There was a time when the Hungarian basketball team was one of the best in the world. Although it may not be the case anymore, basketball remains one of the most popular sports in the country.
From the 1940s till the 1960s, Hungary dominated the basketball landscape in Europe and first gained attention internationally when it won the bronze medal in EuroBasket in 1946. From then on, it was only an upwards climb for the team as it continued to grow stronger and won a silver medal in the EuroBasket in 1953 and a gold medal in the 1955 EuroBasket.
However, while Hungary may not be among the top-ranking countries in basketball today, the sport is one of the most popular in the country. Let’s look into the history of basketball in Hungary, its evolution over the years and its current status in the country.
History of basketball in Hungary
Basketball first came to Hungary in 1912 when Geza Kuncze, a physical education teacher, learned about the type of basketball played in Germany. This format did not include backboards. The sport was first introduced in schools, and in the 1920s, the first basketball divisions were formed. In 1921, a rule book was introduced after being translated from German.
The Hungarian Athletic Association accepted basketball as a sport in 1925 and established a committee within the association’s main framework. Until 1933, basketball was played without backboards in Germany. However, that year a College World Championship was held in Turin, and the national team learnt about basketball with backboards.
The first official basketball championship was played in the country in 1933 and included ten teams. Meanwhile, the sport continued to develop and gain popularity which led to the formation of a separate organisational entity for basketball. The Hungarian Basketball Federation (Magyar Kosárlabda Szövetség) was formed as the official basketball governing body in the country in November 1942.
There was a significant focus on improving the quality of sports within the country by the association for men and women. In 1942, two physical education teachers published the first Hungarian-language basketball textbook, which helped modernise the education of the game. In 1953 the Hungarian Basketball Federation became a member of FIBA.
Hungarian national basketball team
The Hungarian national basketball team played its first international match against Latvia in Switzerland in May 1935 as part of the prequalification round of the EuroBasket and won by a massive score of 46 against Latvia’s 12. The team finished in 9th place, while Latvia proceeded to win the championship. Hungary lost to Bulgaria in the classification rounds and later won against Romania to earn the ninth spot in the tournament.
The team participated in the tournament in 1939 as well but could not get past the seventh position at the end. Following the team’s continuous defeats and disappointing outcomes, efforts were made to improve the game quality.
After the Second World War, there was more focus on improving the national team quality while game and skill building in educational institutions took a backseat. The efforts of the national team paid off, and it proceeded to win a bronze at the EuroBasket in 1946. The second major win came at EuroBasket 1953 in the form of a silver medal. Two years later, Hungary hosted the EuroBasket and won the competition.
After 1955, Hungary could not win a championship and failed to qualify for the EuroBasket from 1971 until 1999, when it finished in 13th place. The national team qualified for the 2017 and 2022 EuroBasket without fruitful outcomes.
Besides the EuroBasket, the team also participated in four Olympic tournaments in 1948, 1952, 1960 and 1964. The men’s national basketball team is currently in 39th place in the FIBA rankings
The women’s national basketball team is in 27th place in the FIBA rankings. The team has played once in the Olympics and five times in the FIBA World Cup. The team has also participated in 31 EuroBasket tournaments and secured a silver medal in 1950 and 1956 and a bronze medal in 1952, 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1991.
Domestic Basketball Competitions in Hungary
The Nemzeti Bajnokság I/A (the National Championship) is the highest-level basketball league for men in Hungary. The league was established in 1933. The league presently comprises 14 teams and follows a promotion and relegation system with the Nemzeti Bajnokság I/B, the second-highest basketball league in the country. The current champion of the league is Falco, while the most successful team in the league is the Honved, which has won 33 titles to date.
The Nemzeti Bajnokság I/A (women) is the highest basketball league for women in the country. It was also formed in 1933 and currently has 12 teams on board. The most recent league champion is Sopron Basket, which won its 14th title this year, while the most successful team with 21 titles is the BSE Budapest.