James Naismith (November 6, 1861 – November 28, 1939) was a Canadian American sports coach and innovator. He invented the sport of basketball in 1891. He wrote the original basketball rulebook, founded the University of Kansas basketball program, and lived to see basketball adopted as an Olympic demonstration sport in 1904 and as an official event at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, as well as the birth of both the National Invitation Tournament (1938) and the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship (1939).
Born in Canada, Naismith studied physical education in Montreal before moving to the United States, where he developed basketball in late 1891 while teaching at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith also studied medicine in Denver, taking his MD in 1898 before moving to the University of Kansas. After a decade (1898–1907) serving there as a faculty member and part-time basketball coach during the sport's fledgling years, he became the Kansas Jayhawks' athletic director. He became a U.S. citizen in 1925 in Lawrence, Kansas.
Naismith's contributions to basketball have earned him several posthumous honors, such as in the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports Legends Hall of Fame, the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, the McGill University Sports Hall of Fame, the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame, and the FIBA Hall of Fame. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he is a member of the original Hall of Fame class, was named in Naismith's honor.
Naismith was born in 1861 in Almonte (now part of Mississippi Mills), Ontario, Canada. Struggling in school but gifted in farm labor, Naismith spent his days outside playing catch, hide-and-seek, or duck on a rock, a medieval game in which a person guards a large drake stone from opposing players, who try to knock it down by throwing smaller stones at it. To play duck on a rock most effectively, Naismith soon found that a soft lobbing shot was far more effective than a straight hard throw, a thought which later proved essential for the invention of basketball.
Orphaned early in his life, Naismith lived with his aunt and uncle for many years and attended grade school at Bennies Corners near Almonte. Then he enrolled in Almonte High School, in Almonte, Ontario, Canada, from which he graduated in 1883. In the same year, Naismith entered McGill University in Montreal. Although described as a slight figure, standing 5 foot 10 ½ and listed at 168 pounds, he was a talented and versatile athlete, representing McGill in Canadian football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and gymnastics.
He played center on the football team, and made himself some padding to protect his ears. It was for personal use not team use. He won multiple Wicksteed medals for outstanding gymnastics performances. Naismith earned a BA in Physical Education (1888) and a Diploma at the Presbyterian College in Montreal (1890). From 1891 on, Naismith taught physical education and became the first McGill director of athletics, but then left Montreal to become a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.
At Springfield YMCA, Naismith struggled with a rowdy class which was confined to indoor games throughout the harsh New England winter and thus was perpetually short-tempered. Under orders from Dr. Luther Gulick, head of Springfield YMCA Physical Education, Naismith was given 14 days to create an indoor game that would provide an "athletic distraction": Gulick demanded that it would not take up much room, could help its track athletes to keep in shape and explicitly emphasized to "make it fair for all players and not too rough."
In his attempt to think up a new game, Naismith was guided by three main thoughts. Firstly, he analyzed the most popular games of those times (rugby, lacrosse, soccer, football, hockey, and baseball); Naismith noticed the hazards of a ball and concluded that the big soft soccer ball was safest. Secondly, he saw that most physical contact occurred while running with the ball, dribbling or hitting it, so he decided that passing was the only legal option.
Finally, Naismith further reduced body contact by making the goal unguardable, namely placing it high above the player's heads. To score goals, he forced the players to throw a soft lobbing shot that had proven effective in his old favorite game duck on a rock. Naismith christened this new game "Basket Ball" and put his thoughts together in 13 basic rules.
By 1892, basketball had grown so popular on campus that Dennis Horkenbach (editor-in-chief of The Triangle, the Springfield college newspaper) featured it in an article called "A New Game", and there were calls to call this new game "Naismith Ball", but Naismith refused. By 1893, basketball was introduced internationally by the YMCA movement. From Springfield, Naismith went to Denver where he acquired a medical degree and in 1898 he joined the University of Kansas faculty at Lawrence, Kansas after coaching at Baker University.
Basketball is a sport played by two teams of five players on a rectangular court. The objective is to shoot a ball through a hoop 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter and 10 feet (3.0 m) high mounted to a backboard at each end. Basketball is one of the world's most popular and widely viewed sports.
A team can score a field goal by shooting the ball through the basket during regular play. A field goal scores three points for the shooting team if the player shoots from behind the three-point line, and two points if shot from in front of the line. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but additional time (overtime) is issued when the game ends with a draw. The ball can be advanced on the court by bouncing it while walking or running or throwing it to a team mate. It is a violation to lift or drag one's pivot foot without dribbling the ball, to carry it, or to hold the ball with both hands then resume dribbling.
As well as many techniques for shooting, passing, dribbling and rebounding, basketball teams generally have player positions and offensive and defensive structures (player positioning). Traditionally, the tallest and strongest members of a team are called a center or power forward, while slightly shorter and more agile players are called small forward, and the shortest players or those who possess the best ball handling skills are called a point guard or shooting guard.
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