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Celebrate 120 years of basketball


When: December

What: Sports like hockey and skiing are instantly associated with chillier weather, but surprisingly, basketball has its roots in winter. Created in December 1891, the sport was developed as a way for young people at a Massachusetts YMCA Training School to keep physically active indoors during the long New England winter. More than a century later, basketball is one of America’s biggest sports. On the 120th anniversary of basketball’s creation, celebrate the sport and encourage basketball lovers to improve their game and support their favorite teams.

Background: Basketball was invented by James Naismith, who was ordered in December 1891 to devise an indoor game for students at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass. Naismith needed to create a game that could be played in the school’s small gym, promoted healthy physical activity, and kept players relatively safe from injury. He came up with a game inspired by “Duck on a Rock,” a children’s schoolyard game where the object was to knock a large stone off a tree stump by throwing smaller rocks at it. In about two weeks, Naismith developed 13 basic rules for “Basket Ball,” and the first game was played on Dec. 29. In less than a year, the game became massively popular on the school campus, and then later spread to YMCAs throughout the country. When Naismith joined the faculty at the University of Kansas in 1898, the school started an official basketball program. Basketball officially went pro in 1946 with the founding of the Basketball Association of America, which would soon become the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Story Pitch: Many sports-related companies and organizations can use the anniversary of the invention of basketball to promote their goods and causes. Sports gear manufacturers can recognize the roots of the sport and promote technological advances in equipment like basketball shoes and even balls, with an emphasis on how these advances have better protected players from injuries or made the game more exciting. Basketball was partly created as a way to keep students fit, and health groups and schools can use the anniversary to link fitness with team sports. Gyms and recreation centers have a chance to bring in new players by sharing how basketball is a great sport for the winter season. Many youth organizations host afterschool basketball tournaments and clinics, and they can use the anniversary to gain supporters and share how supervised sports helps children learn discipline and teamwork in a safe environment. Basketball associations and leagues can also use the time to connect with fans and the community.

Story Hook: The biggest professional basketball association in the U.S., the NBA, is facing a lockout for their 2011-12 season, stemming from a failure for the association and players to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. With games being canceled and the possibility of no season at all, basketball fans are getting antsy for an agreement. How would a lockout affect local teams, as well as local economies? If the NBA season is canceled, what other basketball leagues can fans follow? How would a lockout affect collegiate basketball or the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)? Consider the following when you make your pitch:

  • How have the rules of basketball changed since its creation?
  • What injuries are most common among basketball players?
  • How popular is basketball outside of the U.S.?
  • How can new players learn the game and find organized leagues to play on?
  • Who has played an important role in shaping the modern game of basketball? How has the game influenced culture?

Tips: A local basketball player, whether an amateur, a college player or a pro, is a great contact who can talk about the changes the sport has seen through the decades. Additionally, an area basketball coach can talk about the positive influence basketball can have on young players.


Athletes for Better Education
(866) 906-2323

National Basketball Association

Women’s National Basketball Association

YMCA of the USA
(800) 872-9622

Youth Basketball of America
(407) 363-9262

–Researched, compiled & written by Kristina Elliott
Event Dates & History Today from CHASE’S Calendar of Events

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