Basketball is very popular in the United States, perhaps that’s because the game was invented in that country. But other countries like the Philippines, Australia, Canada, Iraq and Mongolia also popularized the game. Although not as popular as football or cricket, basketball superstars like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’neal are well-known throughout the world. Perhaps even more famous than the best football players in Europe and South America, and that clearly has to do with the ludicrous amount of press coverage they get from the likes of ESPN and other mainstream media outlets.
History of Basketball
Canadian-American professor of physical education at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School (now Springfield College), James Naismith, is the man credited with the invention of the basketball game. According to history books, Professor Naismith was not happy with his gym class not being active enough during rainy days, and so he created a game that could be played both indoors as well as outdoors.
Initially he used a soccer ball, as there were no other balls from other sports at that time that could be used to satisfy his requirements for the game. It wasn’t until 1942 when the basketball ball was designed and created exclusively for the game. This ball was bouncy enough for the players to be able to dribble it, execute layups and do other fancy moves on the court with it. By June 6, 1946 the NBA (National Basketball Association) was officially founded in New York City, New York.
And the rest is history…
Top 10 NBA Athletes
Basketball has an estimated 400 million fans all over the world and when you combine that figure with massive media coverage, the situation will most likely create basketball superstars and celebrities. With that in mind, let us see who are the best of the best athletes in this sport.
Here are 10 best basketball players of all time:
- Micheal Jordan – You can’t talk about basketball without mentioning the name of Michael Jordan. He is basically synonymous with the sport and his fans even dubbed him King of Basketball. They also gave him a royal title of “His Airness,” because it seems Jordan possesses the rare ability to remain in the air longer than any other NBA player while playing the game. Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to victory 6 times in his career and he also became 6 times MVP every time in those championships that they had won. Meanwhile, he made a world record for being the only NBA player scoring the most points in a game (69 points) when the Chicago Bulls went up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is the first NBA player to perform the dunk maneuver while jumping from the free throw line! A feat that was considered impossible before he appeared in the NBA. He is also the only NBA player to dodge the blocking attempts of 3 opponents at the same time and still scored points.
- LeBron James – The 6 foot 9 inches tall black Hercules of the L.A. Lakers rivals the skills of the legendary Michael Jordan in almost every aspect. He has already proven himself when he spearheaded the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championships twice in a row (2013 and 2014). He could also dunk the basketball while jumping from the free throw line like Jordan did in the past and he can be assigned to any role in the court, whether it’s power forward, center, point guard, or shooting guard. The coach can count on him to do the job. He’s been awarded the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award and made a total of 93 blocks. He more than any other NBA player could pose a threat to Michael Jordan if they ever met on the court. He has 4 MVPs and 4 Finals MVPs under his belt, 2 Olympic gold medals and was included in the NBA All-Stars 19 times in the span of his career.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Jabbar played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the L.A. Lakers and won 2 NBA Finals MVP and led the Lakers to scoring a club-record of 11 straight seasons from 1975 to 1986. He was included in the NBA All-Stars 19 times as well, and was included in the NBA 50 Greatest Players of All Time. This 7-foot tall behemoth was a very defensive player, which made it difficult for their opponents to score in almost every game. Jabbar is also one of the top students of the famous martial arts superstar, Bruce Lee, and he even appeared in one of his films called “Enter The Dragon.”
- Earvin “Magic” Johnson – He was dubbed “Magic” because of his ball passing prowess. He is so good at passing the ball to his teammates that he is considered as the blind pass master. Just when you thought he was going to something, he does the complete opposite or something perpendicular to the move that everyone assumed he would do. This man is unpredictability incarnate on the basketball court! Even fortune-tellers are going to give false predictions if anyone ever consulted them on how to beat the magic man of NBA. His NBA record includes: 5-time NBA Champion, 3-time NBA Finals MVP, 12-time NBA All-Star, 2-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 9-time All-NBA First Team, All NBA Second Team, NBA All-Rookie Team, named NBA 50 Greatest Players of All Time, has a statue in front of the Crypto.com Arena and he’s also a noble philanthropist.
