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Friday, October 30, 2009

James Naismith is a lot more than basketball...

... quite a bit more, it turns out. He has always been acknowledged as the creator of the game of basketball... on his boss's instruction to invent a game that keep rowdy students busy during the 1891 winter... but was surprised his game endured.

Later, as a medical doctor, he theorized that "the body is more or less elastic' and 'by stretching the body 30 minutes a day for six months, it will lengthen two inches." So he invented a machine to stretch babies, because the best stretching age, he thought, is from birth to 5 months. Hmm.. even then, he knew the role a big man could play in his new game. Did it work? Well, look at Yao Ming at 7' 6" and draw your own conclusions.

He also invented a breathalyzer device to measure the effects that drinking had on the human body. Used college students as test subjects. Now that's not hard to imagine.

Naismith served in World War I as a chaplain and was on the front lines in France counseling young soldiers. Because of this experience, he was one of the first promoting the idea to reward men who had risked their lives for their country... a concept that later became the G.I. Bill for veterans.

He wasn't done with basketball yet. He conceptualized the 3-point shot in 1932, but it was rejected. The shot clock was one of his ideas too... another case of seeing his game evolve. He was a visionary.

Oh, he didn't get everything right. He could never understand why the automobile didn't stop when he yelled "Whoa!"

So 'nice going' James. You are more than basketball.

(If you are interested further, a new book, James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball, by Rob Rains and Hellen Carpenter is just out.)

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