On This Day: Canadian James Naismith Invents The Game of Basketball

On This Day: Canadian James Naismith Invents The Game of Basketball

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On December 15, 1891, Canadian James Naismith, invents the game that would become one of the most popular, beloved and iconic sports of all time. 

The game of basketball involves two teams of five players each on a rectangular court. Both teams can move the ball around by dribbling and passing only. They have to try and score by tossing the ball in the opponent’s basket – a high hoop with a net. 

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The Name Comes From Peach Baskets

While working as a physical education instructor at the YMCA Training School in Massachusetts, Naismith wanted to create a game that was simple to understand yet complex enough that it was still interesting. It had to be playable indoors, accommodate several players at once and provide plenty of exercise. 

The first game involved a soccer ball and two half-bushel peach baskets used as goals. Naismith nailed the peach baskets to the lower rail of the gymnasium balcony, which was around 10 feet high. The students would play on teams to try to get the ball into their opponent’s basket using their hands.

The students enjoyed the game, and soon word spread. Naismith eventually went on to create the 13 original rules of the game (some still used to this day). After gaining popularity, many associations wrote Naismith for a copy of the rules, published in 1892 in the YMCA’s campus paper. 

At the time, umpires served as “judges,” made notes on fouls and could disqualify players. The game was played in two 15-minute halves with a five-minute break in-between. 

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A multi-billion business

Canada was the first country outside the U.S. to play the game. By 1893, basketball was introduced in France, in England in 1894 and by the 1900s it reached Asia. 

The first basketball was marketed in 1894 after Naismith asked A.G. Spalding to create a ball for the sport. The first ball was laced and measured close to 32 inches. ‘Spalding’ became the official game ball and brand.

Today, basketball is a multi-billion dollar business — the biggest being the NBA (National Basketball Association). There are currently 30 teams in the league and housed many well-known basketball players like Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, the late Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers and Alvin Williams of the Toronto Raptors.