 1898. Its game differed from the college game in that a chicken-wire cage typically surrounded the court, separating players from often hostile fans. (Basketball players were long referred to as cagers.) The chicken wire was soon replaced with a rope netting, off which the players bounced like prizefighters in a boxing ring. The cage also kept the ball from going out-of-bounds, thus quickening the pace of play. In these early days players were also permitted to resume dribbling after halting. Despite the lively action of the game, the NBL and other early leagues were short-lived, mostly because of the frequent movement of players, who sold their services on a per-game basis. With players performing for several cities or clubs within the same season, the leagues suffered games of unreliable quality and many financially unstable franchises.

      The Great Depression of the 1930s hurt professional basketball, and a new NBL was organized in 1937 in and around the upper Midwest. Professional basketball assumed major league status with the organization of the new Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1946 under the guidance of Walter A. Brown, president of the Boston Garden. Brown contended that professional basketball would succeed only if there were sufficient financial support to nurse the league over the early lean years, if the game emphasized skill instead of brawling, and if all players were restricted to contracts with a reserve rule protecting each team from raiding by another club. Following a costly two-year feud, the BAA and the NBL merged in 1949 to form the National Basketball Association (NBA).

      To help equalize the strength of the teams, the NBA established an annual college draft permitting each club to select a college senior in inverse order to the final standings in the previous year's competition, thus enabling the lower-standing clubs to select the more talented collegians. In addition, the game was altered through three radical rule changes in the 1954–55 season:
● A team must shoot for a basket within 24 seconds after acquiring possession of the ball.
● A bonus free throw is awarded to a player anytime the opposing team commits more than six (later five, now four) personal fouls in a quarter or more than two personal fouls in an overtime period.
● Two free throws are granted for any backcourt foul.

      After a struggle to survive, including some large financial losses and several short-lived franchises, the NBA took its place as the major professional basketball league in the United States. A rival 11-team American Basketball Association (ABA), with George Mikan as commissioner, was launched in the 1967–68 season, and a bitter feud developed with the NBA for the top collegiate talent each season. In 1976 the ABA disbanded, and four of its teams were taken into the NBA.

      The NBA grew increasingly popular through the 1980s. Attendance records were broken in that decade by most of the franchises, a growth pattern stimulated at least in part by the increased coverage by cable television. The NBA has a total of 30 teams organized into Eastern and Western conferences and further divided into six divisions. In the Eastern Conference the Atlantic Division comprises the Boston Celtics, the New Jersey Nets (in East Rutherford), the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Toronto Raptors; the Central Division is made up of the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Detroit Pistons, the Indiana Pacers (in Indianapolis), and the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Bucks; the Southeast Division comprises the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte (North Carolina) Bobcats, the Miami Heat, the Orlando (Florida) Magic, and the Washington (D.C.) Wizards. In the Western Conference the Southwest Division comprises the Texas-based Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis (Tennessee) Grizzlies, and the New Orleans Hornets; the Northwest Division is made up of the Denver Nuggets, the Minnesota Timberwolves (in Minneapolis), the Portland (Oregon) Trail Blazers, the Seattle SuperSonics, and the Utah Jazz (in Salt Lake City); the Pacific Division comprises the Phoenix Suns and the California-based Golden State Warriors (in Oakland), Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacramento Kings. The play-offs follow the traditional 82-game schedule, involving 16 teams and beginning in late April. Played as a best-of-seven series, the final pairings stretch into late June.

      Although basketball is traditionally a winter game, the NBA still fills its arenas and attracts a national television audience in late spring and early summer. As the popularity of the league grew, player salaries rose to an annual average of more than $5 million by mid-2000s, and some superstars earned more than $20 million yearly. The NBA has a salary cap that limits (at least theoretically, as loopholes allow many teams to exceed the cap) the total amount a team can spend on salaries in any given season.

      In 2001 the NBA launched the National Basketball Development League (NBDL). The league served as a kind of “farm system” for the NBA. Through its first 50 years the NBA did not have an official system of player development or a true minor league system for bringing up young and inexperienced players such as exists in major league baseball. College basketball has been the area from which the NBA did the vast majority of its recruiting. By 2000 this had begun to change somewhat, as players began to be drafted straight out of high school. At the turn of the 21st century the NBA was reviewing whether to continue this policy or to set a minimum age limit for players entering the league.

U.S. women's basketball
      Clara Baer, who introduced basketball at the H. Sophie Newcomb College for Women in New Orleans, influenced the women's style of play with her set of women's rules, published in 1895. On receiving a diagram of the court from Naismith, Baer mistook dotted lines, indicating the areas in which players might best execute team play, to be restraining lines, with the result that the forwards, centres, and guards were confined to specified areas. This seemed appropriate because many felt that the men's game was too strenuous for women.

