Women's basketball dates back to 1892, when women at Smith College began playing the sport invented by Dr. James Naismith. Today, the sport is played worldwide. Women's basketball follows mostly the same rules as men's basketball, with the exception that the ball is smaller.
Hall of Fame
There is a hall of fame specifically devoted to women's basketball. Located in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1999. The building houses artifacts and memorabilia commemorating the history of women's basketball. The hall also recognizes contributors to women's basketball. The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame building also encompasses the world's largest basketball, that is 30 feet tall and weighs 10 tons.
Born in 1952, Pat Summitt, women's head coach at the University of Tennessee, is the all-time winningest coach at any level in college basketball. Since taking over the reins for the Volunteers in 1974, she has won eight national championships and recorded more than 1,000 victories. She is inducted in both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Baskeball Hall of Fame. The basketball court at the University of Tennessee is named The Summitt in her honor.
The inaugural season of the WNBA was 1997. Eight teams competed in the WNBA's first season. Original franchises were located in Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento, and Utah. Tina Thompson was the first player chosen in the inaugural WNBA Draft and the first MVP was Cynthia Cooper. In its first season, the WNBA drew more than one million fans. The Houston Comets own the distinction of winning the first WNBA championship, defeating the NY Liberty.
In 1936, a team called the All American Red Heads competed in exhibition games across the country against men's teams playing by men 's rules. The Red Heads, one of the first pro women's basketball squads, were very popular and would play up to 200 games a year. Members of the Red Heads were required to wear makeup, don red wigs, or tint their hair crimson.
Born in Lithuania, Senda Berenson Abbott is known as the Mother of Women's Basketball. She was responsible for writing the first rule book for women's basketball and organized the first women's basketball game at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. In addition, she chaired the Women's Basketball Rules Committee for more than a decade. In 1985, Berenson Abbott was the first women inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts for her contributions to the sport.
Over the years, the rules of women's basketball have evolved. Rules changed as society's views of women in athletics changed, according to historians. In 1901, a Women's Basketball Rules Committee was formed in attempt to make rules more uniform. Early rules stated there was no coaching allowed from the sidelines during contests, timeouts were not allowed, and there were no substitutions. Up until the 1930s, the game was played on three courts and with as many as nine players on a side. In the 1930s, six-on-six play began, and teams consisted of three forwards and three guards. Forwards were the only players allowed to score, and no players were allowed to cross midcourt -- so it was basically three-on-three on both halves of the court. In 1971, five-on-five play was adopted in the NCAA, along with a 30-second shot clock, a decade before men's college basketball would add a shot clock.