History of basketball in Europe – timeline

Basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith, a teacher at the Springfield YMCA in Massachusetts, USA in 1891. Naismith was given the task by his superior Dr. Gulick of coming up with a sport that could be played indoors during the winter months, as the students were bored with gymnastics and minor games.

Naismith's aim was to invent a ball game which would not involve tackling and keep physical contact to a minimum. Inspired by a childhood game called "duck on a rock", Naismith came up with the idea of having an elevated goal to place more emphasis on skill rather than mere force. He found 2 peach baskets, which the school's caretaker nailed to the walls of the YMCA gym, wrote the original 13 rules and basketball was born.

The game of basketball as we know it today has developed significantly since Naismith first introduced it in Springfield. Here is an overview of the key events in European basketball since 1891 and the creation of FIBA in 1932:

  • 1891 – Dr. James Naismith creates the game of basketball at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts

  • 1893 – The first game of basketball is played in Europe, at the YMCA in Paris, France

  • 1909 – The Russian club Mayak plays against a visiting YMCA team, probably the first international game since the creation of the fledgling sport

  • 1932 - The 'Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur', short FIBA is founded in Geneva, Switzerland with the following 8 national federations as founding members: Argentina, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia

  • 1935 – The first European Championship takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. The winners are Latvia.

  • 1936 – Basketball is introduced as an official sport at the Berlin Olympics

  • 1956 – The FIBA World and European Headquarters move from Geneva to Munich, Germany

  • 1957 – The first FIBA European Club Competition, the Men’s Champion Clubs is created. ASK Riga are the first champions

  • 1958 – A womens’ competition follows suit and the European Cup for Women’s Champion clubs is formed. Slavia Sofia defeat Dynamo Moscow in the final

  • 1959 – The World Championship for Women is held in Europe for the first time and the home team Soviet Union win the title

  • 1967 – The Soviet Union men’s national team emulates the success of the women, winning the World Championships in Montevideo, Uruguay, the first European team to win a world title

  • 1970 – The World Championship for Men comes to Europe for the first time, to Yugoslavia. Hosts Yugoslavia defeat the Soviet Union in the final to become World Champions for the first time 

  • 1972 – The Soviet Union become the first team to defeat the USA in the Olympics, winning the gold medal in Munich, Germany

  • 1976 – The Soviet Union women’s national team wins the inaugural Olympic basketball tournament

  • 1980 – European teams fill the podium at the Olympic Games in Moscow, which are boycotted by the USA. Yugoslavia win gold, Italy silver and the Soviet Union bronze

  • 1991 – The Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia both collapse. The Soviet Union Women's team enters its last competition, the European Championship for Women. They win the title, their 17th in a row. It is also their 21st gold in 22 tries 

  • 1992 - the first former Soviet state to win a medal in basketball are Lithuania, who stun the basketball World at the Olympic Games in Barcelona to win a bronze medal. They are even surpassed by a team from former Yugoslavia: Croatia win the silver medal

  • 1995 – Yugoslavia return to FIBA competitions after sanctions

  • 1998 – Yugoslavia win the World Championship

  • 2001 – FIBA World moves to Geneva, Switzerland. FIBA Europe becomes an independent FIBA Zone Commission and the headquarters moves to Widenmayerstrasse 18 in Munich

  • 2002 – Yugoslavia win a second consecutive World Championship and become the first European team to defeat a USA team consisting of NBA players. Spain also beat the USA in the competition

  • 2004 - Italy come out as the best European team at the Olympic Games in Athens, claiming a silver medal

  • 2006 - At the World Championship in Japan, Spain claim the third consecutive World Championship title for Europe

  • 2009 - the 2006 World Champions Spain claim their first ever EuroBasket title in Poland. Later that year, FIBA Europe move into their new home, their own building in Ismaningerstraße 21, Munich, Germany

  • 2010 - with home-court advantage on their side, Turkey clinch a silver medal at the World Championship. Lithuania complete a good tournament from a European perspective with a bronze medal

  • 2012 - Spain are almost at the top, but cannot overcome a dominant USA team, finishing with the second consecutive Olympic silver medal. Russia take the bronze medal