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?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (144)
  • jacobh-1-sch
    12/21/2015 - 11:27 a.m.

    It didn't get off to good start because the kids got black eyes and one got knock out. It would be interesting to see how James Naismith would react to basketball today and how much it's changes over time.

  • John0724-YYCA
    12/21/2015 - 12:45 p.m.

    I guess that the first basketball game ever played should have been pretty rough because the rules weren't set that much. Also it should have been pretty rough because the article said that the people were more into football so people started to tackle each other. The first game that ever played had two people that got an black eye and it's rare to get a black eye in basketball. Now in the present we all have rules so its easier to play and safer to play.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    12/21/2015 - 12:50 p.m.

    I think that it is cool that scientists are uncovering a person who invented basketball because it might have been an important things in history that he had changed. I think that the man who invented basketball might have been able to change history by inventing a game when people who a lot of the times today. The game of basketball might have been able to become invented because he might have saw people threw a ball in a basket which gave him an idea. Basketball might not have been to become hard because a lot of people might have liked the idea of the game of basketball.

  • ethans-1-sch
    12/21/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    This is really cool, I learned a lot, and we were talking, its crazy how much basketball has changed. I wonder if the kids who played in the first game of basketball told stories to their kids.

  • ethanf-1-sch
    12/21/2015 - 01:57 p.m.

    basketball has changed a lot over the years there wasn't even a hole in the basket at the time.And you didn't dribble either it would have been cool to meet .

  • nathanh-sch
    12/21/2015 - 01:58 p.m.

    This is a fun artical to read about because basketball is a very fun sport to me and it is my favoret sport. I love this sport and it is fun to see that it is changed so much.

  • natashae-sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:07 p.m.

    This articles tells us more about basketball and for the people that love basketball might like the to know more about it.

  • ethans-1-sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:08 p.m.

    That is very cool, we were talking and like it crazy how much basketball has changed. I kind of wonder if like the kids that played the first basketball game told there kids about it, that they played the first game, or if it even mattered to them, they could of been like so what or they could have made it a big deal, I would have loved to see there reaction

  • jadej-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:47 p.m.

    I really like the story and I've already done a project because I love basketball.

  • alecco-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:47 p.m.

    He had a bucket and a ball and made a game out of it.

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