On March 11, 1892, the first ever recognized public basketball game took place. It was on this day that the Armory Hill YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts hosted what turned out to be a landmark sport for fans to follow in the winter months. About 200 fans were on hand to witness history in the making.
In December 1891, basketball inventor and Canadian-born Dr. James Naismith was under immense pressure by Dr. Luther Gulick at Springfield College when classes were first taught at the Armory Hill YMCA. Not wanting to create a sport with hazardous activity, he decided against a small ball by opting for a soccer ball. He decided the only way to advance the ball is by passing it to another teammate. The last thing he wanted to do was make the goals un-guardable by placing them high out of the immediate reach of players. And that is when he came up with peach baskets with the top cut out for players to score as they put the ball through them.
Later that month after he established his own rules for the game, the first game played took place. Many of the players weren't excited about the new game, but decided to trust Naismith anyway.
Here were some of the rules used at the time that no longer apply to modern version of the game today:
-Nine players instead of five played for each team.
-A soccer ball was used instead of a basketball.
-What later became known as dribbling wasn't allowed. Passing was the only way to advance the ball.
-Fouls occurred when players ran with the ball, but it wasn't uncommon to see players being tackled with it either.
-After each goal, a jump ball took place in the middle of the court.
-1 point was scored for a goal.
By January 1892, the first game was played at the Armory Hill YMCA, but it was closed off to the public. The final score was 1-0 when the winning shot came from 25 feet(7.6M) away on a court about half the size of the modern courts of today. The idea came along well, and it was beginning to be accepted as an indoor sport for Naismith's rowdy students in the winter months.
The first public game took place between students of Springfield College against the faculty. The students were able to dominate the game against the faculty by winning 5-1. Amos Alonzo Stagg, an instructor at the time at the YMCA school, scored the only goal for the faculty in the game. Stagg went on to become a legendary sports figure, most notably in college football.
Naismith's game received publicity around campus as the "New Game" had been headlined in the "The Triangle", Springfield College's newspaper.
As a result of this game, it wasn't long before YMCAs across the U.S. had adopted the game into their sports programs in 1893 since it didn't require much equipment and that it could be played indoors or outdoors.
Naismith later left Springfield for Denver, Colorado to acquire a medical degree. By 1898, he ended up at the University of Kansas where he was originally hired as a physical education instructor as well as chapel director. But Naismith founded the school's basketball program, and the Jayhawks are one of the most prestigious programs in the history of the college game.
While Naismith is the only coach with a losing record in the program's history(55-60), he did coach his eventual successor at the university: Forest "Phog" Allen.
Allen later coached future coaching legends Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith at the university. He was also the person behind the idea of what is now the NCAA Tournament that began in 1939, and has gone on to be known as March Madness. When Dean Smith retired from North Carolina as head coach in 1997, Smith, Rupp, and Allen were 1-2-3 on the all-time wins list for head coaches.
YMCAs were predominantly the ones playing organized basketball games until the turn of the century when colleges began to adopt the sport into their programs.
As for basketball itself, the first ever game involving five-on-five play occurred in 1895 when the School of Agriculture won 9-3 against Hamline University on the road. Women began to take notice of the sport not long after even though the first game they played resembled the original rules of Naismith.
In February 1896, the first organized women's basketball game took place as Stanford beat Berkley 2-1 in a 9-on-9 game. The women's game had been more organized in its early existence.
By 1905, a women's committee was founded as they adopted their own rules of six to nine players per team as well as 11 officials. By 1925, 37 women's high school varsity state tournaments were held. Under men's rules, the first ever national championship in basketball for women was established.
The peach baskets were used and nailed to walls which caused too many problems as it led to a change. By 1906, metal rims with backboards were used for the first time.
As for Stagg, he left Springfield College for Chicago University. Although he accomplished much for the game of college football, his contributions to basketball were very notable, too.
In 1896, Stagg was the first coach to take part in a 5-on-5 game of basketball as Chicago beat Iowa University 15-12.
In 1917, Stagg organized a basketball national championship for high school teams called the National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament. Though it was discontinued by 1931, the impact forever changed the rules for high schools across the nation.
Stagg also coached the football team at Chicago as he became one of the most successful coaches in the history of the game. It was the lateral pass that has first been used in basketball that he later used to great success in American football later on. He was also the first to motion players before a snap as well as other forms of trickery on the field including the "Statue of Liberty" play. He was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
The sport officially went international as basketball was first played at the Olympics in 1936 at Berlin, Germany. Naismith, never one to self-promote the game or what he did to popularize it, was given the honor to hand out the medals at those Olympic games. The United States finished with a gold medal, Canada received silver, and Mexico received bronze. He was named Honorary President of the International Basketball Federation during those Olympics. Naismith later admitted that seeing the game being played by many nations was his greatest accomplishment.
With the success of the game in high school and in college, basketball didn't have a professional league until 1946 called the Basketball Association of America(BAA). It later became the National Basketball Association(NBA) after a merger with the National Basketball League. The upstart American Basketball Association(ABA) was established in 1967 that challenged the NBA. The NBA and ABA merged for good by 1976, and the NBA is the oldest and most successful basketball organization in the world. But the creations of professional basketball leagues didn't become just limited to the U.S.
In 1975, the Philippine Basketball Association was established as they played their first game on April 9, 1975 at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. Their rules are adopted from the NBA and FIBA. The organization is the second oldest professional basketball league in the world behind the NBA.
Basketball's success has led to many stars from around the world such as Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol coming into the NBA. It continues to grow internationally, and is widely accepted as a favorite sport across the world.
No one of the 200 people that attended quite knew the impact this game had at a local YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts would have on this day in 1892. Naismith's creation as well as direct and indirect connections to future American sports legends such as Stagg, "Phog" Allen, Rupp, and Dean Smith cannot be understated. Though basketball experienced troubling times in all levels of the game in its existence, Naismith deservedly should get credit where it is due for creating a game that has left its mark in societies across the world.
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