It is a well-known fact that Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in December of 1891 because his students in Massachusetts needed a way to burn off some energy in his wintertime gymnasium class. Because he had a small space, he wanted to keep the young men from tackling or barging into each other during the game, as in rugby or football. To prevent injuries from having a ball hit or thrown as hard as possible, as was done in baseball or lacrosse, he wrote up a list of 13 rules for a game that could be played indoors or outdoors and in any size space while safely providing plenty of “healthy and invigorating” exercise.
The new game of “basket ball” spread quickly in 1892, especially in the gymnasiums of the Young Men’s Christian Association – the Y.M.C.A. The only equipment required was a “regular Rugby football” and “two half-bushel baskets” to be used as goals, “suspended ten feet in the air.” The object of the game was simple – to “toss the ball in the opponent’s basket.”
The rules required players to pass the ball to teammates, or be batted around with an open hand, not a clenched fist. No one could run with the ball, and dribbling was not mentioned, although it was added later. No rough stuff – “no shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping or striking allowed.”
The game of basketball soon came to North Dakota. On this date, in 1893, the Grand Forks Herald announced that a soon-to-be-completed Y.M.C.A. athletic park would have spaces where all kinds of sports could be played, namely “foot ball, base ball, lacrosse, croquet and basket ball, a new game which is becoming very popular in the East.”
The first official basketball competitions took place at the Grand Forks Y.M.C.A. athletic park on the Fourth of July, when “nearly all of the best athletes of the city” who had been “practicing daily,” took part in the game. It lasted for half an hour, with two 15-minute halves, and in all that time, the players managed to score only one basket. Despite a score of one to nothing, the game was described as being a “most exciting contest from beginning to end.”
Through the ensuing years, N.D. became rich with its own basketball history, following its humble 1893 beginnings.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSUM History Department.
“The New Y.M.C.A. Park,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, June 4, 1893, p. 4.
“Athletic Grounds,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, June 8, 1893, p. 3.
“Fun for the Fourth,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, June 24, 1893, p. 3.
“Y.M.C.A.,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, July 4, 1893, p. 1.
“A Splendid Program,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, July 5, 1893, p. 5.
“Basket Ball Game,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, January 22, 1896, p. 1.
“Basket Ball,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, February 22, 1896, p. 8.
“Now for a New Game,” Evening Star [Washington, D.C.], April 1, 1893, p. 10.
“The Rules,” University of Kansas, https://debrucecenter.ku.edu/rules, accessed on May 2, 2020.
“Where Basketball was Invented: The History of Basketball,” Springfield College, https://springfield.edu/where-basketball-was-invented-the-birthplace-of-basketball, accessed on May 2, 2020.