James Naismith Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

James Naismith invented the sport of basketball. In this lesson, you will discover how he came up with the idea, how the first game of basketball was played, and how athletes today are honored in his name.

Basketball Inventor

Have you ever played basketball or watched a game? Basketball is a very popular sport. In fact, 400 million people across the world play it. But do you know who created it?

The inventor of the game of basketball was James Naismith. An inventor is a person who creates a product or a new way of doing something. James was also a teacher and coach. He was born November 6, 1861, in Ontario, Canada. Let's discover more about James.

Dr. James Naismith

Duck on a Rock

Have you ever felt so bored, you decided to make up your own game? When James was a kid, he had a lot of work to do on his uncle's farm, but he also got to have fun. He invented a game called 'Duck on a Rock'. James would place a small rock, which he called the 'duck', on top of a bigger rock. He and his friends would take turns throwing a small stone at the 'duck', hoping to knock it down.

Although James wasn't great at school work, he was very good at sports. When James went to college at McGill University in Montreal, he played Canadian football, lacrosse, rugby and soccer. He also won many medals as a gymnast. It's no wonder James decided to become a Physical Education, or P.E., teacher.

Peach Baskets

What do you like to do on a snowy or rainy day when you can't go outside? Many children play indoor games. Unfortunately, being stuck inside can make it difficult to exercise and burn off energy. James Naismith noticed this in 1891 when he was working at a YMCA, which stands for Young Men's Christian Association, in Springfield, Massachusetts. The YMCA is a worldwide organization that supports communities and is inclusive to all people.

James had a group of energetic boys. He didn't want the boys to get hurt playing inside, so he invented a game that wasn't as rough as football or lacrosse, but that required skill. James took a basket and positioned it on a wall. In order to score points, the boys had to throw a soccer ball into the basket. In the first game, two peach baskets were used at both ends of the gym. The game was played with nine players against nine, which is different from the five on five of today.

Naismith with a basket and ball

James came up with 13 rules, including no running with the ball, pushing or shoving. These rules were important because, during the first game, the boys got in a fight in the middle of the gym. Eventually, the boys got the hang of it.

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