January 15

1892 James Naismith publishes the rules of basketball

James Naismith (1861-1939) was a Canadian physical education instructor who was charged in 1892 while working at the Springfield YMCA with the task of inventing a new game to keep rowdy pupils amused during the New England winter. His superior specified that the sport not be too rough, nor take up too much room. Naismith conceived of a game that would require participants (at first 9 a side) to throw a soccer ball into a peach basket ten feet above the gym floor. To keep physical contact to a minimum the ball could only be advanced by passing it — no dribbling or running with it was allowed.  (Early experiments had resulted in tackles, black eyes, and a concussion.)

These are the original 13 rules:

  1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
  2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with fist).
  3. A player cannot run with the ball, the player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed.
  4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.
  5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitute allowed.
  6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of rules 3 and 4, and such described in rule 5.
  7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).
  8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there (without falling), providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edge, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
  9. When the ball goes out of bounds it shall be thrown into the field and played by the first person touching it. In case of dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower in is allowed five seconds, if he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on them.
  10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls, and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify people according to Rule 5.
  11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.
  12. The time shall be two fifteen minute halves, with five minutes rest between.
  13. The side making the most goals in that time is declared the winner. In case of a drew game may, by agreement of the captain, by continued until another goal is made.

The new sport dubbed “Basket Ball” spread throughout schools and colleges. Naismith himself became the basketball coach at the University of Kansas and has the dubious distinction of being the only mentor with a losing record (55-60) in the history of the school.

It is worth noting that Naismith himself was an accomplished athlete, representing McGill University in football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, and gymnastics. While playing football for Springfield he was coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg and scored a touchdown in an indoor game at Madison Square Garden.

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