Lots of fans know everything about the game today: the rules, the players, and the teams. Many of them keep abreast of basketball news each day on major sports networks and a few extremely attuned fans sometimes come dangerously close to becoming stalkers (no Best Sports Blog users of course). But how many fans actually know about basketball’s beginnings? When was it invented? How did it originate? How did it begin to grow initially and start becoming the sport that it is today?
The inventor of basketball is James Naismith. Naismith was born in Canada in 1861 but moved to the United States in his twenties after studying physical education in Montreal. He settled in Springfield, Massachussetts and, while trying to find a team sport that allowed for strenuous athletic activity, he invented the game of basketball.
The earliest version of basketball was very different than the sport we know today. The game was played nine-on-nine with a soccer ball and players tried to score on a pair of peach baskets. Their were virtually no rules so, seeing the game get out of hand, Naismith developed the Thirteen Rules:
As you can see, the inaugural thirteen rules proved the foundation of the game. Subsequent changes were made over the years but the fundamental nature and purpose of the game of basketball has changed little since its inception. However, some rules have indeed changed and new elements have been incorporated: the dribble did not exist in the original game and there was a jump ball after each basket. Now, the game is far more fast paced and athletic and every effort has been made to keep the game flowing at all times.
Naismith’s new game spread quickly and, by the late 1890s, college basketball programs were starting across the country. Naismith himself founded the basketball program at the University of Kansas and coached there for a decade. Perhaps Kansas’ enduring success has something to do with Naismith’s early presence?
Beginning in the early 1900s, Naismith began taking an active role in promoting the sport across the US and internationally. Several Midwestern schools founded basketball programs during this period and the nascent future Big Ten Conference began to form. He also promoted basketball internationally, particularly in Europe, and this led to its inclusion in the 1904 Olympics as a demonstration sport. Shortly before his death in 1939, basketball became a full-scale Olympic sport in 1936. By the late 1940s, professional basketball began to pick up serious steam and, strengthened by a growing college game, began to develop into the game of basketball that we know today.
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