James Naismith Inventions and Accomplishments


James Naismith was born in Canada, but both of his parents died by the time he was 8 years old. His uncle then raised him and he began enjoying farm work while playing catch or hide and seek. Naismith always loved sports and was a three-sport athlete in college. He earned a degree in physical education and eventually moved to Massachusetts in 1890. It was there that he was given the assignment to invent a game that could be played indoors and would keep the students interested.

In those 14 days, James Naismith invented the game of basketball. The first game featured two peach baskets as goals and there were just 13 rules to be followed for the initial game. He lived to see basketball included as an Olympic demonstration sport just 13 years after he invented it and as an official event at the Berlin Summer Olympics.

What Were the First Rules of Basketball?

Today’s basketball rules encompass nearly 30,000 words in total, but the original 13 rules are barely over 600 words. There are so notable differences to the first games that were played compared to what we know of the game today. There was no dribbling of the ball at all, for example, as players could only pass it from the spot that had caught the ball. You couldn’t strike the ball with your fist. There were no free throws either – if you were called for a second foul, you’d be disqualified from the match until the next basket was made.

Some of the original rules, however, are still in use today. Throwing the ball into play from out of bounds was allowed 5 seconds. In Naismith’s rules, a violation of this rule was considered a foul, although today it’s just a turnover. Two 15 minute halves were initially recommended.

In just two years after the game’s invention, the YMCA took hold of the game and began to distribute it nationwide. It was not long before the sport was becoming part of collegiate programs either, which is when the University of Kansas reached out to Naismith. They wanted him to coach their basketball program.

What Else Did Naismith Invent?

It was in his school days of playing sports, particularly football, where Naismith was having problems with his head. His ears were getting badgered about quite a bit during the games and he was sick and tired of it. To stop that problem from happening, he developed some ear padding that could be worn so that his ears could be protected. That decision became the foundation of what we would consider a football helmet.

James Naismith was a man who wasn’t afraid to push the envelope of whatever he happened to be doing. Whether he was coaching basketball, trying to to teach his students life skills, or just trying to make life better for himself in some way, Naismith was able to change the world for millions of people. Basketball gives people hope when they may not have much hope left and that is his lasting legacy.

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