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At the London 2012 Olympic Games, one of the world’s most popular and fastest-growing team sports will be showcased at the Basketball Arena and North Greenwich Arena.

Basketball was invented in 1891 by Dr James Naismith, a Canadian physical education teacher who wanted to create a game that could be played indoors during the winter by his students at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The first game, which took place in December 1891, used peach baskets for goals. In the 120 years since these humble beginnings, basketball has grown into one of the most exciting and popular team sports in the world.

The basics

Basketball is played by two teams of five players on an indoor court that is 28 metres long and 15m wide. Points are scored by shooting the ball into your opponents’ net (or 'basket'), which has a diameter of 450-459mm and sits on a backboard 3.05m above the floor.

Two points are awarded for a regular shot from open play, with one point for each successful free throw (following an opposition infringement) and three points for a shot from distance (beyond what’s known as the three-point line, 6.75m from the basket). Games last for 40 minutes, split into four 10-minute quarters.

At London 2012, both the men’s and women’s Basketball competitions will begin with a preliminary stage: the 12 teams will be divided into two groups of six, and each team will play every other team in their group. The best eight teams during the preliminaries will qualify for the knockout stage, with the winners of the semi-finals going head-to-head in the gold medal game.

Olympic Basketball, past and present

Men’s Basketball first appeared on the Olympic programme at the Berlin 1936 Games, with the women’s event introduced at Montreal 1976. Professional players first competed at the Barcelona 1992, when the famous US ‘Dream Team’ won gold in the men’s event.

At London 2012, the Basketball competition will take place in two venues. All preliminary games, along with the women’s quarter-finals, will take place at the Basketball Arena, a new, purpose-built venue in the Olympic Park. The men’s quarter-finals, plus all semi-finals and medal games, will be held at the state-of-the-art North Greenwich Arena just across the Thames.
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