This Day In History: December 21

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On December 21, 1891, 30-year-old James Naismith introduces the first game of basketball. Based on 13 rules created by Naismith, the game is tested by 18 students at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Two teams of nine players each compete against each other, with the objective to throw a soccer ball into a peach basket attached to a balcony 10 feet above the floor.

In the early 1890s, Naismith—who was born in Canada—moved on from his job in Montreal as McGill University's athletic director to become a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School. Bored and unruly students needed an activity during difficult New England winters. So, Naismith took up another teacher's challenge to keep students in line. 

“I called the boys to the gym, divided them up into teams of nine and gave them a little soccer ball,” Naismith recalled in a 1939 radio interview that aired on WOR-AM in New York City. “I showed them two peach baskets I’d nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s peach basket. I blew the whistle, and the first game of basketball began.”

A jump ball was held after each made basket.

"The invention of basketball was not an accident," Naismith said. "It was developed to meet a need. Those boys simply would not play 'Drop the Handkerchief.'"

Under two different sets of rules, the first organized collegiate basketball games were played in the mid-1890s. 

Naismith, who died in 1939, became the first basketball coach at Kansas University, where he led the Jayhawks from 1898-1907. 

READ  MORE: The Lithuanian Immigrant Who Launched the First Women’s College Basketball Game

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