- For the ball sport played in the Commonwealth previously known as "women's basketball", see netball
Women's basketball is one of the few games which developed in tandem with its men's counterpart. It became popular, spreading from the east coast of the United States to the west coast, in large part via women's colleges. From 1892 until 1960, the term "women's basketball" was also used when referring to netball, which evolved in parallel to modern women's basketball.
 Early women's basketball
Women's basketball began in 1892, at Smith College, when Senda Berenson, a physical education teacher, modified the rules to a game James Naismith made up and taught it in her classes. Basketball's early adherents were affiliated with YMCAs and colleges throughout the United States, and the game quickly spread through the country. By 1896, it was well established at several other women's colleges.
In 1892, Berenson was taking risks simply in teaching the game to women. And, in order to keep it "acceptable" for women to play at all, she taught modified rules. These included a court divided into three areas and nine players per team. Two players were assigned to each area (guard, center, forward) and could not cross the line into another area. The ball was moved from section to section by passing or dribbling. Players were limited to three dribbles and could hold the ball for three seconds. No snatching or batting the ball away from a player was allowed. A center jump was required after each score. Peach baskets and the soccer ball were the equipment. Variations of Berenson’s rules spread across the country via YMCAs and colleges.
See the article: 6 on 6 Basketball (Basquette) for more information.
 Early women's college basketball
Berenson's freshmen played the sophomore class in the first women's collegiate basketball game, March 21, 1893. The doors were locked at the Smith College gym and men were not allowed to watch Berenson's students compete. University of California and Miss Head's School, had played the first women's extramural game in 1892. Also in 1893, Mount Holyoke and Sophie Newcomb College (coached by Clara Gregory Baer, the inventor of Newcomb ball) women began playing basketball. By 1895, the game had spread to colleges across the country, including Wellesley, Vassar and Bryn Mawr. The first intercollegiate women's game was on April 4, 1896. Stanford women played Berkeley, 9-on-9, ending in a 2-1 Stanford victory. Clara Gregory Baer published the first book of rules for women's basketball in 1895 she first called the game 'Basquette', a name later dropped in her first revision of rules called Newcomb College Basketball Rules published in 1908.
 Recent women's basketball
The popularity of women's basketball grew steadily around the world for decades. By the 1970s the sport had attracted the notice the International Olympic Committee, which added women's basketball as an official sport of the Olympic Games in 1976.
Throughout the 1970s, funding for (and interest in) women's basketball began to dramatically increase as schools receiving federal funding began to come into compliance with new laws mandating a lack of discrimination based on sex (see Title IX below).
The sport was also gaining attention at the collegiate level, under the auspices of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). A major development in women's basketball occurred in 1982 when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) began to sponsor the sport.
 Title IX
Title IX was passed in 1972 to end sexual discrimination and stereotyping in admission to colleges and also in academic subjects (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008). Therefore, Congress’ original goal was eliminating this discrimination in academic and educational processes. “Title IX is today generally viewed as having fixed the problem of gender inequality of sports, at least in educational settings” (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008, 79). It started out as simply involving education but then shifted in a debate to sports. Some groups such as the NCAA fought to keep things the way they were in reference to men’s sports. The NCAA had built up the programs and earned financial support and popularity and did not want to throw that down the drain (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008). In 1974, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare issued Title IX regulations regarding intercollegiate athletics (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008). Title IX implies that if a school has a specific sport’s team for boys then they must have a team in that same sport for girls. This will occur unless the men’s sport happens to be a contact sport in which the rule will not necessarily apply (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008). In 1978, colleges and universities were forced to apply Title IX’s rules and regulations. Athletic departments had to adhere to one of three requirements which were the proportionality rule, the gender equity rule, or historical progress rule (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008). Each of these requirements addressed Title IX and its regulations in a fair manner. To ensure that schools comply with Title IX, they face the consequence of losing federal funding for any violation (Sadker, 2001).
The proportionality rule entails that a school provides opportunities proportional to its enrollment. As an example, if a school is 55% male and 45% female then the athletic participation should be 55:45 (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008). Not only does the proportionality rule apply to athletic participation, but it also addresses scholarships. “So if a college is spending $400,000 per year on athletic scholarships and half of the athletic participants are women then half of that amount, $200,000, should be funding athletic scholarships for women (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008, 299). The gender equity rule entails that a school must prove that it “meets the interest of the gender that is underrepresented” (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008, 107) which happens to be women. The historical progress rule entails that if a school is unable to provide proportional opportunities then they must put forth an effort to create more opportunities for the underrepresented gender (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008). 
Between 1971 and 2000, Title IX has proven to have had a huge impact on female collegiate sports. “Sports participation among college women has risen from 372 percent over that time, from 32,000 to more than 150,000 women (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008, 108). Also now 33.5% of female students participate in sports (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008). The issue still remaining is that women’s sports beyond college do not benefit from Title IX. As a whole, they make less income than men in professional sports which Title IX cannot do much about. However due to Title IX some women have gotten recognition as a result of the debate. “Women athletes receive greater respect today but relatively skimpy media attention. Thank Title IX for…the growing visibility of women’s college basketball that has USA Today producing a pullout section for the women’s NCAA March Madness tournament” (McDonagh, Pappano, 2008, 109). 
