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[ODDS and EVENS] World Basketball Day Celebrates its Past and Present

A UN General Assembly resolution designated December 21, the day the sport was invented in 1891 by Dr James Naismith, as World Basketball Day.

The first-ever World Basketball Day was held on Thursday, December 21 around the world. 

What a wonderful idea.

Promote the game and encourage people everywhere to celebrate its rich history and individual and collective success stories, including present-day accomplishments.

This day was given official global recognition on August 25, when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to recognize December 21 as World Basketball Day.

For FIBA, also known as the International Basketball Federation, the significance of being recognized with a day in the sport's honor is a big deal.

Just ask FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis.

"We are tremendously proud of the establishment of World Basketball Day and very grateful to the UN and other partner organizations who continue to recognize the positive role that basketball plays for millions of different people living around the globe," Zagklis said in a statement. 

"The fact that basketball is the first team sport to receive such recognition is a clear demonstration and endorsement of the vast societal benefits it delivers, as well as the unlimited potential that exists in utilizing 'Basketball For Good.'"

So why was December chosen as World Basketball Day?

It's a way of honoring history. 

Dr James Naismith is credited with inventing the game on December 21, 1891, in Springfield, Massachusetts. And the first game was held on that day at the International Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Training School.

The UN's Embrace of World Basketball Day

In articulating why the UN supports a World Basketball Day, Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the United Nations at Geneva, delivered the following remarks: "Aligning perfectly with our 2030 Agenda, basketball serves as a powerful enabler in driving sustainable development. It's not just a game but a platform that changes perceptions, challenges prejudices, and unites communities worldwide.

"The sport's ability to bring together people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, speaking a universal language of unity and inclusivity, is truly remarkable."

FIBA's Plans to Celebrate and Promote the Day

As 2023 marks the first annual (and official) day of basketball-themed celebrations for the entire world, FIBA played a tone-setting role in organizing a number of activities.

The following details were announced in a FIBA news release:

A special event at the Patrick Baumann House of Basketball for dignitaries from the various UN entities and partner organizations in Geneva, as well as guests from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), and representatives from the YMCA.

The FIBA Foundation is also using the first World Basketball Day to launch its annual photo contest. Fittingly, this year's theme is 'Basketball For Good,' with more details of the competition available here.

A special social wall on fiba.basketball has been created where all posts with #WorldBasketballDay will be featured to mark the special occasion. 

Meanwhile, every National Federation has also been invited to play their part and this will see the entire global FIBA Family working together to make World Basketball Day as memorable as possible.

Phoenix Suns veteran Yuta Watanabe defends Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga on December 12 in Phoenix. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SPORTS)

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Notable Numbers: The NBA as a Global Catalyst for Basketball

In the NBA, the world's premier pro basketball league, there were 125 international players from 40 countries and territories on opening-day rosters in October. This is a record number for the league, which has had 100 or more international players for 10 consecutive seasons.

Among the 125 players cited above, Yuta Watanabe of the Phoenix Suns and Rui Hachimura of the Los Angeles Lakers are in their sixth and fifth NBA seasons, respectively.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura dunks in a game against the San Antonio Spurs on December 13. (GETTY IMAGES/via KYODO)

Both players are national heroes in Japan. They inspire youngsters to play the game, emulate their on-court moves and work hard to develop and improve their skill sets.

The same is true, of course, for the biggest stars in the game, including winners of the past five NBA MVP awards: Greek-born Giannis Antetokounmpo (2018-19, 2019-20), Serbian superstar Nikola Jokic (2020-21, 2021-22) and Cameroon native Joel Embiid (2022-23).

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (Isaiah J Downing/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Promoting World Basketball Day Through Images

How did the Japan Basketball Association, the sport's national governing body, promote World Basketball Day via its official social media accounts?

On X (formerly Twitter), the JBA shared an iconic image from September at Okinawa Arena during the FIBA Basketball World Cup. It showed the Japan men's national team's celebratory pose after qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The JBA also posted on X the following photo collage prompting people to share their favorite FIBA Women's Asia Cup memory.

If you've read up to this point, I think you've devoted plenty of time to my upbeat thoughts about World Basketball Day.

Now, go ahead and grab a basketball. Practice or play a game.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) ï¼ ed_odeven.

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