- Kobe Bryant – The late Kobe Bryant will surely be missed after his untimely demise in a helicopter crash in California. Bryant is another NBA athlete who is as good as Michael Jordan was in his youth and, in fact, he even came face to face with the NBA legend himself in one of their games. He’s also a 5-time NBA Champion and he received the MVP Award on 2 of those occasions. His presence in the NBA led the L.A. Lakers to multiple victories including 5 championships (1 championship shy of Michael Jordan’s record). He’s the only NBA superstar to appear in multiple video games and films. He earned the moniker of “Black Mamba” because he seemed like a predator on the court. Kobe truly was an NBA legend in his own class. Some experts in the sport would even suggest not to compare him to Jordan at all, as the 2 athletes are uniquely gifted.
- Shaquille O’neal – This 7 foot 1 inches tall gentle goliath is soft-spoken and light-hearted outside the court, but once he steps in the court, you better be somewhere else, or you’ll face an unstoppable force known as “The Shaq Attack!” It was because of him that the NBA re-engineered their ring design to withstand the unbelievable forces that Shaq was putting out (especially his dunk maneuvers), as Shaq kept smashing them to pieces (particularly the fiberglass board), which caused the games to be placed on hold, or get postponed. His dunk feats became a financial headache for the NBA and at the same time an amusement to the fans. Despite his enormous size, Shaq has 4 championships under his belt and he has won 3 MVPs out of those wins. The big guy is also such a teddy bear that Hollywood executives kept inviting him to appear in several of their movies, although none of them became a hit. Still Shaq is an impressive NBA player that people will remember through the years.
- Larry Bird – Bird is a 3-time MVP in the NBA and was among the first of the Dream Team to represent the United States in the Olympic Games. Bird is also among the few white men who can jump and is quite the formidable NBA athlete during his prime. Despite being 6 foot 9 inches tall, Bird is actually a power forward in his team, the Boston Celtics. Bird is one of the few NBA players able to go toe-to-toe with the Big Man, Michael Jordan on the court! But their rivalry actually made them close friends later on in life.
- Wilt Chamberlain – The Pennsylvanian giant known as Wilt Chamberlain was a top performer in the NBA. He is credited with 2 NBA Championships, 4 MVPs, Rookie of the Year, and an All-Star Game MVP award. He was famous in the NBA throughout the 60s and 70s, an era when American basketball started gaining fame in the world.
- Bill Russell – This NBA superstar is the only one who became an 11-time champion in NBA history! He also made 12 All-Star teams while earning 5 NBA MVP awards. He is often talked about when the media discusses NBA history and is compared to modern basketball athletes. Russell had an amazing NBA career and he has been included in the NBA hall of fame along with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and other notable players.
- Tim Duncan – Longtime San Antonio Spurs player, Tim Duncan, is one of the NBA Hall of Famers. His record includes 5 NBA Championships, 1 NBA Finals MVP and 15 times in the NBA All-Stars. He was a bulwark in the Spurs and kept the team significant even when fresh blood came in to shake the court. Duncan’s name remained as a symbol of stability that even underdog teams like the San Antonio Spurs can still give powerful teams like the L.A. Lakers a run for their money.
Basketball in the Olympic Games
Since basketball is being played as an official sport in over 100 countries, it was included in the Olympic Games in 1936. The fact that America has the most skilled basketball players also, made them often take the gold medal in this sport category. There have been only 3 countries besides the United States to get the gold medal in the Olympic Games so far, and those are:
- The Soviet Union
America, especially with their hardened NBA players, gets the gold medal for the basketball games in the Olympics 90% of the time.
Basketball Players and their Fame and Fortune
Several basketball players have achieved fame and fortune through their exceptional skills and achievements in the sport. However, please note that the following information may be outdated, and I won’t be able to provide the most recent developments or changes in their status.
Here are some basketball players known for their fame and fortune up to that point:
- Michael Jordan: Often considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan’s fame and fortune extend far beyond his playing days. He dominated the NBA during the 1980s and 1990s as a member of the Chicago Bulls. After retiring from basketball, he continued to be an influential figure in the sports world and a successful businessman, primarily through his Jordan Brand line of sneakers, endorsements, and ownership of the Charlotte Hornets.
- LeBron James: A modern-day basketball icon, LeBron James gained immense fame and fortune during his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers. He’s won multiple NBA championships and MVP awards. LeBron has also become a prominent entrepreneur, with investments in various ventures and his media company, SpringHill Entertainment.