1891: James Naismith invents the sport of basket ball in Springfield, Massachusetts.
1892: Senda Berenson adapts the rules of the new sport for females.
1896: The first known organized game of women's basketball between two schools was played by Stanford and Berkeley.
1926: The first national women's basketball championship is sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
1936: The famous exhibition team named the All American Red Heads was formed.
1953: The FIBA holds its first World Championship for Women.
1969: The Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW) awards the first collegiate national championship for women's basketball.
1973: The AIAW begins administering national championships in women's collegiate athletics, including basketball, taking the place of the CIAW.
1976: The Olympic Games awards medals in women's basketball for the first time.
1982: The NCAA holds its first Women's Division I Basketball Championship.
1984: West Virginia's Georgeann Wells registers the first dunk in women's collegiate basketball.
1990: Pat Summitt is the first female to win the John Bunn Award, the most prestigious award given by the Basketball Hall of Fame.
1991: A jury awards money for a lawsuit filed under Title IX. Sanya Tyler, the women's basketball coach at Howard University, charges Howard University with discrimination. She claimed she was denied the job of athletic director and was being paid less than the men's basketball coach.
1994: Nike introduces "Air Swoopes," the first basketball shoe named after a female basketball player, Sheryl Swoopes.
1994: The NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament adds 16 teams to make a total of 64.
1996: The ABL and the WNBA are established . 
1999: The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame opens in Knoxville, Tennessee.
2000: Michelle Snow, a player for the University of Tennessee, became the third woman to dunk in a college game but the first broadcast on television.
2002: McDonald's selects the best female high school basketball players in the country for the first female McDonald's All American High School Basketball Team.
2002: Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks becomes the first to dunk in a regular season WNBA game.
2006: Pat Summitt gets her 900th career win, the first time this has happened for any coach.
2008: The first outdoor professional basketball game was held at Arthur Ashe Stadium between the WNBA's New York Liberty and Indiana Fever.
2009: The WNBA signs a contract with ESPN which agrees to pay rights fees to teams. This is the first rights fees contract ever to be signed with a women's league. 
 Levels of Competition
 High School
Women's college basketball remains very popular throughout North America, with the sport being sponsored by all of the major college athletic associations: the NCAA, the NAIA, the NJCAA, the NCCAA and the CIS.
Division I of the NCAA is considered the highest level of college competition, with the winner of the annual NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championship game declared 'national champion.'
The current (2007-08) national champion is the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
 American Professional Leagues
 Women's Pro Basketball League
The Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL) was a professional women's basketball league in the United States. The league played three seasons from the fall of 1978 to the spring of 1981. The league is generally considered to be the first American professional women's basketball league to be founded.
 American Basketball League
The American Basketball League was founded in 1996 during an increase in the interest in the sport following the 1996 Summer Olympics. The league played two full season (1996-97 and 1997-98) and started a third (1998-99) before it folded on December 22, 1998.
The Women's National Basketball Association or WNBA is an organization governing a professional basketball league for women in the United States. The WNBA was formed in 1996 as the women's counterpart to the National Basketball Association, and league play began in 1997. The regular WNBA season is June to September (North American Spring and Summer). Most WNBA teams play at the same venue as their NBA counterparts. Most team names are also very similar to those of NBA teams in the same market, such as the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx.
Officially approved by the NBA Board of Governors on April 24, 1996, the creation of the WNBA was first announced at a press conference with Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes in attendance. While not the first major women's professional basketball league in the United States (a distinction held by the defunct WBL), the WNBA is the only league to receive full backing of the NBA.
On the heels of a much-publicized gold medal run by the 1996 USA Basketball Women's National Team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the WNBA began its first season on June 21, 1997 to much fanfare. The league began with eight teams. The first WNBA game featured the New York Liberty facing the Los Angeles Sparks in Los Angeles and was televised nationally, in the United States, on the NBC television network. At the start of the 1997 season, the WNBA had television deals in place with NBC, ESPN and Lifetime Television Network.
The league is divided into two conferences, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Each of the 13 teams play a 34-game regular season schedule, beginning in June and ending in mid September. The four teams in each conference with the best Win/Loss records go on to compete in the WNBA Playoffs during September with the WNBA Finals in early October.
An All-Star Game is typically held in the middle of July, while regular play stops temporarily for it. In Olympic years, there is no all-star game, but a break of about five weeks in the middle of the WNBA season allows players to participate in the Olympic games as members of their national teams.
There have been a total of 18 teams in WNBA history. A total of 5 teams have folded: the Charlotte Sting, the Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets, the Miami Sol and the Portland Fire. Two other teams, the Utah Starzz and the Orlando Miracle moved, to San Antonio (Silver Stars) and Uncasville, Connecticut (Sun) respectively.
