The Hoopla: Happy 125th Birthday, Basketball | Sports Destination Management

The Hoopla: Happy 125th Birthday, Basketball

Jan 11, 2017 | By: Michael Popke
Sports Planners Will Recognize an Excellent Opportunity to Leverage Publicity

Amid the excitement of college football bowl games and the NFL Playoffs (not to mention the upcoming inauguration and all the ensuing controversy - and oh, yeah, that little thing called March Madness), it was easy to overlook the 125th anniversary of basketball on Dec. 21. And in this, sports planners will recognize an excellent opportunity to help promote their events. And hey - is there any better time than before March Madness?

Canadian-born James Naismith founded the game of basketball on that date in 1891. While teaching physical education at YMCA International Training College in Springfield, Massachusetts, he was instructed to develop an indoor game for male students to play during the cold-weather months. According to the Kansas Historical Society — Naismith died in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1939 — he adapted elements from familiar games of the time and created 13 basic rules that involved tossing a ball into a peach basket located at either end of the court.

“The invention of basketball was not an accident,” Naismith is quoted as saying. “It was developed to meet a need. Those boys simply would not play ‘Drop the Handkerchief.’”

Within 15 years, people in countries around the world were playing basketball.

The sport obviously caught on and debuted at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, when three North American countries won gold (the United States, in a sign of things to come), silver (Canada) and bronze (Mexico).

Basketball participation continues to increase, too, according to the 2016 U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report, released by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). Basketball experienced a 1.5 percent growth in participation in 2015 versus 2014.

“Multiple factors, including a stronger spotlight from key figures — including the likes of Michelle Obama, as well as the four major sports leagues in the U.S. — on American youth’s declining levels of activity appears, in the short term, to have potentially contributed to a positive increase in participation across most major team sports,” SFIA’s researchers wrote in the report.

Several celebrations took place last month, including the Birthday of Basketball event 0n Dec. 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In a doubleheader, Fairfield University defeated Boston College, 89-83, followed by Auburn University’s 74-70 victory over Oklahoma.

According to, only two major sports with long histories can trace their origins to a specific time, place and inventor — and both originated in Massachusetts: basketball and volleyball (founded by William Morgan in Holyoke, Mass., in 1895).

“Dr. Naismith not only invented basketball, he left tracks as to why he did it and the specifics,” James P. Naismith, Naismith’s last surviving grandchild and the face and voice of the Naismith legacy, told the site in 2015, when he was 79 years old. “It’s an important story, one that has to be told. I’m very proud to be in the position to do it.”

If you’re looking for ways to still celebrate the sport’s birthday season, North America Marketing & Exhibit LLC and the nonprofit A Better World Association have some ideas.

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