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It Happened In Jersey...



During basketball’s first full year, 1892, the game took off faster than anyone could make up a coherent set of rules. James Naismith, the game’s inventor, had created a brief list of instructions, which left a lot of room for interpretation. Anywhere between 10 and 20 players might take the court at the same time, and there was basically zero offensive strategy, which meant many contests were just an endless scrum for possession of the ball. In various places where the new game was played, rules were concocted to bring a sense of order to the competition—including limiting players to zones marked off on the court. A player leaving his zone would be whistled for a foul.

It took a pair of soccer players in Trenton to open up basketball. In 1893, Al Bratton and Fred Cooper (right) started playing basketball and instantly recognized that the planned, methodical passing they did with their feet on grass could be accomplished with their hands on the hardwood. At first, they simply passed to each other, sending a cartoonish mob of defenders scrambling back and forth as they worked the ball closer and closer to the basket.

Soon, their Trenton YMCA teammates joined in the playmaking; the game opened up, the pace quickened, and scoring soared. The Trenton team was recognized as the most advanced in the country, and fans came out in droves to watch Cooper, Bratton & Co. play. In early 1894, the Trenton Y vanquished the undefeated 23rd St. YMCA team from New York to claim the “world” championship. Other names on the Trenton roster included Pop Brower, Sid Smith, Charlie Hodge, Harry Bates, Will Fenton and W.J. Davidson. Cooper designed the team’s uniform, which included tights and velvet shorts.


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