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Today in Sports History: 12/21 | Dr. James Naismith Introduces Basketball

Today in sports history, one of the most popular sports in the world got its start. The first game of basketball was played at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Dr. James Naismith is credited with being the inventor. Naismith created the game in response to students of his who were bored with regular gym class activities.

The game originated from a childhood game called “duck on the rock.” This game features one person placing a stone on a big rock. One person guards the stone, while the rest of the people involved try to knock it off. Naismith experimented with trying different balls for the sport, including a football, soccer ball and lacrosse, as he was creating basketball.

James Naismith basketball today in sports history
Credit: The New York Times

Dr. James Naismith Creates Basketball | Today in Sports History

On December 21, 1891, Naismith nailed a peach basket to the lower part of the balcony in the gymnasium that he was educating at. After deciding teams and captains, Naismith instructed two men to stand in the middle of the court, while he threw a soccer ball straight up in the air. Thus, the first game of basketball began. The new sport took off and within weeks, hundreds of people were filling the gym because they wanted to play basketball.

Eventually, the game evolved, with replacements for the boxes. He also expanded the rosters to five players on each team. This sport quickly spread through the country, with other parts of the world picking it up too.

Evolution of Basketball

Ever since this day, basketball has continued to evolve. Professional basketball began in 1905, when the National Basketball League was formed. This eventually turned into what we now know as the National Basketball Association. Players like George Mikan, Dolph Schayes and Jack Twyman helped to popularize the game, becoming some of basketball’s first superstars. The next wave of superstars arguably was its most influential. Bill Russell became the face of the league, during his run to 11 championships with the Celtics. Wilt Chamberlain was solely responsible for many of the rule changes, including widening lanes and goaltending.

After the NBA absorbed the ABA, the world was introduced to Julius Erving. His style of game was much different than the NBA. Erving played fast and was looking to get to the paint and dunk. This contrasted the conservative playing style of the NBA, where teams would carefully look for passes until an open shot presented itself.

The addition of the three-point line became the most important rule change in the sport’s history, as this opened the door for more scoring and more excitement. Larry Bird, Reggie Miller and Ray Allen were just some of many to use this to their advantage. That all changed though with Steph Curry and the Warriors. They changed how basketball was played, relying on the three-point line to win games.

Imagine what Dr. Naismith would be thinking to see his sport today, with LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant being some of the greatest athletes on the planet.


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