May 25, 2023 | Blog

The Top 10 Most Unbelievable Basketball Facts in History

Basketball fans love to collect statistics. For example, did you know that at the time of writing, players have scored over 13,000,000 points in the NBA since it started? Some of these basketball stats are impressive.

But more surprisingly, basketball facts step outside the realm of stats and figures. This article will enlighten you on some of these. By the end, you should understand some of the more unique areas of basketball history.

1. Michael Jordan Flunked Out of Basketball

The first of our NBA facts is one that often shocks people. It turns out Michael Jordan was not always the star player he is today.

In his sophomore year, Jordan tried out for his school’s team, but they decided to go in a different direction. He has often spoken about reading the team list, not seeing his name, and bursting into tears. Instead of dwelling on it, though, he used the fact his name was not there to push himself harder.

These days, Michael Jordan is a household name famous in both sports and cartoon movies for his basketball skills. Despite this, he still counts and uses his failures to move forward. He is quoted as having said he has missed over 9,000 shots in his career and lost over 300 games, using these as inspiration to do better.

2. The NBA Used to be the BAA

Before the NBA became a nationwide name on everybody’s lips, many leagues became prominent. These included the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the National Basketball League (NBL).

At the time, the owners of the BAA had a good handle on business but did not know much about running basketball teams. At the same time, the NBL was more of an informal league but built of people with good heads when it came to basketball.

In 1949, the two leagues merged, changing their name to the National Basketball Association. While the NBA describes it as an “expansion,” the two groups combined to create a 17-team league across several cities.

3. The First Recorded Slam Dunk Was in 1936

Organized basketball first recorded a dunk in 1936, performed by a Texan named Joe Fortenberry. At the time, people described it as “a roll dipped into coffee.” Soon, they became a more common occurrence, though still not lauded as they are today.

This move is now a celebrated and famous way to score in basketball. Still, that was not always the case.

At first, people saw them as a way to disrespect their opponents, so much so that the opposing team would often get in the way of a “dunker” to attempt to cause injury on their way back down.

In the ’60s, dunks were banned from NBA games altogether, though they rescinded this in 1976.

4. The First Recorded African-American Coach Appeared in 1966

It wasn’t until 1966 that any NBA team hired a black coach. The Boston Celtics basketball team hired Bill Russell, a well-known professional player, to lead their team.

This came straight after the overturning of racial segregation laws in the United States. As such, it is often seen as a major win for the representation of African-Americans in positions of authority in the NBA.

Still, Bill Russell quickly pointed out he was hired for his skills alone, not for any other reason.

5. The First Official Women’s League Formed in 1978

Over the decades, women’s basketball grew in popularity until, in 1976, women’s basketball became an Olympic sport. This set the stage for it to grow further over the next few years.

In 1978, America started its own league with the Women’s Basketball League. Sadly, that league suffered from financial issues and collapsed in 1981. Although, the women’s sport has had a new lease of life in the form of the WNBA starting in 1996.

6. The Harlem Globetrotters Almost Always Win Against the Washington Generals

The Washington Generals are not a standard team. It is rare that they play against any team except the Harlem Globetrotters and exist only to uplift their rival team.

The team moves around the country and usually brings a local celebrity or other invitees to the team. The Globetrotters then use them as a heel or stooge to show off their skill.

Over around 16,000 games against the Harlem Globetrotters, the Washington Generals have only ever won 4 games.

7. The Three-Point Line Did Not Exist Until 1979

The three-point line faced debate for a long time before its introduction. It had test games for decades that moved it back and forth before its current location of 23 feet, 9 inches from the basket.

While many saw its introduction to the 1979-1980 season as a gimmick, it has been a staple of NBA basketball.

8. The Tallest NBA Player Was 7-foot-7-inches

Basketball is famous for its tall players. However, the tallest NBA player ever was Gheorghe Mureșan at 7-foot-7. He played from 1993 to 2000 and scored 3,020 points for two teams.

Still, this is nothing compared to the tallest in the world. Sun Mingming played for China until 2014 and is famous for his impressive 7-foot-9-inch height.

9. The Shortest NBA Player Was 5-foot-3-inches

Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues played for four different teams during his 14-season NBA career.

While an impressive player, he only reached 5-foot-3-inches, making him the shortest player in the NBA.

10. The Shortest Time Spent in a Game is 3.9 Seconds

Jameson Curry played for a very short time with the Los Angeles Clippers. While a competent basketball player, he had a lot of trouble getting into an NBA team before he signed a ten-day contract with the Clippers.

Despite his potential, the coach never put him in the game. The coach subbed him in to give him an official NBA record as the game was about to end. He enjoyed his 3.9 seconds in the spotlight, but the team released him from the contract shortly thereafter.

Where to Go For More Basketball Facts

The above basketball facts should keep you sated for now. Still, there is always more to learn about this wonderful game; we want to help you on that journey.

We celebrate Illinois basketball history with exhibits, records of achievements, and a hall of fame. If you are interested in seeing how far Illinois has come since the first leagues in the early 1900s, come on down and check us out today.

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