Basketball is a popular sport and it is played all over the world. Whether the Olympics or the FIBA World Cup, basketball gathers lots of fans and most of them cheer their national teams. Basketball also has plenty of popular leagues all over the world, the NBA being one of the most popular ones, not to mention the various European leagues.
It is worth noting, however, that when people talk about basketball, they most often think about men’s basketball. Women’s basketball is often overlooked which is something that needs remedying. Here is a brief history of women’s basketball.
The Origins of Professional Women’s Basketball
Like men’s basketball, women’s basketball also started in the United States in the late 19th century. In 1892, women’s basketball began as a physical activity at Smith’s College, with hopes of improving their physical health. Basketball was the first women’s team sport, followed by hockey, rowing and volleyball. The first intercollegiate basketball game was played between Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley in 1896. For much of the early 20th century, basketball for women was viewed as a way of benefiting health rather than a way of earning money and competing, especially because they were underpaid compared to men, not to mention the overall exploitative nature of early 20th century sports. Women’s basketball didn’t really start moving until 1953.
1953 – Women’s World Cup
FIBA is the governing body for basketball in the world and it is responsible for the World Cups, whether men’s or women’s. Men’s basketball was already fairly popular in 1953, there being multiple world cups as well as multiple events at the Olympic games. In 1953, the Women’s Basketball World Cup was created and there were 10 teams to start with. During that period, the Soviet Union took home the most victories, 6 of them, while over time, the United States caught up and overtook the now disbanded Soviet Union, with 10 championships. Among the two giants, Brazil and Australia managed to snatch up a victory, in 1994 for Brazil and 2006 for Australia.
1976 – The Olympics
Following the success of the Women’s Basketball World Cup, the Olympic Committee decided to include women’s basketball as a sport. From 1976 and onwards, women’s basketball was a part of the Olympics. The first two gold medals went to the Soviet Union and the next two to the US. In 1992, the Unified Team (composed of former Soviet Union countries) won a gold medal and all the following gold medals went to the United States. Similarly to the FIBA Women’s World Cup, the Olympics women’s basketball had two dominating countries.
Today, women’s basketball is played all over the world, from national leagues to continental competitions. There are various international tournaments, including the prestigious World Cup as well as the Olympics. Women’s basketball came a long way and while it still has ways to go, it is in a far better place than it was a century ago, where it was more about fitness rather than actual sports and professionalism.