Animated Google Doodle featuring Dr. James Naismith, inventor of basketball

Today’s Google Doodle is a cute animation celebrating Dr. James Naismith and his invention of basketball in 1891.

In 1891, during his tenure as a physical education teacher at the YMCA college in Springfield, Massachusetts, James Naismith — who was not yet a doctor — was called upon to craft a game for his class to play indoors during the bitter cold winter. With less than two weeks to craft his game, Naismith turned to his knowledge and experience in other sports to make something that was less rough, and therefore more accessible.

By the end of the process, Dr. James Naismith condensed the game down into 10 core rules, and held the first-ever game of “basketball” on December 21, 1891. The name came from the fact that the original goals were peach baskets, which had been secured to 10-foot-high railings.

After some encouragement to try the experimental game, as well as a few changes and additions to the rules to keep players safe, this new sport of basketball gained in popularity. Within weeks, it was the talk of the college, and on January 15, 1892 — the anniversary today’s Google Doodle is celebrating — an article about Naismith’s basketball was published in the college newspaper. From there, basketball exploded in popularity, thanks to it becoming an official activity in the YMCA.

Naismith went on to earn his medical degree, and joined the University of Kansas in 1898 as the chapel director and physical education teacher. Shortly thereafter, he was given the opportunity to create the university’s first basketball program. During his time at the school, Naismith used his position to improve racial relations as he was strongly opposed to segregation.

In 1936, toward the end of his life, Naismith was able to attend the first-ever Olympic basketball game in Berlin, even throwing the tip-off ball. Naismith died in 1939, but his book detailing the history and process of developing basketball was able to be published in 1941.

Today’s animated Google Doodle depicts a cartoon imagination of Naismith taking notes as two students take turns tossing a simple ball into a basket, harkening back to the game’s original, improvised equipment.

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Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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