James Naismith

James Naismith books and biography

James Naismith

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James A. Naismith,(November 6, 1861 – November 28, 1939) was the inventor of the sport of basketball and the first to introduce the use of a helmet in American football. He was also the first basketball coach to assemble a team of 5 players.

He was born in Ramsay township, near Almonte, Ontario, Canada, the eldest son of Scottish immigrants who had arrived in the area in 1851 and worked in the mining industry.

James Naismith
James Naismith


Invention of basketball

James Naismith was a star gymnast, lacrosse player and football player at McGill University where he earned a BA in Physical Education (1887) and a Diploma at the Presbyterian College in Montreal (1890). In 1885-86 he won the Wicksteed Silver Medal as the gymnastics champion of the school's junior class. In his graduating year, he won the Medal as the top athlete of the university's senior class.

In 1891, while working as a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, Naismith was asked to make a game that would not take up much room, was not too rough, and at the same time, could be played indoors. He had no idea he would invent what would become the most popular indoor sport in the United States.

Inspired by a game he played as a child in Canada called "Duck on a Rock," Naismith's game started December 15, 1891 with thirteen rules (modified versions of twelve of those are still used today), a peach basket nailed to either end of the school's gymnasium, and two teams of nine players. On January 15, 1892 Naismith published the rules for basketball. The original rules did not include what is known today as the dribble. They initially only allowed the ball to be moved up the court via a pass. Following each "goal" a jump ball was taken in the middle of the court. Although it was not a rule, players would commonly use the dust of coal to cover the palms of their hands, allowing them to get a better grip on the ball. The coal palm was used up until the early 1930s. Also interesting was the rule concerning balls out of bounds - the first player to retrieve the ball received possession.

Basketball became a popular men's sport in the United States and Canada very quickly, and spread to other countries as well. Additionally, there were several efforts to establish a women's version with modified rules. Naismith himself was impressed with how quickly women caught onto the game and remarked that they were quick to understand the nature of the teamwork involved. He observed some women playing at a college in Springfield, MA, and was instrumental in promoting the sport for women in New England. This met with great resistance in some circles and was consequently far slower to become truly widespread.

Basketball was a demonstration sport at the 1904 Games in St. Louis, USA. Men's basketball was officially added to the Olympic Games program at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. There, Naismith handed out the medals to three North American teams; United States, for the Gold Medal, Canada, for the Silver Medal, and Mexico, for their Bronze medal win. Women's basketball became an Olympic event in Montreal during the 1976 Summer Olympics.

Coaching career

Naismith moved to the University of Kansas, in 1898, following his studies in Denver, becoming a professor and the school's first basketball coach. University of Kansas went on to develop one of the nation's most storied college basketball programs.

Naismith is the only Kansas coach to have a losing record (55-60) during his tenure at the school. Nevertheless, Naismith has one of the greatest coaching legacies in basketball history. Naismith coached Forrest "Phog" Allen, his eventual successor at Kansas, who went on to become one of the winningest coaches in U.S. college basketball history. The actual playing surface of Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas is named the James Naismith Court. Phog Allen was the college basketball coach of Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp, who are two of the winningest men's college basketball coaches, and won a combined total of six NCAA championships. Adolph Rupp was the college basketball coach of Pat Riley who is one of the winningest coaches in NBA history and has coached five teams to the NBA championship. Dean Smith went on to be the college basketball coach of hall of fame coach Larry Brown (who also coached at the University of Kansas for five seasons, leading them to a national title in 1988), current North Carolina coach Roy Williams (who also coached for 15 seasons at the University of Kansas previous to that), and basketball great Michael Jordan. In the late 1930s Naismith played a role in the formation of the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball, which later became the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

In August 1936, while attending the Berlin Olympics, he was named honorary President of the International Basketball Federation.

Personal life

Naismith married Maude Sherman in 1894 and they had five children. Naismith was also a Presbyterian Minister and became a naturalized American citizen on May 4, 1925. In 1939 he was awarded his Doctor of Divinity from The Presbyterian College, Montreal. After Maude's death in 1937, he married Florence Kincade on June 11 1939, less than six months before his own death, in Lawrence, Kansas, where he is buried, of a cerebral hemorrhage.

He has been honored extensively in his native country Canada and also in other nations. He was the founding inductee when on February 17, 1968 the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, named in his honor, opened in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was also an inaugural inductee to the McGill University Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2007, he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame.

In 2005 James Naismith's grandson, Ian Naismith, planned on selling the original copy of the thirteen rules. The rules were passed down on Naismith's death to his youngest son, James Naismith, who was Ian's father. James lived in Corpus Christi, Texas. Ian Naismith, as of Nov. 19, 2007, still has posession of the originals and was in Beaumont, TX where Lamar University basketball fans and alumni were able to view them.

Naismith was a Freemason[1] and a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

In Lawrence, James Naismith has a road named in his honor, Naismith Drive. It is a separated, four-lane road that runs North-South from 24th street all the way into the KU campus. Naismith Hall, a college residential dorm, is located on the Northeast edge of 19th and Naismith.

13 Rules of Basketball (as written by James Naismith)

  1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
  2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands, but never with the fist.
  3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man running at good speed.
  4. The ball must be held by the hands. The arms or body must not be used for holding it.
  5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, striking or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person 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 substitution shall be allowed.
  6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violations of Rules 3 and 4 and such as described in Rule 5.
  7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls it shall count as a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).
  8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket 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.
  9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field and played by the first person touching it. In case of 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 them.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the goals, with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.
  12. The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.
  13. The side making the most goals in that time is declared the winner.

External links and references

  • Basketball Hall of Fame profile
  • Naismith Foundation
  • Original 13 basketball rules by Dr. James Naismith
  • Basketball History: Dr. James Naismith: KU Basketball History Web Site
  • University of Kansas men's basketball
  • Heritage Minutes: Dr. James Naismith
  • History of basketball in Canada
  • Basketball Man documentary website
  • McGill Sports Hall of Fame
  • FIBA Hall of Fame profile
  • Basketball Man, a documentary about James Naismith

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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