Canada: History Repeats Itself: What Hot New Technology Has In Common With The Development Of Basketball

It’s basketball playoff time! The history of basketball is well known. A Canadian, James Naismith, in Massachusetts, invented the game in 1891. It was merely a recreational pursuit, not a commercial enterprise. The game has since spread widely, for both love and money.

This article provides a fun look at the evolution of basketball, and some elements it has in common with modern, start-up technology. Innovation improved the tools of the game gradually over time. There were both incremental improvement and disruptive advances. This is similar to how many new products are invented by companies and universities in new technology areas.

Resourcefulness – working with what you have on hand

In product development, resourcefulness often involves “bootstrapping”, meaning working with what you have on hand. It may be glue and duct tape holding mechanical devices together. It could be 3D printing of components. Perhaps combining off the shelf parts and electronics in a new configuration. Do whatever it takes to get the product built for testing.

Naismith had two peach baskets and a soccer ball to test his game. He had initially wanted to use boxes, but they were not readily available. He mounted the baskets on the lower rail of the gym’s balcony, about 10 feet off the ground. When a basket was scored, a janitor would go up a ladder and retrieve the ball from the peach basket. An 1890’s soccer ball with laces was light and not entirely smooth. It would not be easy to control that ball when dribbling in traffic, but that only matters later on - no dribbling was allowed in the original rules - running was prohibited once you had the ball!

Incremental Improvements

A high tech example would be the continuous improvement in computer storage media and capacity. Also, think of your smart phone now compared to the one you had ten years ago. Sometimes, subtle refinements that look obvious in hindsight can actually be tricky and require a lot of problem-solving. Why didn’t I think to put the four wheels of a conventional roller skate in the in-line configuration?

An early, incremental improvement to the basketball bucket was to cut a small hole in it so that a broom-handle could be used to push the ball back out. Seems odd - isn’t it obvious to just cut the entire bottom out? Not so fast. If it is cut all the way out, then there is an issue as to whether one can properly judge whether certain shots went straight through or were an airball. If the hole is cut fractionally larger than the ball, then this mostly solves the basket/no basket judgment issue, but then the bottom of the old peach basket would be weakened and eventually get knocked out. Closed nets were next.  

Incremental improvements are not glamorous, but provide great opportunities to create value.

Disruptive Technology

Disruptive technology displaces the established technology and shakes up the game. Think of artificial intelligence, drones, CRISPR or blockchain.

Basketball was played using peach baskets, or similar, for many years. This was ripe for disruption, meaning a whole new approach that changes the way the game operates. In the early 1900’s, peach baskets were replaced by the metal hoops, closed net and backboard combination.

The addition of an open basketball net was not approved for use until 1912. The net can move and alter the path and speed of the ball, making it easier to visually judge when a basket has been scored. It was described by the Hooptactics baskeball web site as a, “major milestone for basketball since the free falling ball after a made basket dramatically increased tempo and scoring of the game.”

Users and equipment adapt in response to regulation

Industry changes in response to government regulation, which means that product developers must adapt, and can seize opportunities for new innovation. Consider how environmental regulation of automobile fuel efficiency and emission standards has led to new technology for better gas mileage and reduced emissions.

Basketball started with 13 rules that have multiplied over the years. The FIBA 2018 rulebook has 96 pages. As one example of regulation, in the 1950’s NBA basketball was a slow-moving, defensive game. After many low-scoring and foul-filled games, the NBA changed the rules and implemented a 24 second shot clock. The immediate impact was less of a focus on stalling, and more scoring. This was an opportunity for players and teams to adapt to take advantage of the new regulation. Equipment also evolved with the speed and intensity of the game. For example, there have been many innovations in footwear, bypassing the stalwart Chuck Taylors® of the early 1920’s to arrive at modern professional-calibre shoes, such as Air Jordans®.

Regulation and innovation have also affected rims. The power of professional players led to the invention of nets on hinges, so that players throwing down monster dunks would not be injured or tear down the backboard. Regulatory approval of this rim then encouraged further design improvements. The safer, flexible rim almost never breaks the backboard and has led to innovations in dunking - we could say more about that, but we will just let you see it for yourself in the next game!

Hurry Up and Wait

Basketball evolved over many years, as discussed below. Nobody can wait these days when it comes to developing their particular product in a competitive new industry. Some inventors use rapid prototyping, which uses modern technology to manufacture of high quality prototypes at reasonable cost. However, as fast as a particular company moves, the major technology advances in a new technology area are often still measured in years.

The base fundamentals for successful technology development, past and present, are similar, even though technology is very diverse. Hard work wins games and the technology race!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions