Sports History Explained: The Intersection of Basketball and Football

Basketball and football are two of the most beloved sports in the world. They are also very different sports that started on different continents and have little in common in terms of team size, locations, tactics, and player requirements. Maybe surprisingly, however, is that the major rules for both were set in the same decade.

Considerably less surprising is the fact that both basketball and football are incredibly popular sports to bet on. Football is the leading betting sport in the United Kingdom and most of Europe while basketball is bet on mostly in the United States and Asia. With such massive fan bases, it’s thankfully very easy to find a legitimate betting site where you can place your bets.

The leading football betting sites also offer odds on most other sports, so it’s not like you have to choose between one or the other or create accounts with multiple sportsbooks. Though if you want to take advantage of the best betting offers, sometimes it’s smart to have a few sportsbook accounts.

When you bet on football and basketball, you’re taking part in a long tradition. Betting has been a part of both sports since their earliest days – the biggest change is in the legality and in the fact sportsbooks are now mostly online instead of being in person. The histories of football and basketball – in terms of the games themselves and in betting on them – are very interesting and help us understand the sports better. 

In this article, we’ll go over the histories of both sports. We’ll pay particular attention to the moments where there is an intersection between the two.

Kick off

The history of basketball is very easy to trace. It was created by James Naismith in 1891 at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith wanted to create a game that could be played in doors and wasn’t as violent as American football. Since the YMCA is a national organization, it was easy for the new sport to spread rapidly across the country. By the turn of the century there were professional leagues and the NBA came into being in 1946.

With football, it is more difficult to directly trace the history of the modern sport. People have been kicking balls around for fun since the ball was invented. There are similar games that appear in histories of Ancient Greece and Rome, Ancient China, and from the precolonial eras of Indigenous peoples in North and South America.

In the United Kingdom, games the resembled modern football were played in the Middle Ages. There was also a variant called “mob football” where entire villages would run amok trying to move a ball from goal to goal. This evolved into a more rule-based version in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The version of football that we recognize today grew out of the public school system in England. Schools developed their own rules during the early 19th century but as they played each other they needed to create a single standard set of rules. In 1886 the International Football Association Board was established and created the official rules of modern football.

These brief histories show how different the process of creating a sport can be. Basketball was the idea of one man with a vision while football was the result of hundreds of years of trial and error and variation. What we can take away from all this though is that both modern football and basketball were created as games to keep young men fit, healthy, and happy.

Nothing but net

One area where football and basketball differ dramatically is in when a net was first used. In modern football, the net was part of the goalposts from the earliest days. In fact, there’s an early rule book from 1888 that insists that nets are a must. This makes complete sense – running after the ball after it’s been shot through the goal would have been a huge nuisance.

Basketball, on the other hand, took a slower approach to adding a net. The earliest ‘hoops’ were buckets. They were a perfect size and shape with one small problem – they had a bottom that made it a chore to retrieve the ball every time someone scored. It didn’t take too long for them to realize that the bottoms had to go but it was nearly 20 years after the game was invented that the bulky wooden buckets were replaced with metal rims and nets.

Modern Leagues

Modern football and basketball may have started in one small location but over the last century they have expanded around the world. The two sports are played on every continent – modern football has even been played in Antarctica and near the North pole! Despite the fact that both sports have global audiences, they each have zones where they are much more popular.

Basketball has an international audience. It is most popular in the United States, followed by Asia and Australia. The biggest professional basketball organization is the National Basketball Association (NBA). The popularity of basketball internationally grew dramatically during the 1990s and early 2000s due to changes in style of play that made the game more intense and exciting.

Modern football has a much wider international appeal. It is the most popular sport in Europe and South America but there are large professional leagues all over the world. In Europe, the major leagues are based in the United Kingdom (English Premier League), Spain (La Liga), France (Ligue 1), Italy (Serie A), and Germany (Bundesliga). The top leagues in South America are based in Argentina (Primera División), Brazil (Série A), Mexico (Liga MX), and Uruguay (Primera División).

The United States have always been a weird outlier when it comes to modern football, which it insists on calling soccer. American football has always been seen as the truly American outdoor ball game. In the last 20 years they have finally caught up with the rest of the world and accepted that soccer is a fantastic game with fewer horrific consequences for players. Major League Soccer (MLS) is now a serious league with a strong fanbase and is where many international stars go to finish out their careers.


A major talking point surrounding all professional sports is how much star athletes are paid. Some leagues combat the soaring salaries and the imbalance it brings to the sport by setting limits on how much each team can spend on player salaries in a year. Other leagues accept that money makes the rules and essentially allow teams to buy their way to the top. Basketball and football now have some of the highest paid athletes in the world.

The highest paid basketball players today are Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James. Curry plays for the Golden State Warriors and makes nearly $52 million a year. Durant and James both make roughly $47.6 million playing for the Phoenix Suns and the LA Lakers, respectively.

The highest paid football players in the European leagues are Kylian Mbappé, Frenkie de Jong, and Toni Kroos. Mbappé plays for Paris Saint-Germain and earns about $120 million. de Jong plays for Barcelona and makes $40.8 million. Kroos plays for the other Spanish giant Real Madrid and his yearly salary is nearly $26.5 million.

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