Basketball is one of the few sports which have featured at every International University Sports Week before joining the list of compulsory sports at the Universiade in Turin in 1959. A total of 15 countries participated in the Turin men's basketball tournament and the first gold medal was awarded to the USSR. In 1961, university basketball was opened for women and Sofia (BUL) successfully hosted the first edition of the FISU women's tournament.
1965 was marked by the United States celebrating their Universiade debut in Budapest (HUN), an arrival which would not go unnoticed as the Americans took gold medals in largely all sports, including the basketball tournament. The following Universiades continued to be dominated by the United States, winning a total of five gold medals up to the edition in Bucharest (ROM) in 1981 where the Soviet Union wrote FISU history in beating the United States. Bucharest was also one of the greatest moments for American basketball player Larry Bird, who would later go on to blaze a remarkable career in the NBA. Another fantastic tournament was held in Kobé (JPN) in 1985. The Soviets could bank on such exceptional players as Arvidas Sabonis to beat the US in the final of the men's tournament. And yet, tied a few seconds from the end of the match, it took a three-point shot in the last second for the USSR to win the day. In fact, basketball has continuously progressed into one of the most interesting and spectacular sports of the Summer Universiade programme. With famous players such as Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, it has attracted large crowds of spectators, particularly during the finals.
In 2007, FISU signed an agreement with the international basketball governing body, FIBA, to further reinforce the close collaboration and to increase the level of teams and refereeing. Bangkok 2009 and Shenzhen 2011 have proven the associated success and university basketball remains a great event on the FISU programme.
The basketball tournaments will be organised in accordance with the most recent technical regulations of the "Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur" (FIBA). The programme and duration of the competitions will be fixed by the Executive Committee in agreement with the Organising Committee and the CTI. In principle, competitions will last eleven (11) days and will include:
one (1) men's tournament: twenty-four (24) teams maximum,
one (1) women's tournament: sixteen (16) teams maximum.