GENEVA, Switzerland (FIBA): FIBA Asia joined the millions of basketball fans world over in celebrating the 80th anniversary of FIBA, which fell on Monday.
Exactly 80 years ago to the day, a small group of basketball representatives from eight countries gathered around a table. Following several hours of talks, a document was produced and signed (pic above). With that, FIBA was born.
In the eight decades since, FIBA has seen its membership grow steadily and today caters to 213 National Federations, 44 of them in FIBA Asia.
“We are all excited about this 80th anniversary. It’s like an elderly person in our familities, who has been an inspiration all along turning 80,” said FIBA Asia President Sheikh Saud bin Ali Al-Thani.
“FIBA is like a family of which FIBA Asia is an integral and important member. We are all celebrating today,” Sheikh Saud.
“Basketball to me is beyond a mere sport,” said FIBA Asia Secretary General Hagop Khajirian.
“Coming from West Asia, I have the first hand experience of basketball being a great unifying force where other measures and methods might have failed. Basketball has brought hope which otherwise might not have been possible,” Khajirian said.
“Of course, as a sport there is no doubting the reach and diversity of basketball. We are on the threshold of reaching newer heights for basketball in FIBA Asia. It’s only a matter of time before we achieve what we deserve and are capable of,” he added.
“Basketball has been my religion all my life. I feel blessed to have been involved with basketball and I am personally grateful to the Almighty for that opportunity,” said FIBA Asia Secretary General Emeritus Dato’ Yeoh Choo Hock.
Nonstop in Olympics since 1936
Over the last eight decades, basketball’s governing body has successfully organized 16 Men’s and Women’s World Championships and the sport has been played at 17 Olympics – nonstop right 1936 Berlin when it was first played, one of the few sport disciplines to enjoy such continued patronage at the Olympics.
More importantly, the sport has grown at an impressive rate to become truly global. These days, basketball is played just about everywhere - indoors, outdoors, on street corners and on beaches, on one hoop or two.
“Over 80 years, basketball has grown so much and has become one of the biggest sports in the Olympic Movement,” said FIBA Secretary General Emeritus Borislav Stankovic.
“We started with eight national federations who founded FIBA and today we have 213. For a long time now we have been able to say that there isn’t a corner of the world where basketball isn’t played.”
For women as much for men
Stankovic is particularly proud that FIBA has always tried to concern itself with the women’s game just as much as the men’s.
“It has been a very important aspect through the years to put women’s basketball on the same road as the men’s. For example the first-ever FIBA World Championship for Men was in 1950 and the Women’s one just a year later,” he recalled.
“So the development of both the men’s and women’s game has taken place in parallel and that has worked very well for basketball as a whole.”
The drive of his former colleague, Dr Renato William Jones - one of FIBA’s founding fathers and its first Secretary General - is something that Stankovic also remembers very clearly and fondly.
“Dr Jones always was an optimistic person and began dedicating his life to basketball before he was 30. He studied basketball at Springfield College and basketball was lucky - after having had Dr James Naismith (as its inventor) - to have Jones as the leader of international basketball. He had the sense to spread basketball throughout the world and to build solid foundations for the sport,” he recalled.
80 years of incredible work
Patrick Baumann, FIBA’s current Secretary General, joined his predecessor in reflecting on the International Federation’s special anniversary.
“Congratulations to FIBA on turning 80. We have 213 national federations, half a billion people playing basketball. It is certainly one of the most popular sports in the world,” he said.
“This is the result of 80 years worth of incredible work that has been accomplished by all those out on basketball courts, but also those who work behind the scenes, volunteers and many more. All the hard work adds up to people doing what they love to do and also giving joy and hope to others.”
Baumann believes the anniversary marks an important moment in time for FIBA.
“FIBA can certainly say it is a big federation. We are at a crossroads where we have to figure out the right path to follow for the next 80 years. We are working on adding to that half a billion who are involved in basketball because we know there are a lot more people out there and that basketball can be enjoyed by so many more,” he said.