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Who invented basketball?

Find out who invented basketball and read about its history.

A player scores two points for each basket made. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
A player scores two points for each basket made.

Basketball is a popular sport enjoyed by men, women and children around the world. Despite the sport's popularity, however, many people don't know who invented basketball. In this article, well shed light on its fascinating history.

James A. Naismith
, a Canadian physical education teacher, invented the game of basketball in 1891. The first basketball game was played in December of that year at the International Young Men's Christian Association training school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Naismith was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1861 and excelled at sports from an early age. He also excelled in academics and loved to teach others. The man who invented basketball eventually moved to Massachusetts to take classes at the YMCA's training school. Soon, he became a physical education instructor. At that time, the school's physical education program between the baseball and football seasons consisted of routine calisthenics and gymnastics.

In the fall of 1891, Luther Halsey Gulick, the head of the physical education department at the school, noticed that students were getting bored with calisthenics and gymnastics. He asked Naismith to create a new game that could be played indoors without rough body contact and hold the students' interest.

Naismith invented basketball by combining aspects of other sports with his own novel ideas. For example, he decided that to avoid rough play, players would not run with the ball as they do in other sports like football. He also placed the goal, or baskets, over the players' heads, so they couldn't be directly guarded as they are in sports like soccer and hockey. The man who invented basketball also devised 13 rules to explain the game.

The first game of basketball looked quite different than modern basketball games. For one thing, the ball used in the first game was a soccer ball. The baskets were half-bushel peach baskets. When a player scored, someone had to climb a ladder to get the ball out so play could resume.

In basketball's early years the number of players on a team ranged from five to nine, depending on the size of the court. Basketball players' uniforms varied, too—some wore knee-length football pants while others wore shorter pants with knee pads.

The students at Naismith's school loved basketball from the start. The school published Naismith's basketball rules in a January 1892 issue of its campus newspaper, and the game's popularity quickly spread to other YMCAs. Soon, basketball was played at colleges. James Naismith went on to become a doctor in 1898. Later, he was a basketball coach at the University of Kansas. Remarkably, the man who invented basketball also invented a piece of equipment for another sport: the football helmet. Naismith was on hand when basketball was admitted as an Olympic sport at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, no doubt a true honor for the man who invented the popular sport.

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