Basketball

The first international basketball tournament was played at the IA games in 1919.

As the Europeans proved superior in the soccer competition, the same could be said of the United States in the basketball portion of the Inter Allied Games. As one of the more popular sports played in the United States, the Americans had an incredible advantage in basketball as the sport was practically unknown in Europe besides being played in France. Out of the 28 nations represented at the Inter Allied Games, France and Italy were the only other entries into the basketball tournament and thus the lopsided victories by the United States, such as the victory of the U.S. over France being played out in the picture above, were not surprising.

There were three games in the tournament. The first between the United States and Italy. The second between Italy and France and the third game between France and the United States. The site of the games was played outdoors on the infield grass of the baseball field at Pershing Stadium. It was decided that the infield was a good place to play as the tightly stretched canvas and portable hoop standards could provide well enough for a court. Although typically played indoors, the conditions of the field and the weather fared well for the competition.

The first game was played in June 26, 1919 between the United States and Italy. This being the first ever organized basketball team assembled by Italy, they lacked the practice and experience the Americans most certainly had. With the strategy to utilize short passes and their good conditioning, the Americans outplayed Italy’s long passing and weak scoring and established such a large lead over Italy that by the second half the United States would substitute many of their starting players. By a score of 55 to 17, this game was an easy victory for the more skilled United States team with players such as center Brennan scoring six baskets.

As the talent of both the French and Italian teams were more evenly matched, the second game proved rather exciting for those watching. Played on June 28, Italy defeated France of a score 15 to 11. As the results indicate, the offenses of both teams were quite weak as players from both teams were seen frequently missing easy baskets. With both teams being unfamiliar to the rules, there were also many more fouls called in this game than the others.

Basketball Game
Action from the final game between the United States and France. Image: gallica.bnf.fr

The third game is shown in the picture at the top of the page and was between the U.S. and France. The results were an incredibly lopsided victory by the United States over France with a score of 93 to 8 as the U.S. controlled the ball for much of the game and won most of the tip-offs. The Americans dominated the game as the French seldom possessed the ball. Relentless in their efforts to score, American players performed tirelessly, running up and down the court and scoring at will. The Americans obtained such a massive lead by halftime, that by the end of the game all of their starters had been replaced by their bench players.

Besides a show of such American dominance, this tournament also proved to introduced Italians to the amateur level of basketball, playing a significant role in the future development of the sport in Italy. In 1920, after the Inter Allied Games, Italy would establish their own professional basketball league called the Lega Basket Serie A.

Twelve years later in 1932 the International Federation of Basketball (FIBA) would be established, further popularizing the game and by 1936 basketball became an Olympic sport as part of the Berlin Games.

Inter Allied Game Results

June 26, 1919                         United States  55      Italy  17

June 28, 1919                         Italy  15      France  11

June 29, 1919                         United States  93      France  8

Final Standing of Teams

Won/Loss

United States……………….     2       0

Italy……………………………..      1         1

France………………………….     0      2

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