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)
  • logan2014-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:48 p.m.

    I think it was interesting how volleyball turned into basketball in a way. It is cool how a man created basketball because basketball was always around in my lifetime.

  • carleeso-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:48 p.m.

    I chose this because it sounded interesting. It was an okay story about the invention of basketball. It's cool that the first game was violent.

  • jadenmc-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:51 p.m.

    I think it would be cool to event basketball Its my favorite sport and how he just started to shoot a volleyball in peach baskets to a sport who everyone likes well most people like it.

  • karterh-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:52 p.m.

    that he invented it when a storm and it was nearly 3 minute long recording and it was recored and library congress.

  • william1108-yyca
    12/21/2015 - 03:00 p.m.

    It is amazing that James was the one that invented basketball. But I feel like teaching people how to play must have been hard because maybe when people don't want to play and then they want to play because they saw other people play then James will have to show other people again.So t must have been tiring. So I think basketball is a good game. Even I play it now.

    Critical thinking question: Why did the first basketball game get off to a rough start?

    Answer: Because he had to turn 18 guys loose.

  • hoiercam000-hay
    12/21/2015 - 03:51 p.m.

    The first basketball game got off to a rough start because James Naismith did not write enough rules.

  • heldjos000-hay
    12/21/2015 - 04:05 p.m.

    ya and it look's like he broke his arm to while playing

  • heldjos000-hay
    12/22/2015 - 10:19 a.m.

    i thought michael jordan invented basket ball well i thought wrong.

  • virginiam-2-bar
    1/01/2016 - 02:22 p.m.

    I think that the first basketball game started off so roughy because there weren't enough rules so it was hard to play a well organized game. Also, none of the players had any experience or skills so it would be hard to shot, dribble, or pass effectively. Trying to play a game that no one is good at seems like it can be hard and frustrating.

  • ryleeg-
    1/04/2016 - 10:53 a.m.

    The story exlapaned that he went and fowled his dream.

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