Thursday, March 12, 2009

James Naismith

Today we celebrate James Naismith (1861-1939) for the wealth created as a result of his famous invention - the game of basketball.

Dr. Naismith was born in Canada and attended McGill University in Montreal. It was his job as an physical education director at the university, and later at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, that inspired him, in 1891, to invent a game that could be played indoors with a limited number of players. His first "court" lacked boundaries and made use of peach baskets as goals and soccer balls. The first formal rules of the game were established in 1892. The hammock-style goals, similar to what we know today, were invented a year later.

Naismith move to Denver, Co where he earned a medical degree in 1898. Shortly thereafter, he accepted a faculty position at Kansas University at Lawrence where he remained until his death. Of Naismith's accomplishments and thoughts on the game, The Kansas State Historical Society explains:

Dr. Naismith regarded his invention of the game as just an episode in a long career devoted to the improvement of the physical condition of succeeding generations. He thought wrestling was better exercise than basketball and one reporter said he drew as much pleasure from watching gymnasts as he did from K.U. basketball. When one of his former students, Forrest "Phog" Allen, told him he was going to Baker University to coach basketball Naismith said, "Why, basketball is just a game to play. It doesn't need a coach."

In 1936, the first year basketball was included in Olympic competition, money was raised to send Naismith to Berlin so that he could see his game played internationally. When he returned he commented that seeing the game played by many nations was the greatest compensation he could have received for his invention.

Dr. Naismith's basketball rules took one page and less than 600 words. Today, there are more than 30,000 words in the rules. The game is far more complicated than when Naismith hung up the peach baskets in Springfield in 1891.


Naismith at


1 comment:

coreyo said...

Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Go KU!
I lived in Naismith Hall my freshman year. Practically across the street from Allen Fieldhouse.