Dr. James Naismith was born in Canada November 6, 1861.
Naismith studied physical education in Montreal before moving to the United States.
At the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA, Naismith struggled with a rowdy class which was confined to indoor games throughout the harsh New England winter and thus was perpetually short-tempered.
Under orders from Dr. Luther Gulick, head of Springfield YMCA Physical Education, Naismith was given 14 days to create an indoor game that would provide an “athletic distraction”: Gulick demanded that it would not take up much room, could help its track athletes to keep in shape and explicitly emphasized to “make it fair for all players and not too rough.”
In his attempt to think up a new game, Naismith was guided by three main thoughts.
- Firstly, he analyzed the most popular games of that time (rugby, lacrosse, soccer, football, hockey and baseball); Naismith noticed the hazards of a ball and concluded that the big soft soccer ball was safest.
- Secondly, he saw that most physical contact occurred while running with the ball, dribbling or hitting it, so he decided that passing was the only legal option.
- Finally, Naismith further reduced body contact by making the goal unguardable, namely placing it high above the player’s heads.
To score goals, he forced the players to throw a soft lobbing shot that had proven effective in his old favorite game duck on a rock.
Naismith christened this new game “Basket Ball” and put his thoughts together in 13 basic rules.
The first game of “Basket Ball” was played in December 1891.
Naismith published his first basketball rule book January 15, 1892.
Naismith described nine versus nine players. The ball was a soccer ball, and instead of shooting at two hoops, the goals were a pair of peach baskets placed about 10 feet from the floor, one at each end of the gymnasium.
Naismith explained what the players had to do to make goals, the ball was tossed up between the two center men. Most fouls were for running with the ball, though tackling the man with the ball was allowed at first.
In contrast to modern basketball, Naismith’s original rules did not include what is known today as the dribble. Since the ball could only be moved up the court via a pass early players tossed the ball over their heads as they ran up court.
Also, following each “goal” a jump ball was taken in the middle of the court.
Basketball soon grew so popular that Dennis Horkenbach (editor-in-chief of The Triangle, the Springfield college newspaper) featured it in an article called “A New Game”, and there were calls to call this new game “Naismith Ball”, but Naismith refused.
Naismith went on to found the University of Kansas basketball program, and lived to see basketball adopted as an Olympic demonstration sport in 1904 and as an official event at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
Naismith also helped develop the National Invitation Tournament in 1938, and the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship in 1939.
Naismith is also often credited with introducing the first football helmet.
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