Basketball’s Inventor Says Dribbling Was Developed To Prevent On-Court ‘Murder’

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Imagine you’re a gym teacher. You could imagine it’s back near the turn of the 20th century, but really any era will do. You have a gym full of bored, rambunctious boys. (Put differently, you have a gym full of boys). So you decide to make up a game with only one rule. What do you think would happen next? If you guessed “It devolves into a massive brawl damn near immediately,” you are correct, and you have also described the first basketball game ever, according to a recently-unearthed audio recording of James Naismith himself.

Listen to the audio, because Naismith sounds exactly like a present-day parody of old-timey radio speech (thus proving all the parodies true!). Here’s how he described the first game:

“I called the boys to the gym, divided them up into teams of nine, and gave them an old soccer ball. I showed them two peach baskets I had 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.”

I don’t know about you, but I need more information than that before wading into what will certainly descend into all-out warfare. But maybe I’m just a wallflower. Anyway, you won’t believe what happened next.

Interviewer: And what rules did you have for your game, Dr. Naismith?

Naismith: Well, I didn’t have enough, and that was my big mistake. The boys began tackling, kicking and punching in the clinches. They ended up in a free-for-all in the middle of the gym floor. Before I could pull them apart, one boy was knocked out, several of them had black eyes, and one had a dislocated shoulder. It certainly was murder.

Naismith went on to say that once he banned anyone from running with the ball in their hands, the tackling all but ceased, and thus basketball was on its way to legitimacy. We all owe Dr. Naismith a huge debt of gratitude, but one can say that he might not have been the best gym teacher if his idea of a fun game was just, “Here’s a ball. Go nuts.”

(Via New York Times and Kansas University)