This Day in History: NBA is Born; Jesse Owens Wins First Medal

Christopher Columbus sets sail for India; lands in the Bahamas (1492)
Over 500 years ago, departing from Spain, Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic with hopes of discovering a better route to Eastern Asia; he was not successful.

He did, however, find the Bahamas. While not quite his intentions, Columbus sparked a new era of European colonialism. While European colonies in the Americas no longer exist, their cultural impact is still felt today.

Columbus made three more voyages to the Americas, but his goal of reaching Asia was never accomplished. About 30 years later, a different navigator did reach the Philippine Islands - Ferdinand Magellan.

Ferdinand Magellan and his crew circumnavigated the world, in a trip spanning three years, from 1519-1523.

Kenesaw Landis bans 8 players from MLB for gambling (1921)
On August 3, 1921, Kenesaw Mountain Landis - Major League Baseball’s first league commissioner - permanently banned eight Chicago White Sox baseball players for their involvement in gambling on the 1919 World Series.

The White Sox were favored to win the series against the Cincinnati Reds, but lost five games to three (it was a best-of-nine series for a brief period). People instantly assumed that gambling, which had been an issue before, played a role.

Though the eight players accused of being involved were not found guilty of any crimes – seven were charged – Landis did not reinstate any of them. It is considered one of the most important decisions a major sports commissioner ever made, and still plays a role today.

Pete Rose, accused of betting on games in the 1980s, has been barred from baseball – and by extension, the Hall of Fame. He is Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader.

Jesse Owens wins first of four gold medals in Berlin (1936)
Just 15 years later, Jesse Owens began his domination of the Berlin Olympics, making a mockery of Hitler’s racist views.

The Berlin Olympics, chronicled in an earlier story, were won by host-Germany. They did not, however, affirm Hitler’s views of Nazi superiority, with Owens dominating the spotlight.

He famously countered the idea of American tolerance with the comment: “I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.”

NBA is born (1949)
The Basketball of Association of American and the National Basketball League merged to form the NBA on August 3, 1949.

While not the NBA of today, it was the home of the Boston Celtics, Minneapolis Lakers, New York Knicks, and the Philadelphia Warriors.

The league accepted four more American Basketball Association teams in 1976: the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Sours, Indiana Pacers and New York Nets. The league is considered the premier place for basketball competition of today.

Stephen Breyer becomes Supreme Court Justice
Stephen Breyer became a Supreme Court Justice during the Clinton Administration, on August 3, 1994.

Breyer, considered a liberal justice, believes himself to be a pragmatist. He wrote Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution, arguing that judges should interpret the law based on application, not just read the text.

He still sits on the court today, having published several more books.

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