James Naismith

Biography of Canadian James Naismith who invented basketball.

Basketball player being guarded by defender
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In December 1891, Canadian-born James Naismith, a physical education teacher at the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) training school, took a soccer ball and a peach basket into the gym and invented basketball. In 1893, James Naismith replaced the peach basket with iron hoops and a hammock-style basket. Ten years later came the open-ended nets of today. Before that, you had to retrieve your ball from the basket every time you scored.

James Naismith - Background

James Naismith was born in Ramsay township, near Almonte, Ontario, Canada and attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. After serving as McGill's athletic director, Naismith moved on to work at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. The game of basketball was inspired by a children's game Naismith knew called duck-on-a-rock, in which players throw a small rock at a "duck" placed on top of a large rock in an attempt to knock the "duck" off.

While at Springfield, Naismith invented basketball as a sport to play indoors during the cold Massachusetts winters. The first game of basketball was played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets used as goals. After changing the peach baskets for open hoop nets, Naismith soon wrote 13 official rules for the game. He also founded the University of Kansas basketball program.

First College Basketball Game

The first ever college basketball game was played on January 18, 1896, when the University of Iowa invited student athletes from the new University of Chicago for an experimental game.

Final score: Chicago 15, Iowa 12, a bit different from the hundred-point scores of today.

Naismith lived to see basketball adopted as an Olympic demonstration sport in 1904 and as an official event at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, as well as the birth of the National Invitation Tournament (1938) and the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship (1939).

In 1963, college games were first broadcast on national TV, but it wasn't until the 1980s that sports fans ranked basketball up there with football and baseball.

Naismith Legacy

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, is named in his honor, and he was an inaugural inductee in 1959. The National Collegiate Athletic Association rewards its top players and coaches annually with the Naismith Awards, among them the Naismith College Player of the Year, the Naismith College Coach of the Year and the Naismith Prep Player of the Year.

Naismith was also inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, the McGill University Sports Hall of Fame, the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame, FIBA Hall of Fame, and The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which was named in his honor. 

Naismith's hometown of  Almonte, Ontario, hosts an annual 3-on-3 tournament for all ages and skill levels in his honor. Every year this event attracts hundreds of participants and involves over 20 half-court games along the main street of the town.