Basketball was invented by Canadian professor James Naismith at Springfield College in Massachuesetts in December 1891. It didn’t take long for the game to evolve into something resembling the modern version. Dribbling became accepted, the team size dropped from nine to five and field goals were changed from three to two points. The soccer ball Naismith had used was replaced by a larger leather-covered ball and instead of peach baskets (from which the ball was retrieved manually) there were nets attached to metal rims.

Both Olympic tournaments now feature 12 teams of 12 players, although only five players are on the court at any one time. The teams in each tournament are divided into two groups of six for a preliminary round robin, earning two points for a win and one point for a loss. The top four teams in each group advance to the single elimination stage, beginning with the quarterfinals.


Although professional players, including those in the NBA, have been allowed to compete in the Olympic Games since Barcelona 1992, the international rules differ from the NBA in some notable areas. Each game consists of four 10-minute quarters (versus 12-minutes in the NBA). In the event of a tie at the end of regulation, the game will continue with as many five-minute overtime periods as necessary. At 28m long and 15m wide, the international court is slightly smaller than that of the NBA (28.65m x 15.24m). The international three-point line is an arc of radius 6.75m from the basket (versus 7.24m in the NBA). The height of the net is the same under both rules, 3.05m above the floor.

Canada’s Olympic History (Pre-Rio 2016)

Canada won its only Olympic basketball medal when the sport made its Olympic debut at Berlin 1936. Facing the United States in the final, heavy rain had turned the clay and sand tennis court on which the game was being played into mud, making it difficult to dribble and contributing to the low score, with the Americans winning 19-8 to give Canada silver. The Canadian inventor of the game, James Naismith, presented the medals. Since women’s basketball debuted at Montreal 1976, Canada’s best result was the fourth place finish at Los Angeles 1984.