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Recording emerges of James Naismith describing basketball’s origin

James NaismithGlobe file photo

A radio interview from 1939 featuring James Naismith discussing how he invented basketball has emerged, and it may be the only recording of Naismith in existence, according to the New York Times.

The recording is available on the University of Kansas's website and was discovered by Michael J. Zogry, an associate professor at Kansas. It is from an interview on radio station WOR-AM's program, "We The People."

Naismith, who invented basketball in Springfield, Mass., in 1891, was 77 at the time of the interview, which took place at a game at Madison Square Garden in New York. He describes the first game, which was played as a way to divert students' energy after he'd seen them "roughhousing in the halls" during a New England blizzard.

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It didn't go quite as Naismith planned, which he admits was the result of not having enough rules set in place.

"The boys began tackling, kicking, and punching in the clenches," he said. "They ended up in a free for all in the middle of the gym floor ... it certainly was murder."

But the players liked the game, and after Naismith added rules — most important was that "there should be no running with the ball" — basketball gained popularity.

"We had a fine, clean sport," Naismith said.

Naismith was Kansas's first basketball coach. According to the Times, Zogry discovered the recording while doing research for a book on Naismith.


Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter at @mattpep15.