      Women's rules over the years frequently have been modified. Until 1971 there were six players on a team, and the court was so divided that the three forwards played in the frontcourt and did all the scoring while the three guards covered the backcourt. Senda Berenson (Berenson, Senda) staged the first women's college basketball game in 1893 when her freshman and sophomore Smith College women played against one another. In April 1895 the women of the University of California (Berkeley) played Stanford University. Despite a multitude of hindrances (such as being thought unladylike), women's basketball gradually secured a foothold. In 1971, when women's rules were changed to reduce the number on a team from six players to five and women were freed from the limits imposed by the half-court game, the level of individual skills and competition quickly rose.

 In the early 1980s control of the women's college game was shifted from the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) to the NCAA, a move that not only streamlined the operation and made it more efficient but also added to the visibility of women's basketball. The women's NCAA championship tournament runs concurrently with the men's, and many of the games are nationally televised. Women's basketball became an Olympic sport in 1976.

 Individual women stars have been heavily recruited by colleges, but the players frequently found that there was no opportunity for them to play beyond the college level. Leagues were occasionally formed, such as the Women's Professional Basketball League (WPBL); begun in 1978, the WPBL lasted only three years. Eventually filling the void was the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). Aligned with the powerful NBA, the WNBA held its inaugural season in 1997 with eight teams. By 2006 the WNBA had grown to 14 teams, though following the season the Charlotte Sting disbanded, and in 2008 the WNBA's inaugural champion, the Houston Comets, also folded. The Eastern Conference consists of the Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun (in Uncasville), Detroit Shock, Indiana Fever (in Indianapolis), New York Liberty (in New York City), and Washington (D.C.) Mystics. The Western Conference comprises the Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx (in Minneapolis), Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs, San Antonio Silver Stars, and Seattle Storm. Women's professional basketball is played during the summer months when the television schedule for sporting events is less crowded.

International competition
 The success of international basketball was greatly advanced by Forrest C. (“Phog”) Allen (Allen, Phog), a Naismith disciple and a former coach at the University of Kansas, who led the movement for the inclusion of basketball in the Olympic Games in 1936 and thereafter. Basketball has also been played in the Pan-American Games since their inauguration in 1951. The international game is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur (FIBA). World championships began in 1950 for men and in 1953 for women. Under international rules the court differs in that there is no frontcourt or backcourt, and the free throw lanes form a modified wedge shape. There are some differences in rules, including those governing substitutions, technical and personal fouls, free throws, intermissions, and time-outs. Outside the United States there are few places that strictly separate amateur from professional athletes.

 Basketball has caught on particularly well in Italy. The Italian professional basketball league (Lega Basket) is highly regarded and popular in that country. Spain also has several basketball leagues, the main one being the ACB (Asociación de Clubes de Baloncesto). The other major centre of European basketball is eastern Europe, particularly the Balkans. Although the European leagues are not formally aligned with the American NBA, there are links between European and American basketball. It is not uncommon for European players to be drafted by the NBA, nor is it uncommon for American players to play in Europe. American players in the European leagues tend to be older players who have finished successful NBA careers in the United States or younger players who have not yet been drafted into the NBA.

Play of the game

Court and equipment
 The standard American basketball court is in the shape of a rectangle 50 feet (15.2 metres) by 94 feet (28.7 metres); high school courts may be slightly smaller. There are various markings on the court, including a centre circle, free throw lanes, and a three-point line, that help regulate play. A goal, or basket, 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter is suspended from a backboard at each end of the court. The metal rim of the basket is 10 feet (3.0 metres) above the floor. In the professional game the backboard is a rectangle, 6 feet (1.8 metres) wide and 3.5 feet (1.1 metres) high, made of a transparent material, usually glass; it may be 4 feet (1.2 metres) high in college. The international court varies somewhat in size and markings. The spherical inflated ball measures 29.5 to 30 inches (74.9 to 76 cm) in circumference and weighs 20 to 22 ounces (567 to 624 grams). Its covering is leather or composition.

      The rules governing play of the game are based on Naismith's five principles requiring a large, light ball, handled with the hands; no running with the ball; no player being restricted from getting the ball when it is in play; no personal contact; and a horizontal, elevated goal. The rules are spelled out in specific detail by the governing bodies of the several branches of the sport and cover the playing court and equipment, officials, players, scoring and timing, fouls, violations, and other matters. The officials include a referee and two umpires in college play (two referees and a crew chief in NBA play), two timers, and two scorekeepers. One player on each team acts as captain and speaks for the team on all matters involving the officials, such as interpretation of rules. Professional and high school games are divided into four periods, college games into two.

      Since the 1895–96 season, a field goal has scored two points and a free throw one point. When the ABA was founded in 1967, it allowed three points for shots made from outside a boundary line set 25 feet (7.6 metres) from the basket. With varying distances, the change was adopted officially by the NBA in 1979 and, in 1985, by colleges.

