Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Tuesday 12th December 2017 | Manchester, UK

Naismith & Basketball

It’s hard not to focus on all the negativity in the news and media today. But in times like these, sport has the ability to lift our spirits. If your favourite team experiences success, that energy washes off onto you. Hopefully, this article will inspire a greater appreciation of one of the biggest global sports.

What is now one of the most popular sports in the world had a very humble beginning. Basketball was created in a Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA gymnasium in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith. Dr Naismith was given 14 days to create an indoor game to provide a creative and healthy indoor “athletic distraction” for a rowdy class of students during the brutal New England winter.

Naismith had the idea of attaching baskets high on the wall and having players attempt to throw a ball into the basket as a score. Confronted with the problem of constantly needing someone to remove the ball from the basket, Naismith cut out the bottom of the basket, allowing the ball to fall through.

It is believed that Naismith drew up the original 13 rules of his new game of Basketball in about an hour. Most of these rules still apply today. Basketball became an instant success. Both players and fans were delighted at the prospect of being able to exercise in a fast moving and entertaining indoor game, shielded from the sharp bite of the hard winter.

It is difficult to say whether Naismith himself would have predicted the development of his newfound game and the global impact it currently has, both in its entertainment value and business accruement. Basketball is one of the world’s largest sports and is presently estimated to be played by over 400 million people, whilst having a fan population of over 2 billion. It is most popular in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States of America, where some of the most well-known sportsmen have played and revolutionised Naismith’s game. These include Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James, who have a combined net worth of over $2 billion.

It’s funny to think that a sport we always hear about is so relatively young. Looking at the developments since its origin, the sky is the limit for basketball. We should never overlook the positive impact it has, both on and off the court.

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