James Naismith

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Basketball, University of Kansas, YMCA, 1936 Summer Olympics




When James Naismith first invented the game of basketball, the players used peach baskets and soccer balls. Originally from Ontario, Canada, Naismith made his way to the United States in 1891 to teach physical education at the YMCA International Training School, now known as Springfield College, in Springfield, Mass. There, the brutal, snowy winters proved to be difficult for Naismith to keep his students physically fit. In 1891, in order to keep the students out of trouble and indoors, Dr. Luther Gulick, the director of the physical education program at the school, challenged Naismith to create an indoor sport and to “make it fair for all players and not too rough.” In just two weeks, Naismith developed the original 13 rules of basketball. However, the game was quite different when compared to today. For instance, the concept of dribbling did not exist. Rather, the players were only allowed to pass the ball down the court without running.



Before Naismith knew it, the game became immensely popular. Years later, in 1898, Naismith moved to the lovely Lawrence, Kan., to further develop the sport for the University of Kansas. Interestingly, the father of basketball was the only coach at KU with a losing record, which was 55-60. Naismith went on to train the “father of basketball coaching”, Dr. Forrest “Phog” Allen. After watching the game of basketball spread across the world for years, the game was finally introduced in the Summer Olympics of 1936, one year before Naismith died in Lawrence, Kan., at the age of 76. He is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Lawrence, Kan.



University of Kansas basketball team, 1899. James Naismith in upper right corner.
University of Kansas basketball team, 1899. James Naismith in upper right corner.