- Kobe Bryant: Tragically, Kobe Bryant passed away in January 2020, but he was undoubtedly one of the most celebrated players in basketball history. Spending his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe won numerous championships and MVP awards. He had also begun to make strides in the business and entertainment worlds before his untimely death.
- Shaquille O’Neal: Known for his dominant presence on the court and charismatic personality off it, Shaquille O’Neal enjoyed a successful NBA career with several teams, including the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami Heat. Following his basketball days, he ventured into various business endeavors, including investments and endorsements, which contributed to his fame and fortune.
- Kevin Durant: An exceptional scorer and versatile forward, Kevin Durant has played for the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder), Golden State Warriors, and Brooklyn Nets. Besides his on-court success, he has pursued business opportunities and invested in tech companies, contributing to his overall fame and wealth.
- Stephen Curry: Known for his incredible shooting ability and being a key figure in the rise of the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry achieved fame and fortune through his NBA success and numerous endorsements. He also had business ventures and investments, including his involvement with Under Armour.
- Dwyane Wade: A three-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade was a highly popular and successful player. He expanded his brand through endorsements and investments, establishing himself as one of the notable basketball figures both on and off the court.
Basketball’s Contribution to the Cultures of the World
Basketball has made significant contributions to the cultures of the world in various ways. Since its invention by Dr. James Naismith in 1891, the sport has evolved and spread to become one of the most popular and widely played games globally.
Here are some ways basketball has influenced and contributed to cultures worldwide:
- Global Reach: Basketball’s popularity has transcended borders and continents, making it a truly global sport. It has become a unifying force, bringing people from diverse backgrounds together to share their passion for the game. From local neighborhood courts to international competitions like the Olympics and FIBA World Cup, basketball has created a shared sense of excitement and enthusiasm across cultures.
- Cultural Exchange: As basketball has become popular worldwide, it has provided a platform for cultural exchange. International competitions and leagues have allowed players from different countries to compete and learn from each other’s playing styles, strategies, and techniques. This cultural exchange has fostered a greater understanding and appreciation of various cultures.
- Influence on Fashion and Style: Basketball has had a significant impact on fashion and style, especially through the influence of NBA players and their off-court fashion choices. From basketball shoes and apparel to the “streetwear” trend, the sport’s culture has influenced urban fashion and style in many parts of the world.
- Streetball and Urban Culture: Basketball’s influence is particularly evident in streetball culture, where pickup games are played in outdoor courts and public spaces. Streetball has become an integral part of urban culture, especially in cities like New York, Chicago, and Manila, where it serves as a creative outlet for self-expression and a way to build communities.
- Media and Entertainment: Basketball’s popularity has led to a significant presence in the media and entertainment industries. NBA games and players are televised and broadcasted globally, reaching millions of viewers and creating sports icons. Basketball-themed movies, documentaries, and video games have also contributed to the sport’s cultural impact.
- Social Impact and Inclusion: Basketball has been used as a tool for social impact and inclusion in various communities. Many organizations and programs around the world use basketball as a means to promote education, health, and community development. The sport has the power to bring people together, break down barriers, and empower individuals, especially in underprivileged areas.
- National Identity: In some countries, basketball has become an integral part of their national identity. Successful national teams or star players can become national heroes, inspiring pride and unity among citizens. Basketball can also serve as a representation of a country’s sporting prowess on the international stage.
- Inspiration for Youth: Basketball has inspired countless young athletes to pursue their dreams and work hard to achieve success. It serves as a positive influence for young people, teaching them valuable lessons in teamwork, discipline, and perseverance.
Overall, basketball’s contributions to the cultures of the world extend beyond the confines of the court. It has become a symbol of unity, a catalyst for cultural exchange, and a vehicle for positive change in various societies. The sport’s ability to connect people and communities makes it a truly impactful and cherished aspect of many cultures worldwide.
Basketball ranks number 9 in the Top 10 Most Popular Sports in the World based on the number of fans that support the game. The Philippines perhaps, is the second country where basketball is very popular, in fact, you will see at least 1 basketball court in every community there and most of the people, especially the men and young boys know several NBA players by heart. This sport is as popular in this country as football is in most countries in the world. But whether you like the game or not, you can’t deny the strong fan support for it in dozens of countries all over the world.