AB Sport History Library
Hall, M. Ann. The Grads Are Playing Tonight!: The Story of the Edmonton Commercial Graduates Basketball Club. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2011.
Melnick, Ralph. Senda Berenson, The Unlikely Founder of Women’s Basketball. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.
Mitchelson, E. Barry. The Evolution of Men’s Basketball in Canada, 1892-1936. MA thesis. University of Alberta, 1968.
Naismith, James. Basketball Its Origin and Development. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996 (originally published in 1941).
Nemeth, Mary. “A Patch of Hoops Heaven,” Maclean’s, 20 March 1995, pp. 48-49.
Rains, Rob. James Naismith: the Man Who Invented Basketball. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009
“School Basketball Started with Formation of Province,” Edmonton Journal, 1 June 1934, p.16.
Although basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891, it took some time for the game to take hold in Alberta. As primarily an indoor game, its early development was hindered by the lack of suitable gymnasiums. Early photos often show the game being play outdoors in summertime on a rough and unmarked surface with crude baskets attached to a pole at both ends of the court.
By the early 1900s, the game began to appear first in schools and especially in those with gymnasiums. Similarly, as YMCAs were built in cities and towns, the game became an established feature of their early programs. With more and more teams, leagues were established so that by the time World War I began, basketball in some form was played in most major centers in Alberta. It was also a game played from the start by girls and women, although the rules were sometimes modified to make the game less vigorous for females.
Throughout the years, basketball has remained true to Naismith's original version, although certainly there have been some rule changes during this time. Girls and women for the most part now play the same game as do boys and men. What has changed is the extent to which basketball can now be found in a multitude of clubs, community leagues, schools, colleges, and universities throughout the province. It is played by children, youth, and adults. Both the able-bodied and those with physical disabilities enjoy the game and at the highest levels of competition. Yet, for all its modern-day sophistication and organization, it can still be played as a pick-up game sometimes just one-on-one.
The following timeline provides a brief history of the development of the game in Alberta. It should be noted that there is as yet no coherent history of the game in Canada, and neither is there much written about the game in Alberta. The famous Edmonton Commercial Graduates, who dominated women's basketball in North America, and indeed the world, between 1915 and 1940, have received a good deal of attention. However, the full story of the game in this province has yet to be written.
Frozen Hoops - Fiction or Fact
The history of Canadian basketball is laced with inaccuracies. Let’s set the record straight.
FICTION: The inventor of basketball was Dr. James A. Naismith
FACT: History may be fickle. Take for example the name of Dr. Naismith, the inventor of basketball.
Encyclopedias and reference books pride themselves on the fact that they are usually accurate to the letter. In this case though, the letter is in fact the problem as these books state that Naismith's full name was Dr. James A. Naismith.
If Naismith did have a middle name, what was it then? Alvin, Andrew, Ace or even stealing some basketball jargon,Well, according to his surviving family members and a few historians, Naismith never had a middle name let alone initial, despite the fact that the 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica states that he adopted the initial A. in later life.
So, the natural question is now asking, "Where did that A. come from?"
Mrs. James Sherman Naismith, second wife of the late James Sherman Naismith, who was the youngest of Naismith's five offspring (born 1913), told this writer many years ago that the father of basketball inherited theletter A. from his unique writing style.
"He (Dr. Naismith) always wrote James and made the last 's' in James very large," said Mrs. Naismith, who was predeceased by her husband in 1980. "It was a great big letter S coming all the way up and I guess a lot of people took it for a letter A instead. Someone wrote it that way in a newspaper a long time ago and it stayed that way."
So why didn't the good doctor speak up and correct the infraction?
"My husband said his father probably didn't care or even notice. He was just too busy. And my husband's family really didn't take notice either," said Mrs. Naismith, who resided in Corpus Christie Texas at the time of the interview. "The only time my husband said anything about his dad was when he overheard his father's name with the letter A. inserted."
Also living in Corpus Christie was James P. Naismith, grandson of the original Dr. J. "It's true what they say that my grandfather never had a middle initial," says James P., who was three years old when his grandfather died in 1939. "According to my father (James Sherman) the A. came from the way my grandfather signed his name. He always abbreviated James to Jas. and everyone took it for James A.
