The sport of basketball has become a global phenomenon in the United States, as well as around the world as the second-largest sport, but is it known how it originated? Basketball was invented at the YMCA, 130 years ago. From the National Basketball Association to the Women’s Basketball Association, there is a global love for the now inclusive and diverse sport that started out in a YMCA facility.

So, just how did the sport start? James Naismith, a second-year graduate student who had recently been appointed a physical education instructor at the YMCA International Training School located in Springfield, Massachusetts, created the game in 1891. Naismith created the game with a group of young men that were said to be  uninterested in exercise. Beginning with nailing two peach baskets on both ends of the gymnasium, it was decided that both teams had to get a soccer ball into the opposing team’s basket. 

Naismith recalled the event during a radio interview in 1939 on WOR-AM in New York City by stating, “I called the boys to the gym, divided them up into teams of nine and gave them a little soccer ball. I showed them two peach baskets I’d nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s peach basket. I blew the whistle, and the first game of basketball began.” Over time, 13 rules were created and posted within the gym for the game. The game became popular within  YMCA’s, then spread to college campuses. It took two years before iron nets with a “hammock style net were utilized instead of the peach basket nets. Early NBA stars  like Wilt Chamberlain, Christian Laettner and Cliff Robinson were introduced to basketball at the YMCA before becoming professionals. 

Basketball was first introduced in the Olympics at the 1904 Games in St Louis, but was actually contested as a medal event during the 1936 Olympics. Women's basketball debuted  at the Montreal Games. 

Fast forward to the present day, we now have youth basketball leagues, clinics, and so much more available at YMCA’s and organizations alike because of Naismith. Currently, the United States of America is the most successful team in the history of Olympics basketball and the USA Olympic men’s basketball team has won the gold medal 16 times. 

It has been mentioned before in our facilities, online, and in-person but it is important to reiterate getting children involved in group sports at early ages. Basketball, for example, can teach youth skills of: agility, strategy, balance, and endurance. Not only that, but the YMCA provides  co-ed youth basketball leagues so that everyone is included, and no child is left out. It is said that, “Interaction between genders in a group sport encourages friendship and mutual respect. Each player is valued and recognized not only for their own unique athletic skill set but for how their talent completes a team, making it stronger and more united.” YMCA Youth Sports are the same in that we have caring coaches, and a network of resources to help shape your athlete into the best player they can be on and off of the court. Youth Basketball in particular focuses on good sportsmanship and YMCA Core Values: caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.

So what's stopping you from experiencing YMCA Basketball? Find a Youth Basketball League near you, or train in one of our YMCA basketball courts today!