Basketball has been around for more than 100 years, and while even within the past 30 years the game has gone through major changes, what’s really impressive is how much the actual equipment has changed since the game was first invented, in particular how far the hoop has come.
The original basketball hoop was just a peach basket nailed to a 10 foot high track by Dr. James Naismith as a way to create an indoor game for his students to play when it was too cold outside during the New England winters. This “hoop” still had the bottom to the basket and required that somebody retrieve the ball (which was just a soccer ball at the time) after each score.
Eventually the bottom of the peach basket was cut out, but the ball was still too large to just pass through on its own and required a long dowel rod be used to pop the ball out after each score, which broke up the flow of the game, but was still faster than having to manually retrieve the ball after each score.
Eventually in 1906 metal hoops began to be used and a backboard was introduced to prevent spectators from interfering in the game, a problem that had arisen in the past when the hoops were just nailed to the mezzanine level balcony in whatever hall the game was being played in. The introduction of the backboard also changed the game as it introduced rebounds.
Eventually the backboards were moved from being nailed to various balconies and the upright basketball hoops that we know today were introduced. The backboard material itself has changed over the years, moving from the white plastic/fiberglass materials of the past to glass, which in turn gave way to shatter-resistant safety glass not unlike what’s found in cars.
The entire hoop setup went through numerous changes in the last 40 years, in part because of the advent of players destroying backboards with dunks. In addition to the advent of shatter-resistant glass, tear-away rims were introduced that also helped reduce the safety hazard presented by the potential for a slam dunk to destroy the backboard.
More recently, the entire basketball system was redesigned when larger players became capable of tearing down the entire hoop and backboard system, creating a safety hazard no just to themselves, but to the players and spectators around them. The new hoops have several mechanisms in place to prevent them from being torn down, including more pieces that can just tear away in smaller pieces as opposed to bringing the entire backboard down.
It will be interesting to see what changes the sport continues to make to the equipment as technology advances. Will we one day see floating hoops and backboards that eliminate the upright post that can be a collision hazard? Only time will tell, but I for one look forward to finding out.