Dr. James Naismith invented the sport of basketball while working at a YMCA in Massachusetts. Wanting a vigorous game that could help young men stay fit during the long New England winters, he nailed a peach basket onto a 10-foot elevated track, and each team of nine tried to make baskets using a soccer ball. (Five players soon became the norm.)
Dr. Naismith named his new game basketball and created 13 rules, apparently incorporating some from a children's game “Duck on a Rock.” According to his hand-written diaries, he was nervous about his new game.
That first game was a real barn-burner. The final score was 1-0. The winning basket was shot from 25 feet away.
Actually, it's lucky that the score stayed so low, because the peach basket had a bottom (baskets do have bottoms, you know!), and the ball had to be fetched manually from the basket after a goal. (Soon people realized the wisdom of drilling holes into the bottoms of the baskets so that the ball could be pushed out from below with a long pole. Metal hoops and nets replaced peach baskets in 1906, and soon people realized that the net could have an opening at the bottom, allowing the ball to pass through.)
Although Dr. Naismith was nervous about his game, it caught on quickly. The same year as that first men's game, Senda Berenson modified the rules for women and began basketball as a women's sport at Smith College. People in the YMCA began to go to other YMCAs in America, and soon the sport had spread all throughout the country and Canada. As early as 1895 (a mere three years after the sport's beginning) basketball was already well established at several womens' high schools.
YMCA personnel decided that the rough game and the rowdy crowds it attracted were not compatible with the Y's mission, and began to discourage the game, but the boom of popularity continued as amateur and professional sports clubs and colleges began to host the game. The first pro league, the National Basketball League, began in 1898.
And, at that point, the sport was not yet a decade old!
Now basketball is played worldwide; it's an Olympic sport and a big business. Americans used to dominate the sport, but of all the players on the two most recent FIBA World Championships teams, only one was an American. Even NBA basketball has become globalized, with players coming from Sudan, China, Germany, Spain, Serbia, France, Croatia, Russia, the Virgin Islands, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Lithuania, Spain, and many other countries.
Celebrate basketball's birthday!
- Watch a game.
- Play a game.
- Go old-school: perch a basket (with a bottom!) somewhere high and try to make a goal. Use a Nerf ball or other soft indoor ball.
- Play balloon b-ball.
Wheelchair basketball is great exercise for the participants and fun to watch, too. Here is a picture to color.
Go all-out and throw a BD party for basketball. There are lots of ideas here.