Happy birthday James Naismith!

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James Naismith (November 6, 1861—November 28, 1939) was the Canadian-born inventor of basketball, as well as a coach and physical education professor. He watched the game grow into a national and even Olympic sport.

dr-james-naismith-profileNaismith was born in what is now Mississippi Mills, Ontario, Canada. He spent his childhood playing outdoors. One game he played was called duck on a rock, in which a person guards a large drake stone from opposing players, who try to knock it down by throwing small stones at it.

After graduating high school, he attended McGill University, where he played on a variety of sports teams including Canadian football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and gymnastics. After earning his B.A. in physical education, he went on to become the school's first athletic director. (Image source)

Eventually, he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts to become a physical education instructor at the YMCA International Training School. There, he was required to create a game that his students could play indoors during the wintertime. What he invented came to be known as basketball. He was instructed to make sure the game was safe, which is partly what inspired him to include a large, soft ball. At the beginning, he used a soccer ball, and dribbling was not yet a part of the game. Instead, the players were required to move the ball up the court by passing to each other and running. He attached peach baskets to the walls where players were to attempt to score. Naismith wrote 13 rules for basketball and posted them in the gymnasium. These rules were later published in 1892.

By this time, basketball was already very popular on campus. A local newspaper wrote about it and the word spread rapidly.

Naismith moved to become a professor at the University of Kansas as well as the school's first basketball coach. His tenure there became the origins of the school's deeply-chronicled basketball history.

While Naismith was there, his team mostly played nearby YMCA teams, but they also played Haskell Indian Nations University and William Jewell College. The sport spread to other universities, and Naismith passed his wisdom on to other soon-to-be coaches (including Forrest "Phog" Allen). By the turn of the century, there were enough collegiate teams to form something of a league.

naismith_james_and_allen_forrestNaismith and Forrest (source)

Naismith went on to earn an honorary masters in physical education in 1910, patrol the Mexican border during World War I, publish two books, and become a Professor Emeritus in Kansas. He retired at the age of 76.

He has since been inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports Legends Hall of Fame, the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, the McGill University Sports Hall of Fame, the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame and the FIBA Hall of Fame.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Thursday, 06 November 2014
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