Why you can thank Canada for basketball, one of the world’s most popular sports

Swish: A history of basketball
ABOVE: How Canadian James Naismith created basketball, one of the world’s most popular sports. The first game was played on Dec. 21, 1891 – Naismith watched the game he invented turn into an Olympic sport.

All it took was a good old New England snowstorm, a Canadian from Almonte, Ont., and a couple of peach baskets for the world to be introduced to one of the most popular sports – the game of basketball.

In 1891, Dr. James Naismith, a former McGill University phys-ed teacher, took a teaching job at YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Mass.

There the Canadian was tasked with creating a new indoor activity for his gym class during the harsh winter. After attempts at keeping his students occupied with modified versions of typical outdoor sports, Naismith came up with a new idea.

“One day I had an idea. I called the boys to the gym. Divided them up into teams of nine and gave them an old soccer ball,” Naismith explained during a rare radio interview in 1939. “I showed them two peach baskets I 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 a whistle and the first game of basketball began.”

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READ MORE: Only known audio recording found of Canadian who invented basketball

The inventor admitted he made a “big mistake” by not having enough rules during his game’s premier.

“The boys began tackling, kicking and punching in the clinches. They ended up in a free-for-all in the middle of the gym floor,” Naismith explained to New York radio station WOR-AM. “Before I could pull them apart, one boy was knocked out, several of them had black eyes and one had a dislocated shoulder. It certainly was murder.”

That’s when Naismith created the 13 original rules of the game.

“The most important one was there should be no running with the ball. That stopped tackling and slugging,” Naismith said.

From there, Naismith went on to witness his game’s debut at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Naismith went on to work at the University of Kansas for 40 years before retiring in 1937. Naismith died in 1939 at the age of 78.

Read more Canada 150 coverage.

Infographic created by Neil Sangani/Global News

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In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, History has unveiled a slate of digital shorts, titled Thank You, Canada, reflecting our historical successes and milestones. They’ll be rolling out from now until Canada Day (July 1).

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