Story of Basketball

Story of Basketball

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688143176
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/01/1997
Edition description: REVISED
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 7.26(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Dave Anderson has been a sportswriter for the New York Times since 1966 and one of its "Sports of the Times" columnists since 1971. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for distinguished commentary. Anderson has written twenty-one books and more than three hundred fifty magazine articles. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and now lives in Tenafly, New Jersey, with his wife, Maureen. They have four grown children: Stephen, Mark, Mary Jo, and Jean Marie.

Read an Excerpt

In The Beginning

Dr. Naismith's Peach Baskets

For some youngsters, it starts with aiming a rolled-up wad of paper at a wastebasket. Others toss an empty soda can into a trash bin or flip an apple core into a garbage bag. But for Larry Bird, the legendary Boston Celtic forward from French Lick, Indiana, it started with a coffee can.

"When we were growing up," Bird says of himself and his brothers, "before we got a real basketball hoop, we used a coffee can and tried to shoot one of those small sponge-rubber balls through it."

Basketball is big business now, performed on big stages in big arenas by big players for big money. The National Basketball Association playoffs and the college Final Four are seen on television by millions. High school tournaments stir entire states. But it's also a game for kids in gyms and playgrounds and rural backyards, shooting a basketball at a hoop, sometimes with others, sometimes alone. For nearly a century, from the Original Celtics to the Boston Celtics, from the two-handed set shot to the slam dunk, a ball and a hoop have endured as the essence of the sport, not that much different from the leather soccer ball that Dr. James Naismith tossed to his students late in 1891 and the wooden peach baskets nailed to the balcony railings at each end of the gymnasium in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Unlike other sports, basketball is considered to be a pure American sport, invented in America for Americans. Baseball evolved from rounders, a British game. Football evolved from soccer and rugby, other British games. Golf is believed to have been developed by Scottish shepherds, tennis by Frenchclerics, hockey by Canadian soldiers. Horse racing, track-and-field, swimming, and boxing are as old as humankind. But the beginning of basketball has been documented by its inventor.

Then thirty years old, with a bushy mustache, Canadian-born Naismith was a physical education instructor at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School, now Springfield College. In that era, the school trained physical education instructors for YMCAs throughout the nation.

In addition to the daily classroom work, an hour of physical education activity was required. In the fall the students played what was then a new game, football. In the spring they went outdoors to play baseball. But during the winter months they were confined indoors for calisthenics and marching. When the students complained, gymnastics were substituted. But the students continued to complain. Naismith, who had spent three years studying for the ministry before deciding to devote himself to physical education, was asked to take over the class by Dr. Luther S. Gulick, the head of the school's physical education department.

"In the fall of '91," Naismith wrote in 1937 while a professor at the University of Kansas, the physical fitness directors of the country "had come to the conclusion that maybe neither the German, Swedish, or French system gave us the kind of work that would hold our membership in the Y's.

" We decided that there should be a game that could be played indoors in the evening and during the winter seasons. I began to think of the fundamental principles of all games. I discovered that in all team games some kind of a ball was used. The next step was to appreciate the fact that football was rough because you had to allow the defense to tackle because the offense ran with the ball. Accordingly, if the offense didn't have an opportunity to run with the ball, there would be no necessity for tackling, and we would thus eliminate roughness.

"This is the fundamental principle of basketball.

"The next step was to secure some kind of a goal through which the ball could be passed. In thinking of upright goals, the fact was brought out that the more force that was put on the ball, the more likelihood there was of having it pass through the goal. it then occurred to me that if the ball were thrown in a curve, it would not be necessary or advisable to put too much force on the ball.

"I decided that by making the goal horizontal the ball would have to be thrown in a curve, minimizing the severe driving of a ball. In order to avoid having the defense congregate around the goal, it was placed above their heads, so that once the ball left the individual's hands, it was not likely to be interfered with.

"Then rules were made to eliminate roughness such as shouldering, pushing, kicking, etc. The ball was to be handled with the hands only. It could not be drawn into the body and thus encourage roughness.

"The manner of putting the ball into play was then considered. Two individuals were selected and took their stations in the middle of the floor. The ball was thrown up so as to land between them, giving as nearly equal chance as possible. The nearest approach to the ball needed was the soccer ball, which we selected.

"To get goals, we used a couple of old peach baskets, hanging one at each end of the gym. From this, basketball developed."

The Original Rules

Before the first basketball game was played in the Springfield gym, Dr. Naismith posted a copy of his original thirteen rules, some of which have never had to be changed:

1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.

2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist).

3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running if he tries to stop.

4. The ball must be held in the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.

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