The Real History of Basketball

by : Sebastian Marders

Basketball, as we know it today, was not always as simple as it seems. There were no big, multi-million dollar stars like Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan or Larry Byrd. There were no arenas like there are today - no Spectrums or Los Angeles Coliseums. There were not any television broadcasts or broadcasters, no hardwood floors or even nets. The basketball game of many years back was a terrifying experience to say the very least. It was a right of passage and a way to settle disputes.

Basketball as it was first seen took place 100's of years ago and was played by the Mayans and Incas of Mexico, Peru and other South American countries. The game, or what they called a game, was played in a brick trench roughly the length of a Canadian Arena Football field (half the length of an American one) and the width was half of an American football field as well. The teams were made up of 7 men on each side. There were metal hoops placed various heights and distances apart, and these hoops were worth a certain amount of points.

Winning one of these games was, literally, life and death. In fact, the ball was not a ball at all, but was a decapitated human head. The players would not dribble the ball. They instead, tossed it back and forth, much like in Australian rugby, until a player could toss the head through a hoop. On one side of the trench were your opponents hoops, and the other your own. You could take points away from the opposing team by throwing the head into the opposing team's hoops. These games could go on for many hours without a victor in sight. There were no time outs, half times or removal of a player from the "court" or "arena" and certainly injuries were not a factor. The rules were simple and precise: toss to your teammates and throw into the hoop.

Unlike the game of basketball that we know and love today, the winners did not get bonuses in their paychecks or get awarded fancy cars, jets or luxurious vacations. They were not even pampered. These players were warriors, plain and simple. The winning team got to do one important thing: live. The losing team was sacrificed in a blood ceremony by having their heads removed and their bodies cremated. There was no dishonor in this death. Whatever the issue was, be it war, marriage or crop management and disbursement, it was now settled. This was a "gentleman's way" to manage conflict without hundreds or thousands of deaths, much like dueling in the 17th and 18th centuries.