Basketball players around the world like to say they're in it for the love of the sport, but the origins of the game itself aren't so romantic. It wasn’t exactly passion or inspiration that drove inventor James Naismith, but rather, that time-honored instigator: necessity.
The winter of 1891 was a particularly harsh one in New England. Naismith was a physical education teacher at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts), and was struggling with how to keep his students active inside when the weather outside was frightful.
Naismith recounted the story to New York radio show “We The People” in January 1939:
“I called the boys to the gym. I showed them two peach baskets I’d nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s peach basket. I blew a whistle, and the first game of basketball began.”
The recording was recently discovered at the Library of Congress by a University of Kansas professor researching the basketball mastermind. Naismith died later in 1939, and the interview may contain the only recording of his voice. NPR has the soundbite, which you can listen to below.
In the clip, Naismith also talks about how the lack of order in those early days led to a certain amount of chaos:
“The boys began tackling, kicking, and punching in the clinches. Before I could pull them apart, one boy was knocked out, several of them had black eyes, and one had a dislocated shoulder.”
That’s one way to alleviate cabin fever.