Let’s Invent a Game
Most sports develop over time out of games that people begin to play informally. Not so with basketball. Basketball history shows that it has the distinction of being an intentionally invented game. In 1891, James Naismith was assigned to create an indoor activity for students at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass. The students, who were training to be P.E. teachers, were understandably bored doing nothing but calisthenics and gymnastics during those long New England winters. They longed for action and competition.
Dr. Naismith combined elements of outdoor games like soccer and lacrosse with the concept of a game he’d played in childhood, Duck on a Rock. To win Duck on Rock, players threw stones to hit a target placed on top of a large boulder. A ball and an elevated goal—those are the simple ingredients of the sport that now has players and rabid fans in nearly every part of the world.
Basketball History at 1-0
Naismith’s class played the first game of basket ball (two words) using a soccer ball and two peach baskets nailed to a balcony railing ten feet above the floor. The class of 18 was divided into two teams of nine players. The gym they played in was just 54 feet by 35 feet (modern courts are 94 feet x 54 feet). The final score of that first ever basketball game was 1-0. William Chase scored the lone goal from 25 feet—a half-court shot in that small gym. Now that’s the kind of fact that will someday help you win a basketball history sports trivia contest.
Naismith had just 13 rules for basket ball (see box), which he carefully typed on two pages. The game had to stop after each goal so the referee could climb a ladder and retrieve the ball from the basket. Fortunately, those early games were very low scoring affairs.