      Basketball is a rough sport, although it is officially a noncontact game. A player may pass or bounce (dribble) the ball to a position whereby he or a teammate may try for a basket. A foul is committed whenever a player makes such contact with an opponent as to put him at a disadvantage; for the 2001–02 season the NBA approved a rule change that eliminated touch fouls, meaning brief contact initiated by a defensive player is allowable if it does not impede the progress of the offensive player. If a player is fouled while shooting and the shot is good, the basket counts and he is awarded one free throw (an unhindered throw for a goal from behind the free throw, or foul, line, which is 15 feet [4.6 metres] from the backboard); if the shot misses, he gets a second free throw. If a foul is committed against a player who is not shooting, then his team is awarded either the possession of the ball or a free throw if the other team is in a penalty situation. A team is in a penalty situation when it has been called for a set number of fouls in one period (four in professional and international play and six in the college game). Infractions such as unsportsmanlike conduct or grasping the rim are technical fouls, which award to the opposition a free throw and possession of the ball. Overly violent fouls are called flagrant fouls and also result in free throws and possession for the opposition. Players are allowed a set number of personal fouls per game (six in the NBA, five in most other competitions) and are removed from the game when the foul limit is reached.

      Other common infractions occur when a player (with the ball) takes an excessive number of steps or slides; fails to advance the ball within five seconds while being “closely guarded”; causes the ball to go out-of-bounds; steps over the foul line while shooting a free throw; steps over the end line or sideline while tossing the ball in to a teammate, or fails to pass the ball in within five seconds; runs with, kicks, or strikes the ball with his fist; dribbles a second time after having once concluded his dribble (double dribble); remains more than three seconds in his free throw lane while he or his team has the ball; causes the ball to go into the backcourt; retains the ball in the backcourt more than 10 seconds, changed in the NBA to 8 seconds for 2001–02; or fails to shoot within the time allotted by the shot clock (24 seconds in the NBA and international play, 30 in the WNBA, and 35 in college). The penalty is loss of the ball—opponents throw the ball in from the side.

      Common terms used in basketball include the following:

      Any illegal personal contact that impedes the progress of an opponent who does not have the ball.

      Ball movement by bouncing the ball. A dribble ends when a player touches the ball with both hands simultaneously or does not continue his dribble.

Held ball
      Called when two opponents have one or two hands so firmly upon the ball that neither can gain possession without undue roughness. It also is called when a player in the frontcourt is so closely guarded that he cannot pass or try for a goal or is obviously withholding the ball from play.

Jump ball
      A method of putting the ball into play. The referee tosses the ball up between two opponents who try to tap it to a teammate. The jump ball is used to begin games and, in the professional game, when the ball is possessed by two opposing players at the same time.

      Throwing, batting, or rolling the ball to another player. The main types are (1) the chest pass, in which the ball is released from a position in front of the chest, (2) the bounce pass, in which the ball is bounced on the floor to get it past a defensive opponent, (3) the roll pass on the floor, (4) the hook pass (side or overhead), and (5) the baseball pass, in which the ball is thrown a longer distance with one hand in a manner similar to a baseball throw.

      A movement in which a player with the ball steps once or more in any direction with the same foot while the other foot (pivot foot) is kept at its point of contact with the floor.

Pivot player
      Another term for centre; also called a post player. He may begin the offensive set from a position just above the free throw line.

      Both teams attempting to gain possession of the ball after any try for a basket that is unsuccessful, but the ball does not go out-of-bounds and remains in play.

Screen, or pick
      Legal action of a player who, without causing more than incidental contact, delays or prevents an opponent from reaching his desired position.

Shots from the field
      One of the main field shots is the layup, in which the shooter, while close to the basket, jumps and lays the ball against the backboard so it will rebound into the basket or just lays it over the rim. Away from the basket, players use a one-hand push shot from a stride, jump, or standing position and a hook shot, which is overhead. Some players can dunk or slam-dunk the ball, jamming the ball down into the basket.

Traveling (walking with the ball)
      Progressing in any direction in excess of the prescribed limits, normally two steps, while holding the ball.

      Loss of possession of the ball by a team through error or a rule violation.

      Other special terms are discussed below.

Principles of play
 Each team of five players consists of two forwards, two guards, and a centre, usually the tallest man on the team. At the beginning of the first period of a game, the ball is put into play by a jump ball at centre court; i.e., the referee tosses the ball up between the opposing centres, higher than either can jump, and when it descends each tries to tap it to one of his teammates, who must remain outside the centre circle until the ball is tapped. Subsequent periods of professional and college games begin with a throw in from out-of-bounds. Jump balls are also signaled by the officials when opposing players share possession of the ball (held ball) or simultaneously cause it to go out-of-bounds. In U.S. college games the alternate-possession rule is invoked in jump ball situations, with teams taking turns getting possession. After each successful basket (field goal) the ball is put back in play by the team that is scored on, by one player passing the ball in from behind the end line where the score was made. The ball is put in play in the same manner after a successful free throw or, if two have been awarded, after the second if it is successful. After nonshooting violations the ball is awarded to the opposing team to be passed inbounds from a point designated by an official.

