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James Naismith

History >> Biography

James Naismith
Author: Unknown


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.

Early Career

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.

Head Coach

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.

Later Life

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 Other Inventors and Scientists:
Alexander Graham Bell
Rachel Carson
George Washington Carver
Francis Crick and James Watson
Marie Curie
Leonardo da Vinci
Thomas Edison
Albert Einstein
Henry Ford
Ben Franklin
Robert Fulton
Jane Goodall
Johannes Gutenberg
Stephen Hawking
Antoine Lavoisier
James Naismith
Isaac Newton
Louis Pasteur
The Wright Brothers

History >> Biography

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