First College Basketball Game

It is well known that Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in December of 1891. What is less well known is how the game grew from there.

The first game that Dr. Naismith put together was supposedly on December 21st, 1891, at Springfield College. From what I can gather, it was somewhat of an unorganized test of his version of the game. There were nine players on each team in this game, all in the game at the same time.

About a month later, he helped organize the first official game between students at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass, where he was the Director of Athletics.

Interest in the sport grew very quickly from there. It is reported that a professor at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, named Charles O. Bemies, was a protege of Dr. Naismith. As the Athletic Director at Geneva College, he created the first college team. Geneva played its first game on April 8, 1893 using peach baskets as goals, defeating the New Brighton YMCA 3 – 0.

From there, more college teams grew, although it seems most played a schedule of YMCA teams.

The University of Chicago played its first college basketball game on January 27th, 1894, defeating the Chicago YMCA Training School 19-11. The University of Chicago was the first basketball team to play a full schedule of games, winding up with a 6-1 record.

The first basketball game reported between two colleges was played on February 9th, 1895, when the Minnesota State School of Agriculture (which is now the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus) beat the Hamline College Porkers by a score of 9 to 3.

In most of these games there were usually seven to nine players on each team. The first intercollegiate game with five players on each team happened in Iowa City, Iowa on January 16th, 1896, when the University of Chicago defeated the University of Iowa 15 to 12.

However, in what is often recorded as the first official intercollegiate game, on December 10th, 1896, Wesleyan University defeated Yale, 4-3, in New Haven, Connecticut. This picture, below, is of that Yale team of 1996. I’m sure there is a full roster somewhere, but as far as I have found, I know the player seated in the lower left is Marcellin Coté Adams, who also happened to play on their baseball team (seated on the far right in this photo).

Yale 1896 Basketball

From there, many other college and even high school teams began to form as well. Dr. Naismith joined the faculty at the University of Kansas in 1898 and eventually was asked to coach their newly created team. By the turn of the 20th Century, college basketball had become popular enough that colleges started to form basketball leagues.

The NCAA was founded in the city of Chicago in 1906 and the rest is written history.

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