The man who invented basketball David, center, and Chandler Booth look at Suzanne Deal Booth as they pose for a photo next to James Naismith's original rules of Basket Ball on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Friday, March 4, 2011, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga/Charlie Riedel)
The man who invented basketball
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A University of Kansas researcher has discovered what is believed to be the only audio recording of basketball inventor James Naismith, during which he describes the first game he organized 124 years ago as a bit of a disaster.
 
Michael J. Zogry is an associate professor of religious studies. He obtained the nearly 3-minute audio in November from the Library of Congress. It was part of a radio show from New York station WOR-AM.  It was called "We the People." During the Jan. 31, 1939, program, Naismith explained how he set up the game with two peach baskets.  He was working at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. This was in December 1891.
 
Naismith said he had been given two weeks to devise a new indoor activity for his gym class. The work was hurried along by what he described as a "real New England blizzard."  The storm had the youngsters climbing the walls with little to do.
 
"We tried everything to keep them quiet," Naismith said on the recording. But the students were bored with a "modified" form of football tried in the gym. Naismith figured it was time to try his new idea. He used an "old soccer ball" and two teams of nine players each.
 
"I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team's peach basket," he said. "I blew a whistle and the first game of basketball began."
 
It didn't go smoothly. Naismith said the players almost immediately started tackling each other - and worse. Two young men suffered black eyes.  Another was knocked out, and he had to pull players apart, Naismith said.
 
"I didn't have enough (rules), and that's where I made my big mistake," Naismith said.
 
Naismith's description of that first game helps shed light on the process that led him to draft the 13 original rules of the game, Zogry told The Associated Press. It appears that he wrote the new rules shortly after the first game, although the exact timeline isn't clear, he said. Zogry intends to explore his findings with other research on that topic.
 
"What we know is there was the first game. Then there was a second game with the full complement of rules," Zogry said. "He said the players were nagging him about (the new rules) so it sounds like it happened in pretty quick fashion."
 
Naismith's grandson is Jim Naismith. He first heard his grandfather's voice once Zogry obtained the audio. He said the recording "changes just about everything that's been written about that first game."
 
"When he turned those 18 guys loose, obviously they were having a good time. But obviously this was kind of try number one. He commented and said he didn't write enough rules. It came out of that experience," Jim Naismith said in a university news release. "That makes a lot of sense."
 
Rob Rains is the author of "James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball," co-written with Naismith's granddaughter Hellen Carpenter. Rains said he didn't know any other audio recording of Naismith. He said the recording suggests that the game "was modified much more quickly than we first thought."
 
Zogry said he was surprised to discover the audio and realize it was the only existing recording of Naismith's voice.
 
He called the discovery "very exciting."
 
The University of Kansas, where Naismith worked for 40 years and was the first basketball coach, has obtained the 13 original rules. The university is building a structure to house them.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did the first basketball game get off to a rough start?
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COMMENTS (138)
  • markm-3-bar
    12/19/2015 - 10:44 a.m.

    The first basketball game got off to a rough start because there were nkt enough rules. All of the players were fouling eachother and not making any sense.

    This article I thought was really interesting because i never really thought of these types of things like who Invented these major games and how they came along. I think that there should be more studies in this topic. Not just basketball but all sports.

  • melissaj-Ste
    12/19/2015 - 03:41 p.m.

    I can only imagine what James Naismith's reaction would be to basketball today. The way Naismith describes the first game of basketball sounds more like rugby than what everyone thinks of basketball. I wonder if the kids who played in the first game of "basketball" told stories to their children.

  • whitneyho-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    The story told about how the guy had to keep his YMCA class occupied. It told about how he had a peach basket and a ball. I liked to learn about the history.

  • bioncawe-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 10:13 a.m.

    I like this story because it involves basketball and my favorite sport is basketball. I love learning backstories on sports. I love reading about basketball because if I find someone really good, she will be my idle.

  • wyattg-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 10:21 a.m.

    This is a good story to read if you want to learn about basketball and you learn how you basketball was 1st played and how it has evolved.

  • sammij-1-sch
    12/21/2015 - 11:20 a.m.

    I think that it is neat how much the game has changed. I think it is cool to see where basketball came from. The first game that he said seemed crazy because it is so different from what we know today. I think that this was a good story to read if you wanted to know where it came from.

  • allisons-1-sch
    12/21/2015 - 11:26 a.m.

    I would not want to be one of the players that played the first game. I wouldn't want to be around the game when it happened.

  • walkerge-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 11:26 a.m.

    I like this story because i like basketball and i like how it said kids tackled each other in the first game and how he said he didn't make enough rules right away. And there are differences now like we have a 5 man team not a 9 men team and I'm really glad that kids were bored back then or we wouldn't have basketball

    • fio6809-
      1/04/2016 - 02:46 p.m.

      me to the story was good but the ruff housing was not because all of the players got hurt and people getting hurt is not nice because they could have gotten hurt from other players but if the coach described what to do then the players would not have gotten hurt. I'm very concerned what the coach was thinking

  • kolbyn-1-sch
    12/21/2015 - 11:26 a.m.

    This story is a really interesting because basketball is an interesting sport and it is cool to learn about. It is crazy how he described it and its cool how much it has changed over the time.

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