In 1891, James Naismith was sitting around watching clouds and butterflies in the Springfield, MA sky and decided to invent basketball. Actually, I’m not sure there were clouds and butterflies. And there wasn’t any sky because Naismith was inside.
The real story. Naismith went to college at McGill (in Canada) where he played pretty much every team sport, including gymnastics. Then he graduated and became the director of athletics at McGill and eventually moved to Springfield, MA, to be a physical education teacher (that was in the days when it was called physical education because we hadn’t invented the word “gym” yet) at the YMCA International Training School (now Springfield College).
In case you hadn’t thought about it, I should point out that it is not tropical in Springfield, MA, in the winter. In fact, it is downright cold. And up to that point, indoor games were not physical enough to burn off the energy Naismith’s class brought to the Y every day.
The head of the Physical Education department told Naismith to invent a game (in 14 days) that would “provide a physical distraction.” The game also had to 1. Not take up too much space, 2. Keep the track athletes in shape, and 3. Be fair and not too rough.
Naismith got to work and poof! basketball was invented. As he created the new game, Naismith wanted a game that didn’t have the hazards of a small ball or puck (so he used the big, soft soccer ball). He decided passing was the safest (there was no such thing as dribbling at that point—players had to pass the ball from the point at which it was passed to them). And he reduced body contact by nailing the baskets (peach baskets at the time) over player’s heads so that the goal was unguardable.
Clearly modern day basketball has poo-pooed the no contact part of the original rules.
The first game of basketball was played December 15, 1891. During the first game “Most of the fouls were called for running with the ball, though tackling the man with the ball was not uncommon.”
In 1904, basketball became a demonstration sport at the Olympics in St. Louis, and in 1936 became an official sport in the 1936 games. Cool note: Naismith got to hand out the medals: US (gold), Canada (silver), Mexico (bronze) and was named the honorary president of the International Basketball Federation.