"I guess someone wrote it down wrong and the rest of the people just followed copycats. I guess they thought, "Hey it's in this book, so it must right," and no one ever bothered to check it out."I still see books with it wrong but with stories like this, people will have it correct in time."
The one and perhaps only Naismith offspring who seemed really upset with the name error was his second born and second girl, the late Helen Carolyn. Dr. John Dewar, whose 1965 dissertation of Florida State University was entitled "The life and contributions of James Naismith," had a chance to talk to Helen (then Mrs. Helen Dodd) at her residence in St. Louis Missouri in 1965. "She was very upset when she told me that her father never had a middle initial," says Dewar, who has been involved in all facets of Canadian basketball for more than 50 years.
"According to Mrs. Dodd, the letter A. came from the pronunciation on how he said his name. He spoke slowly and said "eh" between his name. It just came out that way and it stuck. People thought he was saying Dr. James A. Naismith. "I guess you could say it was the proverbial Canadian "eh" and his Canadian heritage. That's another one I've heard of how the A. came about. “The same was confirmed by this writer in the 1980s' when talking to Mrs. Dodd.
All five of her brother and sisters had passed away the last John Edwin in the 1980s'.
In a 1959 letter to Major James Leys, founder of the Memorial Museum to R. Tait McKenzie, another Canadian educator and close friend of Naismith, detailing the biography on her father, Helen had under his name James Naismith, in brackets and underlined - "He had no middle name or initial.”
In Springfield Mass., birthplace of basketball, Joe O'Brien then executive director of the Naismith Hall of Fame, told this writer in the 1990s' that Naismith had no middle name, "There is no legitimate proof that we know of that he had a middle name or even middle initial."
If you're still not convinced, talk to historians from Almonte Ontario, birthplace of Naismith. "We have heard or read that he has middle initial A. but no birth certificate or record shows us that," says historian John Dunn.
So why do people continue to refer to the farther of basketball as Dr. James A. Naismith? Perhaps they are copycats or unaware of the truth? Did Naismith really adopt a middle initial or name or is history wrong? Was it the way the Dr. learned how to write or was it just Canadian slang that confused everyone?
This writer has spent more than 25 years correcting the error and only recently received a letter from Encyclopedia Britannica of the correction. So is it true or not? I guess only the good Dr. will know for sure "eh".
Naismith Ball - The Original 13 Rules
The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist).
A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.
The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.
No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule by any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.
A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of Rules 3, 4, and such as described in Rule 5.
If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).
A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds; if he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.
The umpire shall be judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.
The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made, and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.
The time shall be two 15-minute halves, with five minutes' rest between.
The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner. In case of a draw, the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.
Canadian Basketball Quotes
The invention of basketball was not an accident. It was developed to meet a need. Those boys simply would not play "Drop the Handkerchief." - James Naismith
The rule was "No autopsy, no foul." - Stewart Granger, on the pickup games of his childhood.
"He's the one who's working in the NBA and I'm unemployed." - Former Canadian
National Team coach Jack Donohue (left) on advice he would give to former player Jay Triano as he was about to join part of the Toronto Raptors coaching staff.
Another Donohue gem: "If you fall into a puddle wearing a new suit, you can either whine for months about ruining your suit or check for fish."
"You can't coach basketball Forrest, you play it." - Dr. James Naismith to F.C. "Phog" Allen in 1906.
"Oh, my gracious! They are murdering my game." - Dr. James Naismith, while watching especially physical play in a 1910 Kansas-Missouri game.
"I am sure that no man can derive more pleasure from money or power than I do from seeing a pair of basketball goals in some out of the way place--deep in the Wisconsin woods an old barrel hoop nailed to a tree, or a weather-beaten shed on the Mexican border with a rusty iron hoop nailed to one end." - Dr. James Naismith.
“I used to collect hockey cards. It was like Vegas at my school. You'd go to school with your box of cards, and at recess and lunchtime there were all these games we'd play.” – Steve Nash.