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Basketball is one of the most popular team sports in the world. Skill, not strength and speed, is the key. People of all ages play the game in school gyms, local men’s and women’s clubs or on outdoor concrete courts located in parks, in backyards or on driveways. Those with physical disabilities play wheelchair basketball. Men and women play the game professionally, some earning millions of dollars a year. This is certainly a far cry from James Naismith’s expectations when he nailed two peach baskets on opposite walls of a school gymnasium.

Canadian James Naismith was born in Almonte, Ontario, and was a graduate of McGill university and the Presbyterian Theological College. In 1891 one of the various courses assigned him teaching at the International Young Men’s Christian Training College in Springfield, Massachusetts, was physical education. Summer was over and he needed a way to keep a group of bored, trouble-making young men interested in their gym class. In those days phys-ed consisted of callisthenics, gymnastics and repetitive drills. Naismith, who was a true advocate of the adage, “healthy body, healthy mind”, was quite determined to get the young men in his class actively interested in sports by coming up with a new indoor game for them to play.

At first he tried modifying aspects of soccer, lacrosse and football,but without success. He sat down and analysed what he would like to see in an indoor sport. Since he wanted no out-and-out rough-housing on the hardwood floor, he decided using a large ball about the size of a soccer ball would work. Next he decided that players would not be allowed the run with the ball, and that an elevated goal would make the game that much more challenging.

By December 21, 1891, Naismith had compiled a rough list of 13 basic rules, posted them on the school bulletin board and with the assistance of the janitor, nailed two peach baskets on opposite ends of the gymnasium. He even managed to convince the janitor to climb a ladder and retrieve the ball each time a player successfully landed it in a peach basket.

Students loved the game and it wasn’t long before schools and colleges across the country caught basketball fever and introduced the game to their own institutions. The last thing Naismith did was invent a name for his wildly successful game. A few of his students suggested Naismith-ball, but he decided that would never work and they eventually settled on basketball.

One of the greatest stories in basketball history is that of a Canadian women’s team called the “Grads”. The Edmonton Commercial Graduates were champions of the game from 1915-1940. Arenas all around the world were jammed when these six women came to play. During the years they ruled the courts they won an incredible 502 out of the 522 games they played. They claimed the title of world champions in a surprise victory over the Cleveland Favorite-Knits, then were North American Champions from 1923 - 1940. They played in 4 Olympics winning all their games. The Grads overall winning average was calculated at an amazing 96%. These ladies greatest motivation was simply the pure love ofbasketball. As James Naismith stated, “they are the finest team that ever stepped out on a floor”.

James Naismith was eventually inducted into the Springfield Basketball Hall of Fame and received various other accolades for his achievement. A man of strong religious principles and one who loved sports, he could have never have envisioned what he gave to the world by inventing his simple game called basketball.