2019 marks one hundred years since the first basketball team was founded in Greece.
It all began when a group of young men who were members of Thessaloniki‘s Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.), started playing the famous game and decided to form a team. It turned out that this was not only the first team in Thessaloniki but the first anywhere in the country.
A photograph from that inaugural year, now exhibited in YMCA’s museum of basketball in Thessaloniki, depicts a group of young men playing the game in an open area of the city. Instead of a basket, the men used a seatless upside-down chair, showing their eagerness to play their beloved game despite the lack of infrastructure of that period.
However, some people argue that basketball came to Thessaloniki a year before, in 1919.
There are reports of American nationals, who were members of the American branch of the YMCA, coming to Thessaloniki to support the American soldiers who fought alongside Greeks during WWI.
These Americans are believed to have brought the game to Greece, as basketball was already widespread and very popular in the US at the time.
It was in 1891 when the Canadian James Naismith, a physical education teacher and instructor at the International YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, invented basketball, while he was trying to keep his young men busy.
In no time, basketball started gaining ground in Greece and became increasingly popular in Thessaloniki.
Members of both the Greek and the American YMCA created a area in Pedion tou Areos park so that young men could play the new game.
In 1923, the first basketball stadium in Greece was planned, in what is now known as ”Mikis Tsikinas” Sports Center and the Basketball Museum of Thessaloniki.
Since then, basketball has gained millions of fans in Greece, with both the Greek national basketball team and the country’s clubs winning numerous major competitions.