For those who do not consider themselves basketball fans, the sport’s significance may seem irrelevant or of very little. While these people may not think to thank Dr. James Naismith for his invention of the game, we should all thank him for the major contributions he made and paths he paved for this country. Although basketball may be seen as just a sport played for fun and enjoyment, its invention’s impact on Americans was huge, positive, and everlasting. The inventor himself had a very strange and rough road to get to that infamous winter night that the game was created.James Naismith wasn’t born in your ideal view of a basketball setting, but in Canada. Both his mother and father passed away of typhoid fever before he had turned nine years old. James then moved in with his uncle in Springfield, Massachusetts, terribly overwhelmed and distressed. He dropped out of school at the age of fifteen because he saw “no need in learning more than he already knew” (Hill 9). If Naismith would have actually gone along with this way of thinking, the journey to the invention of basketball could have ended right then and there.
In fact, the only reason Naismith ever went to college was that his uncle wanted him to become a minister. He went on to attend Presbyterian College, where the invention was a great case of serendipity. While he was there, there were no sports being played between football and baseball season due to the cold weather. He noticed athletes were bored and as he would later write, he was “just trying to find a solution to a problem” (Hill 7). This indoor game played with peach baskets soon exploded in popularity and the rest was history.
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In the mid-1800s a majority, if not all, of American culture was adopted from another country. Baseball was being played, which was derived from the English game of cricket. The sport of lacrosse was learned from the Native Americans. We even cooked like Europeans and dressed like them. We, of course, had broken off politically, but we struggled to find difference materialistically. Basketball, however, fostered both pride and identity (Gems). The game was American-made and everyone wanted a part in it. A communal interest was taken and people were proud to call it theirs.
The game taught, and still teaches, a great lesson in diversity. Lots of people grew to know the meaning of the word through their experiences with the sport. The term was significant in studying and analyzing other teams’ and players’ basketball approaches, such as the types of plays they ran or just how good they were. More importantly, however, diversity among people was discovered. The sport broadened stereotypes and views of other races. It allowed players to realize that there are no real differences. In the late 1890s, basketball’s very early days, ethnically diverse advocates of the game were very prevalent.
Groups like the German Turners, Czech Sokols, and Polish Falcons loved the sport and “acquiesced to the interests of second-generation youths such as basketball” (Gems). Integration saw a huge advancement due to basketball. Teams all across the country were being formed and they would play against each other. Teams in this time were not allowed to be mixed. It was either a white team or an African American team. After a few years, “in the North, the African American teams proved to be the best” (Gems). This allowed the blacks to feel like, for the first time, they were not completely and utterly below the whites.
African Americans found hope and determination through the sport in a time where society was so cruel to them. These players also gave the game something that would change basketball forever. They added a “style of play that…emphasized speed, agility, superior jumping ability and creative ball handling which today are hallmarks of the game that millions of Americans love” (Logan). Due to their capabilities and the racial diversity the sport of basketball quickly saw, African Americans were widely respected and accepted in professional leagues in the North soon after its creation.
Also, children learned a lot about racial equality through playing ball in their communities. Although kids in the neighborhood became friends, children of varying races didn’t talk much until they played basketball where “[children] played basketball together, black and white, without incident” (Kelley). The tension, of course, was not completely gone, but once the games began race was forgotten. Even today the sport brings all kinds of people together in all levels of competition. Women gained a lot as well from this sport. Through playing, women began to feel quality as they reached the same stardom as men who also played.
Even early on, “women’s games were known for having a strong male fan base as well as entire families in attendance” (Milner). It would have been very rare before this for women to be so supported by men, and the public in the general. Women before Naismith’s time had little to no rights and were very restricted to the things they could do that men also did. Being able to play in professional leagues with men was a very big step for their gaining of equality. Eventually, the WNBA was created, becoming the first professional women’s league of the four major U. S. sports.
Many international links were formed through basketball as well. The originally American sport rapidly spread to all parts of the world where the game was loved. Worldwide leagues have since been created, spreading competition, as well as the sport’s popularity. The U. S. however, displayed global dominance in the sport right away. America won the first seven gold medals in Olympic basketball after the sport was added permanently in 1936 (Milner). This case of superiority added even more to America’s sense of pride and identity. Like everything else, basketball is not, by any means, perfect.
There are some flaws with the sport that can be seen as very problematic. However, these issues are not in the slightest case unique and would be very hard to eliminate completely. Throughout the basketball world, minors who showcase special talent or potential are often victims of illegal action. Through gambling, recruiting, and scandals, these young athletes are the center of black-market professionalism caused by “corporate money funneled into amateur sports” (Wetzel introduction). All members involved in these leagues are sucked into the corruption.
Teams, coaches, and whole universities are often sucked into the aftermath of a scandal. This puts a bad label on sometimes undeserving participants. The sport, and everything that comes with it, also puts a multitude of pressure on kids. Shoe, companies with high deals to offer, make children feel like they must cooperate in order to have their dreams come true. Teenagers become more focused on the money than the sport they love. These campaigns startle “college, high school, and even junior high school students with ongoing exploitation” (Wetzel introduction).
These campaigns also cause for some major let-downs. Aspiring young players who see these ads and promises of fame and fortune work hard only to have their dreams crushed. Some advocates of this way of viewing the inside of basketball may say that society should be appalled. According to Dan Wetzel, this is “an important alarm to society that for too long has ignored the dark business behind amateur sports- and what it does to those who play them” (introduction). However, I don’t see this as an overwhelming, shocking issue. Crime like this happens everywhere, and in all sports.
There in no way to ensure that this isn’t done. We should focus more on the bright side of this culture Naismith has given us and not pick out the negatives. Those young athletes who do make it symbolize everything that amateur players play for. They look back and admire where they’ve been and how they got to where they are. They are filled with admiration of their hard work, the choices they made, and the chances they took. Aside from personal benefit, the rest of society greatly benefits economically from the sport as a whole. Television ratings and ticket sales let towns and businesses prosper.
The amount of events pertaining to the sport is a great device to keep money circulating through cities. Also, the big time stars that certain cities produce often give back to their communities. Charities such as NBA Cares donate to organizations everywhere. This game, this sport, this way of life to some, has so much sentimental value. Basketball teaches so many lifelong lessons that can be applied to anything one does in his or her time. The game “promotes teamwork, spirit, and helps get children active” (Carlo). These three ideas are critical and very behooving in a variety of professions as well as walks of life all across the world.
Basketball also teaches people to never give up. Through adversity, you must keep fighting and pushing through to advance and help your team succeed. Quitting never helps, and if one works hard enough, he will reach his peak, much like Naismith learned. Another great thing this game gives us is friendship. Adults everywhere share camaraderie with one another based on friendships from high school or college which all began on a basketball court. In the words of former NBA player and United States congressman, Bill Bradley, “basketball is the gift that never stops giving. The game is full of great joy and great memory.
Its invention needs to be celebrated. ” Basketball remains one of the driving forces behind Americans through its enjoyment and the life lessons that it teaches. We owe a large part of our sense of pride and identity to Dr. James Naismith. His invention over a hundred and twenty years ago made a huge impact on life back then, as it does now. Without him and his creation, many things that many people take for granted would not be able to be enjoyed. Many of the paths he indirectly paved for this country, and its citizens, goes unnoticed. However, this invention changed our culture and society forever.
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