James Naismith - Sports Coach and Innovator from Canada

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In 1891, James Naismith, a Canadian-American physical educator, invented basketball.

James Naismith was a sports coach and innovator from Canada. In 1891, he invented basketball, and he is also credited with designing the first football helmet. He wrote the first basketball rulebook and founded the University of Kansas basketball program. For his contributions to sports, Naismith has received numerous posthumous honors. He died on November 28, 1939, in Kansas, at the age of 78.


James Naismith Early Life

Naismith was born on November 6, 1861, in Almonte, Ontario, Canada, the second child of Scottish immigrants. In 1894, he married Maude Evelyn Sherman in Springfield, Massachusetts, and they had five children. In 1925, he became an American citizen.


Why Naismith Created Basketball

Naismith left his position as athletics director at McGill University in Montreal around the age of 30 to teach physical education at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith was tasked by his boss with developing an indoor sports game to help athletes stay in shape during the harsh New England winters. This new game had to be "fair for all players and not too rough," according to Naismith's boss.

The end result was a basketball game. Naismith invented basketball in 1891, with 13 basic rules and 10-foot-high peach baskets as the goals for each 9-player team.

The game had grown so popular by 1893 that the YMCA began promoting it internationally, and it served as a demonstration sport at the Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904. By 1936, the sport had become an official event at the Berlin Summer Olympics. Naismith lived long enough to witness the birth of the National Invitation Tournament (1938) and the NCAA Tournament (1946). (1939).


James Naismith Enthusiasm for Physical Education

Despite the fact that his new sport was taking off, Naismith was said to be more interested in his career as a physical educator. In 1898, he moved to Denver to pursue his medical degree after leaving the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. He then established a basketball program at the University of Kansas, where he began a long line of prestigious basketball coaches, beginning with Phog Allen, who famously coached ace players-turned-coaches Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, and Ralph Miller. Naismith's tenure at the University of Kansas spanned nearly four decades. In 1937, he was a founding member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball, which later became the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). During his lifetime and after his death, he received numerous sports awards.


James Naismith Death and Legacy

Naismith suffered a severe brain hemorrhage in 1939. He died nine days later, on November 28, 1939, at the age of 78, in his Lawrence, Kansas, home. Basketball — its Origins and Development, his seminal work, was published two years after his death.

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