Statue of Dr. Jame Naismith, Inventor of basketball
Mar 12, 2018

How the YMCA Invented Basketball 127 Years Ago

March is the most exciting time of year for sports fans, and millions of people across the world come to the Y for the physical, mental and social benefits of sports.

But did you know basketball was invented at the Y?

In 1890, a Canadian farm boy named James Naismith moved to Massachusetts to attend the YMCA International Training School, which later became Springfield College. As a faculty member a year later, the Y asked Naismith to invent a new game that would be interesting, easy to learn and easy to play indoors in the winter.

However, Naismith had been assigned a “class of incorrigibles,” a group of young men completely uninterested in exercise. After his attempts to modify soccer and football failed miserably, Naismith looked deeper into the philosophy of sports until he came up with a few essentials for a new game: a ball, two goals and a way to encourage teamwork instead of violence.

He eventually settled on a soccer ball, since smaller balls required equipment to handle. To cut down on the roughness inherent in sports like football and hockey, Naismith decided to make it illegal to move with the ball, thus establishing the teamwork-based techniques of passing, as well as a nonviolent defensive framework based on intercepting passes. For goals, Naismith asked the building superintendent for a pair of boxes, but the closest things available were peach baskets.

Basketball was born. The score of the first game on December 21, 1891 was 1-0. Naismith hadn’t thought to cut out the bottoms of the peach baskets just yet.

Over the next century, basketball would become one of the most popular sports in the world, thanks in large part to athletes at the YMCA, athletes like Wilt Chamberlain, Christian Laettner and Cliff Robinson, who all played basketball at the Y before becoming NBA stars. More than just a great way to stay in shape, basketball fosters youth development and social responsibility by emphasizing teamwork, communication and good sportsmanship.

Today, the YMCA of Metro Chicago has basketball classes, clinics and leagues for all ages. Click here to register!