Dr. James Naismith was a Canadian physical education instructor who invented the game of basketball in 1891 while working at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Dr. Naismith had been challenged to create a new game that could be played indoors in the cold Massachusetts winters to provide an “athletic distraction” to a disruptive group of students. With a two-week deadline, Dr. Naismith decided to invent a game of skill, finesse and accuracy, rather than one that relied on pure strength.
He was inspired by a game he had played as a child called “duck on a rock,” in which players lob a small rock at a "duck" placed on top of a large rock in an attempt to knock the "duck" off.
Using a soccer ball, two peach baskets placed 10 feet up in the air, nine players on each team and a set of 13 basic rules, Dr. Naismith invented the game of “basket ball.” The first game was played on December 21, 1891.
Initially, players could only advance the ball by passing it. Bouncing the ball along the floor — what we call "dribbling" today — did not become part of the game until later.
Players earned points by successfully tossing the soccer ball into the peach baskets. After each basket that was made, players had to climb a ladder to retrieve the ball from the basket. Iron hoops with open-ended nets didn’t come along until 1913!
Interesting basketball facts:
- Dr. Naismith was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. The Basketball Hall of Fame is now called the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
- The first college basketball game was played on January 18, 1896, when the University of Iowa hosted a game with the University of Chicago. The final score was: Chicago 15, Iowa 12.
- U.S. patent #1,718,305 was granted to G.L. Pierce on June 25, 1929, for the first version of what we now recognize as the "basketball."
- “March Madness” began in 1939, when the first NCAA tournament took place at the University of Illinois.
- Basketball became an official Olympic sport at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.