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.

The Original 13 Rules of Basketball
As written by Dr. James Naismith
The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with a fist).
A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to made for a man who catches the ball when running if he tries to stop.
The ball must be held by the hands. The arms or body must not be used for holding it.
No shouldering, holding, pushing, tipping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule y any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.
A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of Rules 3, 4 and such as described in Rule 5.
If either side makes three consecutive fouls it shall count as a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).
A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the base key and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play by the person first touching it. He has a right to hold it unmolested for five seconds. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds; if he holds it longer it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on the side.
The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.
The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the account of the goals, with any other duties that are usually performed by the referee.
The time shall be two fifteen minute halves, with five minutes’ rest between.
The side making the most goals in the in that time shall be declared the winner. In the case of a draw, the game my, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.