In January 1891, Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. The school, created as a training ground for missionaries, has a mission to prepare people to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
The roots of the game and Christianity were forever linked in the mind of Dr. Naismith. The idea for basketball came to him when he decided that those living in the bitterly cold northeastern winters needed an indoor game. He wanted a game that was more graceful than football and much simpler than baseball. He wanted a game where finesse would be as essential as power.
It was a Sunday night…late in January, when the Doctor stayed up to the early morning hours drafting the rules of the game. Originally, there were thirteen (just like the thirteen colonies.) He asked the janitor the find two half-bushel peach baskets and hang them from the balcony that encircled the gymnasium.
The first game ended when a future missionary scored on twenty-five foot shot. The score of the initial contest: 2-0.
As the young missionaries left the YMCA Training school, they were enjoined to share the game with anyone who would listen. By the 1936 Olympics, organized basketball was being played in more than 150 countries and the rules had been translated into fifty different languages.
Dr. Naismith believed that basketball should be kept simple: A basket… A ball…A boy or a girl.
He felt that other sports were inherently elitist in nature requiring too much money or equipment to participate. He often said that his game—basketball—would be a game for the masses and not only the wealthy. It is no wonder that basketball has such great appeal in inner cities and rural farming communities.
Dr. Naismith said that Christianity was a religion of courage founded on courage—and, he wanted his game to be an activity that developed both the mind and the body. He wanted the principles of courage to be taught through the competition inherent in playing the game.
Today, basketball is the most popular participant sport in the entire world. And, around the globe more girls under the age of 18 regularly play basketball, surpassing soccer and volleyball by more than five million.
Dr Naismith said: “Basketball is easy to play, but very extremely difficult to master. You can just decide to play it, or you can choose to master it. Or, you can be any place in between and still have an enjoyable experience.
I believe in basketball the way that Dr. Naismith believed in basketball. It has the power to change lives. I have seen this power firsthand. I have experienced it myself. That is why we coach—to help kids see that game itself is what must matter. And, when it comes to matter to you, you will be endlessly changed into a better student, a better player, and a better person.