Currently on display at the High Plains Museum is the fantastic “K is for Kansas” traveling exhibit from the Kauffman Museum in North Newton. Featured in the exhibit are enlarged children’s blocks that detail different facets of Kansas from A to Z. Prominently featured on the “N” block is the story of James Naismith, the inventor of basketball.
James Naismith was born in 1861 in Ramsay township which is near Almonte, Ontario Canada. The idea for basketball came from a game Naismith played in school called duck-on-a-rock where the object of the game was to knock the duck off of a large rock by tossing another rock at it. In 1891, Naismith moved to Springfield Massachusetts where he went to work for the YMCA Training School. It was here that Naismith invented the game. It was originally played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets with the bottoms cut out of. In 1898, Naismith went to the University of Kansas where he taught physical education and became a chaplain. Naismith is the only men’s coach from KU to have a losing record; 55-60. He died in 1939 in Lawrence Kansas.
After the exhibit opened at the High Plains Museum, one patron suggested that Naismith was not the inventor of the popular indoor sport. The staff took it upon themselves to research the allegations. After undergoing researching through books, magazines, and creditable websites, staff was able to find one article suggesting that Naismith did not invent the game. The article suggested that while Naismith invented the name and the earliest version, it was Lambert G. Will that invented the game as we know it today. This article does not offer primary sources, however. Other articles indicate that Naismith invented the game of basketball, but was improved upon by people that Naismith asked for help in assessing the game.
While there has been some discussion over who invented the game of basketball the evidence suggests that James Naismith did invent the game. Naismith, a Canadian, came to the United States and developed the game for the YMCA in Springfield Massachusetts. From there Naismith moved to Lawrence Kansas and became the head coach of the men’s basketball team becoming the only men’s coach for the university in history to have a losing record.
To find out more about the controversy online, read the following articles:
History of Basketball: Thinkquest
Springfield College: The Birthplace of Basketball: Springfield College
History of Basketball Exhibit Coming to Campus: Geneva College
To find out more about Naismith, visit the Basketball Hall of Fame, and see the exhibit for yourself at the High Plains Museum–try your hand at making a basket in this interactive exhibit!