"There is a legitimate controversy over the origin of baseball,"
Jansen said. "But if others did invent basketball, they sure gave
up on it."
Naismith often talked about basketball, as one would expect, explaining
how he incorporated a game called "Duck on the Rock" with
the idea of placing a box or basket on a wall above the particpants'
heads so they would have to toss the ball in an arc instead of on
a straight line.
"By talking about his childhood game," Jansen said, "to
me he was attempting to make the point that nothing is totally original,
but that he had variations in his mind."
Naismith was hardly a horn-tooter. In fact, his game spread throughout
the country via the YMCA grapevine, not because he promoted it.
For example, while it's generally believed Naismith introduced basketball
to Lawrence, newspaper stories confirm people were playing basket
ball - it was two words then - at the Lawrence YMCA in December of
1894. Naismith did not arrive until 1898.
Interestingly, Jansen believes Naismith never would have invented
basketball if he hadn't been born in a small town in rural Ontario.
"If he'd have grown up as an American, he would
have been familiar with baseball," Jansen noted. "But he was
in an isolated area where he was mainly familiar with rugby football.
So he had less baggage, so to speak, in terms of inventing a new sport."
Indeed, it's abundantly clear Naismith invented basketball as a kinder
and gentler alternative to football and not, as some suggested, as
a competitive way for football players to stay in shape during the
Football was a brutal sport in those days - a push-and-shove, dog-pile,
scrum-like, body-bashing free-for-all that often resulted in deaths.
None but the brave carried the football in the late 19th century.