Google celebrates inventor of basketball, KU’s first head coach James Naismith

Kansas Jayhawks

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – James Naismith, the Canadian-American who invented the game of basketball, was celebrated with a Google Doodle on Friday.

On December 21, 1891 Naismith held the first-ever game of basketball as the physical education teacher at the YMCA college in Springfield. When an article about the game rules titled  “A New Game” was published in the college newspaper on January 15, 1892, basketball became popular.

The doodle that Google made up to celebrate Naismith is of two people throwing a ball into a basket while Naismith coaches.

James Naismith

Naismith, born on November 6, 1861, near the town of Almonte in Ontario, Canada was a physical educator, physician, Christian chaplain, sports coach, and innovator. He studied and taught physical education at Montreal’s McGill University before he moved to the United States and invented the game of Basketball in 1891.

Dr. James Naismith, inventor of basketball, in Lawrence, Kansas in November 1939. (AP Photo)

According to Wikipedia, Naismith was given 14 days to create an indoor game that would provide an “athletic distraction” that wouldn’t take up too much room, help the track athletes to keep in shape, and make it fair for all players and not too rough.

While thinking up the game, three main thoughts helped bring him to the game of Basketball. Naismith analyzed the most popular games of that time, rugby, lacrosse, soccer, football, hockey, and baseball, and decided that the big, soft soccer ball was the safest.

He then saw that most physical contact happened while running with the ball, dribbling or hitting it, so he decided that passing was the only legal option.

Lastly, he further reduced body contact by making the goal unguardable by placing it high above the player’s heads with the plane of the goal’s opening parallel to the floor. This placement forced the players to score goals by throwing a soft, lobbing shot into peach baskets. Naismith named the new game “Basket Ball and put his thoughts together in 13 rules.

Unlike the game of basketball that we see today, back then the players played nine versus nine, handled a soccer ball, not a basketball, and instead of shooting at two hoops, the goals were a pair of peach baskets.

The first game of “Basket Ball” was played in December 1891

He invented the game while he was teaching at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Seven years later, he received his medical degree in Denver and then became the Kansas Jayhawks’ Athletic Director and Coach at the University of Kansas and coached legends, Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith.

On November 19, 1939, Naismith suffered a major brain hemorrhage and died nine days later, the 28th, in his home in Lawrence, Kansas. He was 78 years old.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame is located in Springfield, “The Birthplace of Basketball” that offers a museum open to the public with more than 400 inductees and over 40,000 square feet of basketball history. The hours are from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Visitors will also notice more than $20 million worth of renovations. 

The Class of 2021 Enshrinement ceremony will be held in Springfield in September, include first-time nominees Doug Collins, Michael Cooper, Howard Garfinkel, Lou Henson, Paul Pierce, Val Ackerman, Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson.

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