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Petroleum Product of the Week: Basketballs

March means March Madness for many, many people…which means basketball

This is an entire month dedicated to college basketball; from the second week of March through the first week of April, all we think about are the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.

And here at Industrial Outpost, we can’t help but think about how petroleum is instrumental to one of America’s favorite sports.

Basketball Over the Years

The first basketball court, feat. half-bushel peach basket.

Basketball is the only truly, American-made sport. Invented in 1891, a man named James Naismith hung two half-bushel peach baskets at either end of a gymnasium at a YMCA. He then outlined a game based on his desire to find an active sport with limited physical contact.

Word spread, by the students’ word-of-mouth, and the YMCA wrote to James asking for a copy of his rules, which were published in the Triangular magazine on January 15, 1892.

The game became a big part of, and draw to, the YMCA, and team sizes were related directly to the size of the gym, ranging between five and nine players per team. The standard of five players per team was established in 1895 and made an official rule two years later. The National Basketball League (NBL) was created in 1898.

Originally, the game was played with a soccer ball. It wasn’t until 1894 that a ball was made specifically for basketball, and it was made from laced leather.

Rules were set by college and university committees in the early 1900s and moved into high schools in the late 1970s. In 1974, Women’s basketball rules were changed to resemble the rules in men’s basketball more closely.

Basketball was added as an Olympic event in 1976. It exploded in popularity around the world after WWII and the game got extra exposure in the 1980s because of television broadcasts.

Over the years, a few different leagues and associations were created to rival the NBA, but only the Women’s World Basketball Association (WNBA), created in 1997, stuck with the support of the NBA.

Made How? With What?

As stated above, original basketballs were made from leather. Today they are made from rubber, synthetic rubber, composite material, or sometimes still leather.

The interior has a bladder that holds air and keeps the ball inflated. These are made from butyl rubber, and the ball’s caracass—the interior of the ball in addition to the bladder—consists of either nylon or polyester.


Basketballs are made from a number of products: rubber, nylon, polyester, and more. Many of these are derived from petrochemicals, and the machines that make basketballs require maintenance. And that maintenance includes lubricants to ensure that the machines run smoothly so that the games can go one and on.

Petroleum is a part of some of our favorite pastime. In fact, we’ve talked about it before. Check out our Petroleum Product of the Week for baseballs and footballs.


Kayleigh DeMace

Kayleigh is a content writer with a BA in technical writing/literature and an MA in creative writing. A native of Northeastern, PA’s coal region, she is no stranger to the industrial world. When she’s not at work writing, she’s at home writing and reading, forever honing her craft and exercising her writing muscles. Her work has appeared on The Writing Cooperative and as an Honorable Mention in East Meets West American Writers Review.