About Dr. James Naismith

Dr. James Naismith is best known worldwide as the inventor of basketball. He also led an exemplary life, following the values he held dear.

He was an educator and leader, dedicated to developing character through sport, and devoted to serving society. His gift of basketball is played in over 200 countries around the world.

Biographical Highlights

  • 1861: Born on November 6 near Almonte, Ontario, Canada. Son of John Naismith and Margaret Young.
  • 1867 – 1875: He attended grade school at Bennie’s Corners near Almonte.
  • 1873: After the death of both his parents, plus his maternal grandmother, he lives with his uncle Peter Young.
  • 1875: Enters Almonte High School but less than two years later leaves his studies for four years. He returned and completed his high school equivalency in 1.5 years graduating in 1883.
  • 1883: Enters McGill University in Montreal where he earns a BA in Physical Education. He participates in football, rugby, lacrosse and ground gymnastics.
  • 1887: Enters the Presbyterian College of Theology in Montreal and obtains a diploma in 1890.
  • 1890: Departs for America and Springfield College in Massachusetts.
  • 1891: At the end of his studies he becomes a professor at Springfield where he stays until 1895. During his vacation he goes to Martha’s Vineyard to learn about the Swedish principles of gymnastics to adopt at his training school. In the autumn he takes up a seminar in psychology created by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, the director of the PE department. Tasked to create an indoor game for the winter season.
  • 1891: On December 21st the first game of Basket Ball is introduced to James Naismith’s class. Following brief scepticism, the game is a hit before the students depart for Christmas break.
  • 1892: Basketball becomes a big success: so successful in fact it is published in ‘Triangle’ magazine under the title ‘A New Game’. In January, Frank Mahan demands the game be named ‘Naismith Ball’ but Naismith refuses.
  • 1894: On June 20 he marries Maude E. Sherman from Springfield. The couple will have five children: Margaret Mason (1895), Helen Carolyn (1897), John Edwin (1900), Maude Ann (1904) and James Sherman (1913). Together with Gulick he publishes the rules in the “American Sports Publishing Company”.
  • 1895: Moves to Denver to become PE director at the YMCA where he’ll stay until 1898. At the same time he is attending the University of Colorado Medical School (Gross Medical College) and graduates in 1898.
  • 1898: Becomes director of the gymnasium, campus chaplain, and basketball coach at University of Kansas.
  • 1910: Receives an honorary Master’s degree in PE.
  • 1911: Publishes “A Modern College”.
  • 1916: Sent to the Mexican frontier with his regiment for four months
  • 1917: Nominated as YMCA Secretary and spends 19 months working in France. Returns in 1919.
  • 1918: Publishes the “Essence of a Healthy Life”.
  • 1925: Takes American citizenship to meet government requirements after serving with the military.
  • 1935: Under the NABC initiative funds are created from the contribution of coaches, players and spectators to send James Naismith to Berlin for the Olympics through the Naismith Fund.
  • 1936: Inauguration ceremony in Berlin (April 7): A tribute from the organizational committee he throws the ball for the first match of the Olympic Games.
  • 1937: His wife Maude dies. On March 3 he becomes Professor Emeritus in Kansas and retires at the age of 76 from the University.
  • 1938: Receives the Legum Doctorate degree at McGill University.
  • 1939: Honorary Doctor of Divinity at the Presbyterian College in Montreal (April): On June 11 he marries Florence Kincaid in Lawrence (Kansas): November 19: suffers a brain hemorrhage; November 28: dies of a heart attack aged 78 at his home 1515 University Drive. Lawrence, Kansas.
  • 1941: Posthumously voted Life Member of Physical Education Instructors of America. His masterwork, “Basketball – its Origins and Development” is published by the Associated Press Basketball. He was a member of the Republicans and honorary president of the American Association of Coaches.

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