History >> Biography
- Occupation: Teacher, Coach, and Inventor
- Born: November 6, 1861 in Almonte, Ontario, Canada
- Died: November 28, 1939 in Lawrence, Kansas, United States
- Best known for: Inventing the sport of basketball.
Where was James Naismith born?
James Naismith was born in Almonti, Ontario in Canada. While he was still a child, both of his parents died from typhoid fever. James went to live with his Uncle Peter where he helped work on the farm.
Young James enjoyed athletics and playing games. One of his favorite games was called "duck on a rock." In this game, a smaller rock (called the "duck") was placed on top of a big rock. Then the players would try to knock the "duck" off the rock by throwing a small stone. This game would later be part of the inspiration behind his invention of basketball.
In 1883, Naismith enrolled at the McGill University in Montreal. He was a good athlete and participated in many sports including football, lacrosse, gymnastics, and rugby. After graduating with a degree in Physical Education he went to work as as PE teacher at McGill. He later left Montreal and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts where he went to work for the YMCA.
A Rowdy Class
During the winter of 1891, Naismith was put in charge of a class of rowdy boys. He needed to come up with an indoor sport that would keep them active and help burn off some energy. He considered sports like football, baseball, and lacrosse, but they were either too rough or couldn't be played indoors.
Naismith eventually came up with the game of basketball. His idea was to have a basket placed high on the wall. Players would have to throw a soccer ball into the basket to score points. To keep injuries to a minimum, he said they couldn't run with the ball. In order to move the ball closer to the basket, they would have to pass it. He called the game "Basket Ball."
13 Basic Rules
Naismith wrote down "13 Basic Rules" of the game. Included were rules such as "A player cannot run with the ball", "No shouldering, holding, striking, pushing, or tripping", and "The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves." He posted the 13 rules on the bulletin board in the gym before class so the boys could read them and understand how to play.
The First Basketball Game
Naismith took two peach baskets and attached them at each end of the gym around 10 feet high. Then he explained the rules and started the first game of basketball. At first, the boys didn't quite understand the rules and the game turned into a big brawl at the center of the gym. Over time, however, the boys began to understand the rules. Most importantly, they learned that if they fouled too much or tried to hurt someone, they would have to leave the game.
Basketball Takes Off
It didn't take long for "Basket Ball" to become one of the boys' favorite sports. Other classes at the Springfield YMCA began to play the game and, in 1983, the YMCA introduced the game throughout the country.
Naismith went on to become the first basketball coach at the University of Kansas. At first, most of his games were played against YMCA teams and nearby colleges. His overall record at Kansas was 55-60.
In his later life, Naismith saw basketball grow to become one of the world's most popular sports. In 1935, basketball became an official sport of the Olympics. Naismith was able to hand out the Olympic medals to the winning teams. He also helped to form the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball in 1937.
Death and Legacy
James Naismith was 78 years old when he suffered a brain hemorrhage and died on November 28, 1939. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was named in his honor in 1959. Each year the best college basketball players and coaches are honored with the Naismith Awards.
Interesting Facts about James Naismith
- Some people wanted to name the sport "Naismith Ball", but Naismith was determined that it be called basketball.
- He served as a chaplain for the First Kansas Infantry during World War I.
- He never had a middle name, but he is still sometimes referred to as James "A." Naismith.
- A 3 on 3 basketball tournament is held each year in Naismith's hometown of Almonte, Ontario.
- He worked as the athletic director for the University of Kansas from 1919 to 1937.
History >> Biography