History of Home Court >

Image Gallery >

About the Basketball
Inventor >

“I am sure that no man can derive more pleasure form money or power
than I do from seeing a pair of basketball goals in some out of the way place –
an old barrel hoop mailed to a tree, or a weather-beaten shed with a
rusty iron hoop nailed to one end.”
—Dr. James Naismith

Dr. James Naismith was born in Almonte, Ontario in 1861. As a scholarly man of unusual accomplishments, he earned three academic degrees – medicine, theology, and physical education. He chose physical education as a lifetime professional because he believed that his work could have the most impact.

The game was created by Naismith as an assignment at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts (which today is Springfield College). He spoke from personal experience when he recalled wanting the “pleasure and thrill” of athletic competition rather than the boring gymnastics and exercise programs. The first informal games were played in December 1891. A soccer football was used for a ball and a step ladder was used to retrieve the ball after successful field goals.

Basketball caught on as a game from the start and developed far beyond the wildest dreams and fondest hopes of its founder. In the history of the YMCA, no other single event brought greater distinction and recognition to the movement than the invention of basketball.

Naismith lived long enough to see basketball in included in the Olympics in 1936. He died in 1939 after 40 years as head of Physical Education Department at the University of Kansas.

Naismith refrained from using his reputation to endorse any products. His persistent belief was that his creation should be played for fun, exercise, and the building of character, not for its money-making potential. Naismith hardly made a cent from the game he devised.