On this day…
Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was born on November 6, 1861. Dr. Naismith, a Canadian-born teacher and coach, invented basketball while teaching physical education at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass.
Dr. Naismith was born near Almonte, Ontario, Canada and attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, studying physical education. After serving as the physical education teacher at McGill University from 1887-1890, he went on to hold the same position at Springfield College (then called the YMCA Training School) in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1890-1895.
It was during his time teaching at the YMCA Training School that Dr. Naismith invented the game of basketball. He was given 14 days to develop a game to be played indoors that would capture the interest of students during the winter months. The game of basketball was loosely based on a few different children’s game that Dr. Naismith knew, including one called duck-on-a-rock. Players would throw a small rock at a “duck” sitting on top of a large rock, in an effort to knock the “duck” off. James Naismith initially drafted thirteen basic rules to guide the play of the game. The first game of basketball was played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets. Originally, players would need to retrieve the ball from the baskets after a point had been scored. A year later, iron hoops and nets were introduced to replace the peach baskets. However, it wasn’t until a decade later that open ended nets were designed so that the ball would not need to be manually retrieved.
Dr. James Naismith was hired by the University of Kansas in 1898 to coach the school’s basketball team, as well as teach physical education and serve as the school’s chaplain. He was actually surprised by the sport’s popularity, as he thought wrestling was a better workout and enjoyed watching gymnastics as much as basketball. By 1900, enough colleges in the east had basketball programs that intercollegiate competition was possible.
Basketball was introduced into the official Olympic sports program of the 1936 Summer Olympic Games. Seventy four years old at the time, Dr. Naismith handed out the medals to the three North American winning teams: United States, Gold medal; Canada, Silver medal; and Mexico, Bronze medal. He was named the honorary president of the International Basketball Federation.
Dr. James Naismith was an inaugural inductee into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which was named in his honor. The original rules drafted by Dr. Naismith were less than 600 words, but today the rules contain more than 30,000 words. Basketball is one of the world’s most popular team sports, played by more than 300 million people worldwide.