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, an associate professor of religious studies, 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 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 investigate 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, Jim Naismith, 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, the author of "James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball," co-written with Naismith's granddaughter Hellen Carpenter, 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.
 
"That I was able to find something like this in this day and age, when the media is ubiquitous, to actually find a form of media that had been lost to history and be able to share it with the public through the KU archives is very exciting," he said.
 
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 (136)
  • aydens1-jac
    12/18/2015 - 06:03 p.m.

    I think when Naismith started the first game he wasn't thinking about if the players were or were not going to get hurt. Like for example when he first started the game he had no rules regarding safety which ended up in 2 black eyes and someone getting knocked out. This is what I think about the first game of Basketball.

  • ethanar-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 10:17 a.m.

    I think it was good how he didn't give up on the game and figured out all the problems with it. I'm sure he never thought it would get this big and I wish he was still alive to see how big it is today.

  • Brandon1231-YYCA
    12/21/2015 - 12:44 p.m.

    This man created basketball very long time ago and I never knew that someone from that long time ago created a ball game that is still played to this day. It is very popular today, and I wonder if it was popular when it was created. I wonder if that they really beat each other up when they started their first game. Having them even fight for the ball is weird. I think that our rules were much better than the rules back then. I hope that they can make basketball more safer in any way they can. And when they do, then everyone will love to play basketball .

  • sethst-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    He didn't have enough rules and people we injured one of them got nocked out so they had to make some more rules witch took some time to do.

  • bierscar000-hay
    12/21/2015 - 02:49 p.m.

    The story the man who invented basketball is very interesting.

  • kyliea-Sch
    12/21/2015 - 02:55 p.m.

    This story would be really good to work on in class for social studies. Because it talks about history and we always want to know more and we can learn about basketball.

  • alexanderc-6-bar
    1/03/2016 - 02:59 p.m.

    The first basketball game didn't go so well because people started to tackle each other and they were knocked out and had some black eyes. Still, I believe that the first game of basketball was revolutionary for it being the first game in one of the most popular sports in the world.

  • austinm-mci
    1/05/2016 - 11:50 a.m.

    it was a rill interesting articall

  • hectorj-mci
    1/05/2016 - 11:54 a.m.

    It will be more better if they did more rules. If they did more rules the first time it wouldn't been a disaster.

  • victoriak-ver
    1/06/2016 - 08:44 a.m.

    The first basketball game got off to a rough start because James Naismith did not write enough rules for the players to follow. So, in the text it says that one player got knocked out, a couple players had black eyes, and that he had to pull players off of each other.

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