Basketball is one of the world’s most popular games, and its origin is thanks to James Naismith. The Canadian-American sports coach is responsible for inventing basketball in 1891. He was only 30 when the game came to life. Naismith had come up with a game that was not just about to be included as part of the Olympics in 1904, but it also went on to become one of the most popular games in the world. Naismith was born in Ontario, Canada. He lost his parents – to typhoid fever – as a youngster.


Naismith enjoyed playing games as a youngster, while he was also immensely fond of athletics. These interests clearly played a role in transforming Naismith’s interest in ‘duck on a rock’ game to basketball. Naismith clearly had the idea of refining ‘duck on a rock’ into a more serious game. This medieval game involved hitting a stone construction with a stone. Naismith would later evolve this game into basketball as we know it today.

The 1899 University of Kansas basketball team, with Dr. James Naismith at the back, right. Photo:

Naismith started out at Montreal’s McGill University back in 1883. A good athlete, Naismith excelled when it comes to several sports like rugby, football, and gymnastics. It was not a surprise that he was graduating successfully with a physical education degree, which helped him secure job at McGill as a PE teacher. From there, moved ahead to Springfield as a PE teacher. Here, the seeds for basketball were sown, and those seeds would lead to the current demand for odds and fixtures for basketball.

Naismith was given the responsibility of handling a difficult class, who needed to be kept active with an indoor games. It was also seen as a way to burn off their energy. Numerous games came under the consideration, but Naismith did not feel that none were applicable in the current scenario. A major limitation was that games like baseball and football had to be played outdoors and were not really ideal as an indoor activity. In order to keep potential injuries to a bare minimum, Naismith decided to invent a new game that was similar in philosophy to ‘duck on a rock’.

Players had to move a ball closer to a basket, and the objective of the game was to put the ball into the basket to earn points.

Formation of Rules

AP file photo
The 13 rules of basketball, as set down by the founder of the game, Dr. James Naismith. (AP file photo)

Once the sports coach had formed the idea, he set about formulating the rules. The standard set of rules like preventing players from running with the ball – like in football – were among the key factors that have led to the popularity of the sport even now. The initial set of rules were 13 in number, and they were put on a bulletin board so as to help the players and other individuals to understand.

Armed with the idea and rules, the first ever basketball game took place in December 1891. Unlike the modern basketball game, the first game witnessed only nine players on each side. Furthermore, the basketball was not yet invented and the players used a soccer ball instead. Over time, though, even those rules were formulated and basketball game – as we know it today – was up and running. Naismith knew that he had stumbled upon an incredible game when it became extremely popular by the end of 1892.


His stellar contribution to the world of sports meant that Naismith achieved incredible honours. He is part of the FIBA Hall of Fame, Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, and Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame.

He was later inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. As recently as in 2006, Naismith was included in the College Basketball Hall of Fame. Now, the best basketball coaches and players – who can be predicted by the presence of more basketball online advice – at college level are handed out the Naismith awards.

More Important Roles

The founder of the game became University of Kansas’ first basketball coach. The game was initially played between YMCA teams and those in nearby colleges. Ironically, he ended up with a losing record of 55-60. Yet, Naismith was clearly more than happy with the recognition as a founder of the game, and this happiness grew even more as the game grew in popularity at the start of the 20th century. It was included as an Olympic game in 1935, and Naismith was given the prestige of handing out the winning medals. He also went on to help form the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball two years later.


James Naismith was not around for too long after achieving immense success with his game being introduced into the Olympics. He passed away in 1939 – two years after the death of his first wife and under six months after his second marriage. Naismith suffered a brain haemorrhage and lost his life as a 78-year-old. His death occurred just a few months after the NCCA Basketball Championship came to life.