Who Was James Naismith?

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a new kind of professional social reformer, James Naismith, sought to impact the society with a new method he invented. A Canadian American bodily training expert created the sport of basketball in 1891. Naismith was the first member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. This person was trained in scientific theory and was confident in the wide applicability of his expertise. He believed that competitive team games were an efficient way of molding young men and women’s physical, social, and moral characteristics. It was one of the first concrete manifestations of his outlooks.

Soon, this game caught attention, and educators and reformers started using it to teach children and young adults particular values in high schools, colleges, and other institutions. It was seen as a cohesive tool for society. Yet often, it might change into an extraordinarily aggressive public spectacle, performed in front of crowds via way of means of specialists and professional amateurs.

Early Life 

People playing basketball

On November 6, 1861, James Naismith was born in Almonte, Ontario, Canada, to John and Margaret (Young) Naismith. He was the eldest son of Scottish immigrants and left his parents at 18 years of age. Naismith spent the bulk of his time playing outdoor games with his friends and soon developed a passion for sports and physical activity. A popular game he often played was “duck on a rock.” It wasn’t long before the kids realized that their success rate was too low if they threw the rock directly past the guard like a baseball. So, they started lobbing it high in the air, arching over the guard. The guidelines of the sport and the improvement of the lob shot caught with James and later have become the premise of basketball and gave him the name of “Founder of Basketball.”

Enthusiasm for Physical Education

A person making a jump shot to score a basket on a local basketball court.

 

Naismith graduated from McGill University, was an extraordinary athlete, and competed in football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, and gymnastics. He won the Wick steed gold medal, which is awarded to the top athlete of the graduating class. Naismith taught physical education at McGill and became the university’s first full-time athletics instructor in 1889 fall. After getting a diploma in theology, he realized that he could create a more significant impact through sports than through traditional mystery. He took the train to Montreal and became a physical director at the YMCA training school. The professional life of Naismith had also revolved around the basis of sports.

Invention of Basketball

The physical education director at YMCA, Dr Luther Gulick, was looking to bring the school’s gymnasium to work during winters. For that, he assigned Naismith to come up with an indoor game idea that could replace the boring or dangerous exercises used at the school during the winter. Naismith’s only instructions were to “make it fair for all the players and free of rough play.” Naismith got inspired by his favorite childhood game, “duck on a rock,” devised a game where the participants had to throw a ball into the box protected by the opposing team. He realized that the opposing team guarding the box could easily block the soccer ball and make it too difficult to score because of the tight space. Then he thought of putting the box right above the player’s heads. Like “duck on a rock,” the ball might be thrown in an arcing movement for gamers to score.

Man jumping and trying to dunk the ball

The first game of basketball was played at Springfield College on December 21, 1891.  James tied the baskets ten feet high on opposite sides of the gym and posted the rules on a nearby wall. Naismith decided on functions from soccer, football, hockey, and different outdoor sports activities for his new recreation but (in theory) removed bodily touch among players. Naismith wrote in his journal. “I felt this was a crucial moment in my life as it meant success or failure of my attempt to hold the interest of the class and devise a new game.” He put forward 13 rules for his new sport that he named basketball, including all the interesting basketball facts. Thus, he’s called the “Founder of Basketball.” On January 15, 1892, the 13 Naismith rules were published when they were published in the Springfield College school newspaper, The Triangle.  Naismith’s original rules of forbidding walking or running with the ball and restricting physical contact remain the foundation of a game that spans the world. The rule that players couldn’t run with the ball helped eliminate the violence from the game.

First Football Helmet

Person playing football and holding the ball

 

When James Naismith was on the YMCA college football team in 1881, playing center for the team. He was the anchor of the offensive line for the team and had to make physical contact constantly. After several hits on his head and face, he came up with an idea. Naismith asked his girlfriend to stitch two flannel pieces together, which was the world’s first “football helmet.” This small piece of innovation sparked the entire trajectory of football.

Death and Legacy

Naismith returned to the University of Kansas, where he recorded his resume as a campus physician and athletic director before retiring in 1937 at the age of 76. He died on November 28, 1939, at his home in Lawrence, Kansas. By then, basketball had spread across North America and debuted at the Olympics. Basketball had grown rapidly since Naismith invented it in 1891. In 1900, the sport was practiced in the YMCA and YWCA and in clubs and schools in the US and Canada. The game grew internationally and was a demonstration sport at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis.

The Naismith Auction

Teams playing basketball 

Naismith’s original handwritten rules were put up for auction by the Naismith International Basketball Foundation for $ 4.3 million on December 10, 2010, a record price for sports memorabilia. An American businessman David Booth bought the documents from Lawrence, Kansas, and donated them to the University of Kansas, where they are currently on display. Proceeds from the sale went to the Naismith International Basketball Foundation.

Conclusion

Some people wanted to call the sport “Naismith Ball,” but Naismith was determined to call it basketball. Today, basketball is the most played college sport in the United States. A 2013 government report calls it the sixth most popular sport among Canadians and the fourth most popular sport among Canadian children ages five to 14. Naismith became honored with bronze statues, one in his homeland of Almonte, Ontario (established in 2011) and the opposite at the University of Kansas campus (established in 2016).

The invention of basketball was not an accident. It was developed to meet a need. Those boys simply would not play ‘Drop the Handkerchief.’—James Naismith