Over the years, basketball has become an international phenomenon, with over 300 million people playing the sport worldwide. Its beginnings—124 years ago to this very day—were much more humble.
On December 21st, 1891, 18 men at the School for Christian Workers (today Springfield College in Massachusetts) gathered to play a game called basketball, invented by Dr. James Naismith after the school’s head asked Naismith to create an indoor game that would distract otherwise confined students during a rough New England winter.
Naismith hoped to convene outdoor sports such as soccer and lacrosse in his game, but they proved too convoluted to bring indoors. In a bind, Naismith recalled his childhood — specifically a game he called “Duck on a Rock,” which “required players to use finesse and accuracy to become successful,” McGill University wrote.
Naismith’s memory of the childhood game led him to develop the game of basketball and its 13 original rules — and participate in the ceremonial tip-off at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, where basketball made its debut as an Olympic sport.
In the 2013-14 season, the NBA brought in $4.79 billion. Naismith never made that much money off the sport, but for him, money was never the point. Said Naismith later in life, “I am sure that no man can derive more pleasure from money or power than I do from seeing a pair of basketball goals in some out of the way place.”