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Inventor of Basketball Dr. James Naismith Biography: Birth, Life, Books, Death, Google Doodle and More

Google Doodle honoured Canadian-American Educator, Physician, Christian Chaplain, Sports Coach and Inventor of Basketball-- Dr. James Naismith on 15 January 2021. In this article, we have mentioned about his early years, education, the invention of basketball, personal life and so forth. 

Dr. James Naismith: Birth, Early Life and Education

Dr. James Naismith was born on 6 November 1861 in Almonte, Ontario to two Scottish immigrants-- Margaret Young (Mother) and John Naismith (Father). Before moving to the United States, he studied and taught physical education at Montreal's McGill University. He represented his University in Football, Lacrosse, Rugby, Soccer and Gymnastics. He won several medals for his outstanding performance in gymnastics. 

In 1888, Naismith graduated in Physical Education and did a diploma at the Presbyterian College, Montreal in 1890. James Naismith became the first Director of Athletics at McGill University and later moved to Massachusetts to be a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School. 

Invention of Basketball by Dr. James Naismith

The students at Springfield YMCA confined to indoor games due to the harsh weather. When Dr. Naismith joined the college, he received orders from the HOD of Physical Education to create an indoor game that would provide an 'athletic distraction'. 

Dr. Naismith while thinking of a new indoor game stressed on three major points. These are as follows:

1- Analysis of the most popular games of those times such as Rugby, Lacrosse, Soccer, Football, Hockey and Basketball. Out of all these games, he noticed the hazards of a ball and reached the conclusion that for indoor games, a big, soft soccer ball was safest. 

2- Most physical contacts occurred while running with the ball, dribbling and hitting it. Thus, passing the ball was chosen as the safest method. 

3- He made the goal unguardable by placing it high above the player's heads. 

Dr. Naismith named this game 'Basketball' and set 13 basic rules. 

First Basketball game

In December 1891, the first Basketball game was played. At that time, the players played nine vs nine with a Soccer ball instead of a Basketball and the goals were peach baskets. The game was introduced internationally by 1893 through YMCA movement. 

In January 1939, Dr. James Naismith in his radio interview stated, "I showed them two peach baskets I'd nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team's peach basket. I blew a whistle, and the first game of basketball began. ... The boys began tackling, kicking, and punching in the clinches. They ended up in a free-for-all in the middle of the gym floor."

Before joining the University of Kansas faculty at Lawrence in 1898, he went to Denver and acquired a medical degree. 

Dr. James Naismith: Books

1- A Modern College in 1911

2- Essence of a Healthy Life in 1918

3- Basketball- its Origins and Development in 1941 (posthumously)

Dr. James Naismith: Personal Life

On 20 June 1894, Dr. James Naismith married Maude Evelyn Sherman in Springfield, Massachusetts. The couple gave birth to five children-- Margaret Mason (Stanley), Helen Carolyn (Dodd), John Edwin, Maude Ann (Dawe), and James Sherman. After the death of his first wife in 1937, he married Florence B. Kincaid on 11 June 1939. 

Dr. James Naismith: Death

On 19 November 1939, Dr. James Naismith suffered a major brain haemorrhage and died nine days later in his home in Lawrence at tha age of 78 years. He is buried with his first wife in Memorial Park Cemetery in Lawrence. His second wife, Florence B. Kincaid died at the age of 98 in 1977 and is buried with her first husband in Elmwood Cemetery in Beloit, Kansas.

James Naismith: Interesting things to know

1- James Naismith never had a middle name and never signed his name with an 'A' initial. The said letter was added by someone at the University of Kansas. 

2- He spent his days outside playing catch, hide and seek and duck on a rock and performed miserably at studies. 

3- He was orphaned in his early life and was raised up by his uncle and aunt. 

4- Due to the growing popularity of the Basketball on the Springfield YMCA campus, Editor-in-Chief of The Triangle, Dennis Horkenbach featured the game under the title-- A New Game. There were calls to name the game 'Naismith Ball' to which Dr. Naismith refused. 

5- With the arrival of Dr. Naismith at the University of Kansas in 1898, men's basketball program officially began. 

6- At the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Basketball became a demonstration sport.

7- He took American Citizenship on 4 May 1925. 

James Naismith: Legacy

1- The  Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, is named after him in his honour. He was an inaugural inductee in 1959. 

2- The National Collegiate Athletic Association rewards its best players and coaches annually with the Naismith Awards.

3- He was also inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame. 

4- The FIBA Basketball World Cup trophy is named 'James Naismith Trophy' in his honor.

5- A 3-on-3 tournament for all ages and skill levels is hosted annually in Almonte, Ontario. 

6- In 1991, postage stamps were issued to commemorate the centennial of basketball’s invention. Four stamps were issued by Canada Post, including one with Naismith’s name; one stamp was issued by the US Postal Service.

7- The original rules of basketball written by James Naismith in 1891 was auctioned at Sotheby's, New York, in December 2010. Josh Swade, a University of Kansas alumnus persuaded moneyed alumni to win the document at auction to give it to the University of Kansas. 

8- On 15 January 2021, Google Doodle honoured Dr. James Naismith. 

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