 International basketball
Though it was originally an American sport, it quickly spread internationally and outstanding players and teams are found today all over the world. Women's basketball leagues now exist in most countries around the world including Australia, Asia, South America, and Europe.
Women's basketball has been contested in the Summer Olympics since 1976. The Olympic gold medalists for women's basketball are:
- 1976 - USSR
- 1980 - USSR
- 1984 - USA
- 1988 - USA
- 1992 - Unified Team
- 1996 - USA
- 2000 - USA
- 2004 - USA
- 2008 - USA
 Additional International Competitions
In addition to the Olympics and FIBA World Championship for Women, women's basketball is also contested in the Pan American Games and the Central American and Caribbean Games.
Women's basketball made its first appearance at the Commonwealth Games in 2006.
Basketball (for both men and women) is one of the sports that the host nation of the Island Games may select for competition.
Women also compete in wheelchair basketball in the Paralympic Games.
 Non-American Professional Leagues
 Women's English Basketball League
The Women's English Basketball League has grown steadily over recent years, and has now reached a level of thirty national league sides. The league is split into two levels. Division 1 is as close to professional as women's sport gets in the United Kingdom, with teams such as Rhonnda Rebels and Sheffield Hatters bringing in players from the USA and Europe. The Nottingham Wildcats make up the trio of clubs that helped establish the women's league and remain amongst the top three or four places. The gap between these top teams and the rest of the league has remained, but gradually as the women's game has developed, the gulf in results has been reduced, and each year there have been more competitive games.
Promotion from Division 2 has always re-enforced the gap between the two leagues, as the winner of the Division 2 promotion play-offs has found the step-up difficult. The Division 2 play-offs take the top four teams from the North and South of the Second Divisions, with the top playing the bottom of the other pool. This year (2006/7) saw several new teams join the second division, showing the continual growth of the women's game. These included the SevenOaks Suns, Enfield Phoenix, Taunton Tigers and Bristol Storm.
 Women's National Basketball League
The Women's National Basketball League was founded in 1981 as a way for the best women's basketball teams in the various Australian States to compete against each other on a regular basis. Today the WNBL is the premiere women's basketball league in Australia.
 The Kay Yow Foundation
Kay Yow, now 65, is in her 33rd season as the head coach of North Carolina State University women’s basketball team despite her battles with Stage 4 breast cancer (Bernstein, 2007). The cancer has now spread to her liver and spine. None of this has stopped her passion for basketball and devotion to her team. All of this passion currently showing her true fight for life. Her spirit inspired the collaboration of a children’s book titled, “I Will, Not Just I’ll Try; A Story About Never Giving Up” (Bernstein, 2007) which came out in November 2007. A portion of the earnings from the book went to the “Kay Yow/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Cancer Fund created by the V Foundation for Cancer Research, named for Jim Valvano” (Bernstein, New York Times, 2007). This was not only recognized by Yow’s players and NC State, but also from her fellow coaches. Two to mention are Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma. Despite their competitive natures, they pushed basketball to the side and respect to the front. They taped a “public service announcement together on behalf of the fund” (Bernstein, New York Times, 2007). Another sign of respect to Kay Yow came in the 2007-2008 season where a number of teams wore pink uniforms instead of their traditional school colors to show their support and appreciation for Kay Yow. Of course, NC State was one of those teams. Along with this, schools charging admission to the game sent a portion if not all of the proceeds to Kay Yow’s Cancer Fund. This story has truly shown the union of women’s basketball and the rising of respect. 
 Rules and equipment
The modern rules for women's basketball become more similar to men's each year (though many women have used the same rules as men from the beginning). Today women's basketball is played with the same rules as men with only a few exceptions, mainly a slightly smaller ball.
 Basketball size
The regulation WNBA ball is a minimum 28.5 inches (72.4 cm) in circumference, 1.00 inch (2.54 cm) smaller than the NBA ball. As of 2004, this size is used for all senior-level women's competitions worldwide.
 Court dimensions
The standard court size is 94 feet long by 50 feet wide. The three-point line is 20 feet and 6.25 inches (6.25 m) from the middle of the basket in WNBA and FIBA competition. Also, there is no block/charge arc under the basket.
 Shot clock
The WNBA shot clock was recently changed from 30 to 24 seconds. Women's NCAA college basketball uses a 30 second shot clock.
 Game clock
Most high school and college games are played in two 20-minute halves, while WNBA and FIBA games are played in four 10-minute quarters.30 second shot clock.
- ^ NCAA Women's Basketball, access date 24 Jan
- ^ Playing With The Boys: Why Separate Is Not Equal In Sports
- ^ Playing With The Boys: Why Separate Is Not Equal In Sports
- ^ , access date 23 February, 2008
- ^ , access date 23 February, 2008
- ^ Porter, Karra (May 2006). Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women's Professional Basketball League, 1978-1981, Bison Books. ISBN 0803287895.
- ^ , access date 1 March, 2008
 See also
 External links