      A player who takes possession of the ball must pass or shoot before taking two steps or must start dribbling before taking his second step. When the dribble stops, the player must stop his movement and pass or shoot the ball. The ball may be tapped or batted with the hands, passed, bounced, or rolled in any direction.

      As basketball has progressed, various coaches and players have devised intricate plays and offensive maneuvers. Some systems emphasize speed, deft ball handling, and high scoring; others stress ball control, slower patterned movement, and lower scoring. A strategy based on speed is called the fast break. When fast-break players recover possession of the ball in their backcourt, as by getting the rebound from an opponent's missed shot, they race upcourt using a combination of speed and passing and try to make a field goal before the opponents have time to set up a defense.

      Some teams, either following an overall game plan or as an alternative when they do not have the opportunity for a fast break, employ a more deliberate style of offense. The guards carefully bring the ball down the court toward the basket and maintain possession of the ball in the frontcourt by passing and dribbling and by screening opponents in an effort to set up a play that will free a player for an open shot. Set patterns of offense generally use one or two pivot, or post, players who play near the free throw area at the low post positions (between the free throw line and the end line) or at high post positions (between the free throw line and the basket). The pivot players are usually the taller players on the team and are in position to receive passes, pass to teammates, shoot, screen for teammates, and tip in or rebound (recover) missed shots. All the players on the team are constantly on the move, executing the patterns designed to give one player a favourable shot—and at the same time place one or more teammates in a good position to tip in or rebound if that player misses.

      Systems of defense also have developed over the years. One of the major strategies is known as man-to-man or man-for-man. In this system each player guards a specific opponent, except when “switching” with a teammate when he is screened or in order to guard another player in a more threatening scoring position. Another major strategy is the zone, or five-man, defense. In this system each player has a specific area to guard irrespective of which opponent plays in that area. The zone is designed to keep the offense from driving in to the basket and to force the offense into taking long shots.

      A great many variations and combinations have been devised to employ the several aspects of both man-to-man and zone defensive strategies. The press, which can be either man-to-man or zone, is used by a team to guard its opponent so thoroughly that the opposition is forced to hurry its movements and especially to commit errors that result in turnovers. A full-court press applies this pressure defense from the moment the opposition takes possession of the ball at one end of the court. Well-coached teams are able to modify both their offensive and defensive strategies according to the shifting circumstances of the game and in response to their opponents' particular strengths and weaknesses and styles of play.

William George Mokray Robert G. Logan Larry W. Donald Ed.

Winners of select basketball championships

NBA championship
       National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship The table provides a chronological list of winners of the NBA championship.

WNBA championship
       Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) Championship Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) Championship The table provides a chronological list of winners of the WNBA championship.

NCAA men's championship
       Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship-men Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship-men The table provides a chronological list of winners of the NCAA men's championship.

NCAA women's championship
       Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship-women Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship-women The table provides a chronological list of winners of the NCAA women's championship.

FIBA men's world championship
       World basketball championship-men World basketball championship-men The table provides a chronological list of winners of the FIBA men's world championship.

FIBA women's world championship
       World basketball championship-women World basketball championship-women The table provides a chronological list of winners of the FIBA women's world championship.

Additional Reading
Histories of the game of basketball include Basketball: Its Origin and Development (1996), by the game's inventor, James Naismith; Bernice Larson Webb, The Basketball Man: James Naismith, rev. ed. (1994), a comprehensive biography of Naismith; and Joan S. Holt and Marianna Trekell (eds.), A Century of Women's Basketball: From Frailty to Final Four (1991), a comprehensive treatment of the women's game. Other histories include Stanley Cohen, The Game They Played (1977), a view of the gambling scandals that rocked college basketball in the 1950s; Joe Gergen, The Final Four (1987), a history of the NCAA; and Robert W. Peterson, Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball's Early Years (1990), a history of the developing professional game with an emphasis on the contributions of African and Jewish Americans. The NBA's Official Encyclopedia of Pro Basketball, 3rd ed. (2000), has general information and statistics.For further records and statistics, see The Official NBA Guide (annual), NBA Register (annual), and The Official WNBA Guide and Register (annual), all published by The Sporting News, which give the records for the preceding year and the career surveys of all players in that year; and The Official National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Guide (annual), with U.S. college records, schedules, and statistics.Larry W. Donald Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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