Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Basketball Court Design: Surfaces and Hoops

Posted on August 23, 2013 by Daniel Lofthouse
Cameron Indoor Stadium is one of the most famous basketball venues in the world.

Cameron Indoor Stadium is one of the most famous basketball venues in the world.

The design of the modern basketball court goes back to the earliest days of basketball in the 1890s. In these formative years, the game was played in YMCA and school gymnasiums across the country – wooden floorboards and peach baskets nailed to the wall made up these first basketball courts. Though the baskets would be eventually replaced with a hoop and net, and outdoor basketball would be played on a variety of asphalt or tarmac services, the wooden surface inherited from those first gymnasiums persists to this day.

Maple boards are most commonly used in basketball court surfaces, prized for their consistency when dribbling and providing good grip characteristics for players. However, as a hardwood, it can be adversely affected by moisture and consequently maple boards must be laid to take into account the expansion of the wood over several years. Poorly laid floors can suffer from “dead zones” where the ball won’t bounce as well – frustrating for players.

Even the best quality basketball courts will need regular maintenance to protect them from the wear and tear caused by regular play. At the most basic, this includes daily mopping of dust and regular cleaning.

Manufacturers recommend scrubbing and re-sealing to maintain the finish once a year, as well as occasional complete sanding-down and re-sealing – though a full sanding is required less frequently, between every 10 to 15 years. A fine polyurethane seal helps to maintain the court’s finish and protect the wood underneath. Finally, frequent play can erode the lines on the court, so they need to be re-marked to keep them bright and clear. These kinds of services can be provided by local suppliers such as the TPS Company.

The first game of basketball, played on December 21st, 1891, used baskets with closed bottoms – meaning that every time a team scored, someone had to climb up and take the ball out! This understandably became tedious rather rapidly, and so before long the bottom of the basket was opened up, so that an assistant with a long stick could simply poke the ball out. But it wasn’t until 1906 that the familiar hoop, net and back board was introduced.

In the 1970s, players were increasingly slam dunking the ball through the hoop. This was exciting for fans, but the mechanical stress of a player hanging from the rim was often enough to shatter the backboard, resulting in costly replacement, time-intensive clean-up and even injuries caused by shards of flying glass. Consequently, a new type of hoop called a “breakaway rim” was developed which can bend and spring back into place without damage when slam dunked. Since the widespread introduction of the breakaway rim, slam dunks have become a much-anticipated part of the sport.

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