This next story starts with a question…If I asked you what James Naismith, a fast-food restaurant and a local college all have in common, would you know the answer? Here’s a clue, they all have something to do with a sport that was invented 130 years ago…
If you guessed basketball, you are correct.
Producer Dave Fraser heads to Springfield College and hits the school archives to uncover more about James Naismith’s invention of the game. Meet the first “team” to ever play hoops, explore the original rule book, and hear both the men’s and women’s Springfield College basketball coaches talk about the legacy of the sport.
𝘈𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘷𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘴𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘚𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘧𝘪𝘦𝘭𝘥 𝘊𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘨𝘦 𝘚𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘊𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘈𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘴 & 𝘚𝘮𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘊𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘨𝘦 𝘚𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘊𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘈𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘴.
This segment originally aired on January 20, 2022.
Read the full transcription:
Tony Dunne, Connecting Point: If I asked you what James Naismith, a fast food restaurant, and a local college all have in common, would you know the answer?
Here’s a clue. They all have something to do with a sport that was invented a hundred and thirty years ago.
Well, if you guessed basketball, you’re correct. And producer Dave Fraser shares the story of how it all started right here in Springfield.
Dave Fraser: On the campus of Springfield College, the legacy of Dr. James Naismith is well represented, and rightfully so. The game he invented happened just a short distance down the road in the city’s Mason Square neighborhood, inside this building, which has now been replaced by a fast food restaurant.
Across the street, a monument with plexiglass panels helped tell the story of how this 30-year-old physical education instructor created an athletic distraction that became a worldwide phenomenon.
Marty Dobrow, Springfield College: From the very humble origins of this game, it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon with immense popularity. One of the most popular sports in the world.
Dave Fraser: Judd Gymnasium is the oldest building on campus, and it houses the school’s history museum that includes many artifacts and memorabilia related to Naismith and the early development of the game.
Marty Dobrow: As the legend has it, you know, put up these peach baskets that didn’t have an opening underneath them. After each time that a basket was scored, they would go back and have a jump ball.
The ball would obviously be stuck in the peach basket. It took a while until someone had the brilliant idea “Let’s, you know, let’s cut the bottom of this.”
Dave Fraser: Since that initial introduction in December of 1891, the game quickly spread throughout New England and around the world, impacting the lives of hundreds of millions across all ages. Basketball is now played around the globe by both men and women.
Naomi Graves is the head coach for the Springfield women’s basketball team. She fell in love with the sport at an early age.
Naomi Graves, Springfield College Women’s Basketball: Well, I think it was the backyard fun that you played with both men and women, girls and boys, you know, in the backyard. Everybody had a basketball. I grew up where basketball was really important, up in western Massachusetts.
And then in my high school, it was — it was –I was tall and I liked the game. So, Coach identified me as a player and taught me the game. And then before you knew it, I fell in love with it.
Dave Fraser: The game played today is probably not what Naismith envisioned when he first introduced it. His initial 13 rules included no dribbling, dunking, or three pointers. There was no shot clock, but goaltending was legal.
Naismith himself recalled that first game in a 1939 radio interview that aired on WOR AM in New York City.
James Naismith (Archived Audio Recording): The boys began tackling, kicking, and punching in the clinches. Before I could pull them apart, one boy was knocked out, several of them with black eyes and one had a dislocated shoulder.
Something had to be done.
Dave Fraser: The rules would be modified to include dribbling and fouls, and other changes would evolve throughout the years.
In 1892, less than a year after Naismith created the sport, Smith College Gymnastics instructor Senda Berenson introduced the game to women’s athletics and by 1905, basketball was officially recognized as a permanent winter sport.
Charlie Brock is in his 24th season as the coach of the men’s basketball team at Springfield College.
Charlie Brock, Springfield College Men’s Basketball: You know, the game has changed so much in the 40 plus years, forty- five years I’ve been involved in it. And part of that’s rule changes and part of that’s the way the game is played and the athleticism and the skill set of the players, certainly today.
It isn’t something we talk about daily, but the kids know and feel the impact of the fact that they’re playing at the birthplace of basketball, and it’s got a somewhat of a mystique to it.
Marty Dobrow: The reach of the game is very, very wide. I know over the years when I’ve spoken with basketball players here — I’m in my twenty third year of teaching — and I’ve gotten to know a number of the players. And uniformly, they feel a, you know, a great sense of joy and pride of playing the game at the place where it started.