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Basketball: The Beginning

Matt is a basketball enthusiast who lives and breathes basketball.

The game of basketball wasn’t created with the earth, we all know that. Somebody had to make the rules, the hoops, and implement the game into society. James Naismith was that man. Basketball also needed someone to be the face of the league, as a player. Bill Russell was that man. In this article we take a dive into the lives of both of these men and how they influenced the game of basketball.

James Naismith, the creator of basketball. James Naismith is most famously known for his creation of the game of basketball. But what led up to that? He obviously didn’t just make it up out of thin air, did he? In this post we will explore how James’ path led him to create the great game of basketball.

James Naismith was born on November 6, 1861, in Almonte Ontario. In his early years, James was always an athlete and played a variety of sports. At McGill University (where he went to college) James played football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, and even gymnastics. As an athlete, his gymnastic talent was by far his strong suit, winning multiple medals for outstanding performances. He would go on to receive his bachelor’s degree in physical education and teach the subject at McGill University. After a couple of years, he became the director of athletics but left shortly after to study at the YMCA international Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.

After completing the training program, James was hired as a full-time faculty member at the Springfield YMCA, he was around the age of 30 at the time. One day, his boss tasked him with creating an indoor sports game to keep athletes in shape during the cold winters. His boss also emphasized that the game should be fair for all players and not too rough like some other sports. This resulted in the game of basketball, but it needed some time to develop. At first there were just 13 rules to the game, and the game was played 9 versus 9, using 10-foot-high peach baskets as goals. The first games played in Naismith’s P.E. program resulted in black eyes and injures all over. After some trial and error, James was able to fine tune the game and eventually solidify a rulebook with Spalding in 1894. Basketball started to become very popular during this time and universities started developing basketball programs.

Once the game of basketball was legit, James stayed involved with the game. He became the first basketball coach at the University of Kansas. Ironically, the creator of basketball totaled a record of 55-60 during his coaching career and is the only losing coach in program history. Nevertheless, the game continued to popularize and evolve over the years. Today, the NCAA rewards its best basketball players and coaches with the ‘Naismith awards’. The once 13 rules that Naismith created turned into a rulebook with over 66 pages, which is used in the NBA today.

Bill Russell, one of the greatest icons in all of sport. The story of Mr. Russell is beyond inspiring to many, and his legacy will never be forgotten. Bill Russell is a true pioneer for the sport of basketball. He broke down race barriers, won 11 NBA championships, and is a truly great and humble person. In this post we will take a dive into the life of one of the NBA’s most iconic figures, Bill Russell.

Bill Russell, born William Felton Russell in 1934, spent the first eight years of his life in rural Louisiana before his family moved to Oakland, California. Russell was always very tall, which led to his involvement in basketball. He was lightly recruited by colleges, but one school took a chance on him. That school was the University of San Francisco, or USF. During his college career, Russell stood 6 ft 9 in and took USF to two NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956. Then in 1956, the Boston Celtics traded up in the draft to acquire Bill Russell, a move that quickly paid off. In just his first season with the Celtics, the won the 1957 NBA championship. They would lose the following year in 1958 but would go on to win the next seven straight from 1959-1966.

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Bill Russell would become the league’s first African American superstar, winning 5 NBA MVP awards throughout his career, and being selected as an NBA All-Star all twelve of his playing seasons. However, he was not just a basketball player. Bill Russell would also become a prominent activist, standing against racism in sports. Russell supported the American civil rights movement and also spoke out against the Vietnam War. He was not afraid to speak his mind and try to correct the injustices of society. While he faced backlash for this, his play on the court never wavered and he always stayed true to his beliefs.

As the 1960’s went on, Bill Russell and the Celtics continued to make history. In 1964, the Celtics became the first team in NBA history to have a starting lineup containing all black players, and they won the championship! When Celtics coach Red Auerbach retired in 1966, Bill Russell became his successor and was the first black coach in NBA history. He was not only the coach, but he also played too. Russell and the Celtics took home the 1968 championship in his first year as a coach and would win the following year in 1969 as well.

After the 1968-1969 season, Bill Russell hung up his sneakers for good, but never left the basketball world. He would go on to coach the Seattle SuperSonics for five seasons and the Sacramento Kings for one. He then would serve as a commentator on television broadcasts of NBA games and never stopped in his pursuit of racial equality. Bill Russell was officially inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.

The story of the great Bill Russell is one for the ages. As a player, Mr. Russell transcended the game with his dominant defensive skillset and leadership. As an activist Russell never shied away from the biggest issues in our society and paved the way for the following generations. Bill Russell is a true icon and inspirational figure to many around the world.

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