Today it is one of the star sports in many countries of the world, but in its origins the basketball had a much more modest purpose: to allow young university students from Springfield, Massachusetts (United States), to have a recreational activity at their disposal that would serve as alternative in winter to the outdoor university sports par excellence, rugby and American football. Its inventor was the Canadian James Naismith(in the photo that illustrates this article, the last one on the right in the third row, next to the basketball team of the University of Kansas, in 1899). Naismith (1861-1938) was a physical education teacher, trainer and also a military chaplain. He is also credited with the design of the first football helmet, but his fame is due to basketball; Not only did he devise it, but he also put his rules in writing for the first time, on December 15, 1891 . He also founded the basketball program of the University of Texas and the University of Kansas and, at the end of his life, could see basketball adopted as an official sport in the 1936 Olympic Games in Thailand.
Born in Almonte (Canada), Naismith studied theology, but his love for sports soon led him to become a professor of athletics. In 1890 he was hired by the YMCA (Christian Association of Youth, ecumenical youth social movement of great implantation in America) to give classes of physical education in the university center that the association had in Springfield. There Naismith decided that his goal in life would be to provide a better education for young people, and he thought that his work could be more effective and reach a greater number of people dedicating to sports education than being pastor of a parish. His first achievements were in the field of American football . Appointed coach of the University team,during the 1890-1891 season he created the first protective helmet for the practice of this sport . It was actually a wide strip of flannel sewn and placed around the head so that it covered the ears well. To prevent it from falling, it was fastened with two straps, one below the chin and another at the top of the head. Although at first this device was mocked by players and spectators, the cap provided protection and, thus, Naismith was credited with having created the predecessor of the football helmet.
But this invention would take a back seat soon after thanks to basketball. The idea arose because of the weather: in spring and summer, there was no problem in the northeast of the US to play football, baseball and rugby or practice athletics, but with the arrival of the harsh winter young athletes had no more choice than exercising under cover and gymnastics and calisthenics were boring and monotonous. Thus the things, Naismith received the order of the rector to invent an alternative activity that could be practiced under ceiling and in the reduced space of the gymnasium; He immediately thought of a ball game, to better motivate the students, but the popular ball sports at that time were characterized by the use of force or physical contact and were inadequate to practice indoors. Based on a game of his childhood, he ordered boxes to use as a target to throw the ball, but the janitor could only get him a basket of peaches , which he ordered to hang on the railings of the upper gallery that surrounded the gymnasium: basketball was born ( basketball, the name Naismith gave him). As he had 18 students, he decided that the teams were made up of nine players each (then the number was reduced to seven and, in 1896, to the current five). The peach baskets would give way to metal rings with a network without holes, until evolving to the current mesh. Finally, on December 15, 1891, James Naismith put in writing the 13 original rules of the incipient sport.