SEVERAL years ago, as I
was returning from a summer trip in Colorado, I came by the way of the
so-called world’s highest bridge, spanning the Royal Gorge a few miles
above Canyon City, Colo. At the south end of the bridge we came upon the
deserted camp of the men who had built the structure. There was little
to tell of the number of men and boys who had spent many months playing
and working on this spot. At one end of the former camp, however, there
were two basketball backstops. The goals had been removed, and they
stood alone against the dark pines, a mute reminder of the activity that
had once been a part of the camp life.
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.
These sights are constant reminders that I have in some measure
accomplished the objective that I set up years ago.
Thousands of times,
especially in the last few years, I have been asked whether I ever got
anything out of basketball. To answer this question, I can only smile.
It would be impossible for me to explain my feelings to the great mass
of people who ask this question, as my pay has not been in dollars but
in the satisfaction of giving something to the world that is a benefit
to masses of people.
Grantland Rice once
estimated that there were fifteen million people playing basketball.
This number to me is inconceivable, but I do not believe that it is
exaggerated. The number of boys and girls who are playing the game in
our educational institutions alone will run into the millions, and these
institutions are only one group of the many that are playing the game.
The spread of
basketball has been both extensive and rapid. The game was introduced
into the foreign countries soon after its origin, and it spread here in
the United States so rapidly that I have been unable to determine
accurately just when many parts of the country took up the game. There
is little doubt
but that there are more people playing basketball in the United States
than in all the foreign countries.
The Y. M.C.A.
As the game originated
in the Y.M.C.A. Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, it was
only natural that much of the early spread should come through that
institution. The Y.M.C.A. was one of the few organizations interested in
physical development, and the fact that most of the branches had
gymnasiums was an important factor in the spread of the game through
There were two ways in
which the Y.M.C.A. spread the game. The Triangle, the school paper,
printed a description of the game and the rules in January, 1892. This
paper went to the branches of the Y.M.C.A. all over the country; and as
these branches were looking desperately for some activity that would
interest their members, they quickly accepted the game. It was only a
short time after the publication of the paper containing the rules that
I received requests for details about the game. These letters came from
widely scattered points, but practically all of them were from Y.M.C.A.
branches. One of the first letters that I received was from George W.
Ehler, of the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Y.M.C.A. In his letter of
April, 1892, Mr. Ehler said that he had introduced basketball into the
Brooklyn branch and that the members there were more enthusiastic about
the game than one could imagine. Just how many other New York branches
were playing is not known, but Mr. Ehler stated that the Brooklyn team
had scheduled several games with other Y.M.C.A.’s.
While the Y.M.C.A.’s
were quite generally adopting the game, there were some branches which
were having trouble with it, especially in certain sections in the East.
The physical directors of that time were judged by the number of members
that they had in their classes. Basketball would allow only ten men on a
floor that would normally accommodate fifty or sixty. This monopoly of
the floor by a few caused some of the physical directors to question the
value of the game, as they felt that development work for a large group
was more important than a recreative game in which only a few men could
Another problem that
presented itself was the fact that many directors lacked experience in
handling competitive sports. This lack of experience was responsible for
some roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct on the part of many teams.
Philadelphia was one of
the cities in which basketball became so popular that it threatened to
disrupt the formal gymnastic classes that were carried on in the
Association. So many teams were organized and the game was so popular
that if teams were allowed to use the gymnasium, there would be little
time for other work. To meet this condition, the North Branch of the
Y.M.C.A. in that city refused to allow a basketball on the gymnasium
On March 27, 1897,
Doctor Chadwick, of the Philadelphia Y.M.C.A., published an article in
which he requested that the game be dropped by the Association because
of its monopoly of the floor and its evil effect on the Association’s
reputation and influence. As a result of this restriction on the game in
the Philadelphia branches, many members withdrew and formed independent
teams. These teams played among themselves, using any kind of gymnasium
that could be found. Games were held in warehouses and even in dance
halls supplied with goals.
These independent teams
soon found that the spectators crowded the floor; and to meet this
condition, the teams constructed cages that would prevent the ball from
going out of bounds. The playing of basketball under these conditions
was responsible for the start of the professional game; and as far as I
am able to determine, Philadelphia had the first team of this type.
In spite of the fact
that only a few of the Y.M.C.A. branches were having difficulty with
basketball, it was decided that a study should be made to determine the
attitude of the organization toward the game. M. T. J. Browne, selected
to carry out this study, sent a questionnaire to some hundred of the
different branches. When he compiled the results of these
questionnaires, he found that a majority of the institutions felt that
basketball had not only helped to hold the older members but had also
increased the membership, and that it had created a greater loyalty
toward the Association.
With the realization
that basketball was a great help, the Y.M.C.A. turned its efforts to
teaching thousands of boys all over the country to play the game. With
the construction of other gymnasiums and the enlarging of their own
buildings, the Association has provided ample space. Although many teams
were playing in other gymnasiums, the Y.M.C.A. still managed much of the
organization of leagues and tournaments. Today thousands of boys’ teams
all over the country are using the Association equipment and are playing
and practicing in the buildings, often without any charge.
The students of the
Training School also spread the game. They represented many different
parts of the country, and as these men finished their courses and
scattered to their respective homes or fields of work, they took the
game with them. Since the school was international, not only the United
States but also several of the foreign countries received the game from
men who were either classmates or students of mine. France and Japan
were both represented in the class of 1893. When Theis returned to
Paris, he took with him the first knowledge of the new game. I have been
unable to determine whether Ishakawa introduced the game into the orient
when he left the University of Wisconsin and returned to his native
country, but certainly he was interested, as he furnished the first
sketch of a basketball game, which was printed in the 1893 guide.
Basketball owes a great
deal to the Y.M.C.A., because it was first to recognize the necessity
for a winter sport, it furnished the facilities and the opportunity to
originate the game, and it was a means of spreading the game over the
entire world, as its foreign introduction came largely through the
branches of the Association in the various countries.
The A.A.U. and the
Soon after the Y.M.C.A.
had accepted basketball, the athletic clubs began to take up the game.
Many of these clubs were formed for the purpose of playing basketball,
whereas others that were of old standing organized teams. The athletic
clubs of that time were primarily for the development of sports and were
interested in the promotion of athletic teams rather than social
In 1897, there were
fifty-eight athletic clubs that had organized basketball teams, and
these teams were competing with teams from all types of institutions.
Today there are a great many clubs represented at the National
Basketball Tournament, and, with few exceptions, these teams are well up
in the running. It has always been interesting to me to note the number
of former college players listed on the various athletic club teams.
Many of the members of the clubs are unable to give the time for
practice during the day, and this difficulty has been largely overcome
by obtaining players who have been thoroughly drilled in the
fundamentals. It is not uncommon to see a whole team composed of former
college players, men who need little training and who in two or three
evenings a week can organize and polish their play.
I am sure that the
opportunity for these young men to continue their activity after leaving
college is of immense value, and much credit must be given the athletic
clubs for furnishing this opportunity.
For many years the
Kansas City Athletic Club sponsored a team, and several times won the
National Tournament. Subsequently the Olympic Club, which came from
California to compete, rated among the best in the tournament. Other
clubs from both coasts were represented. It is always a pleasure to meet
these men, as, without exception, I have always noticed that the highest
type of sportsmanship is exhibited by the teams from the clubs.
To the colleges all
over the country, basketball owes much. There has been no other
institution that has so advanced the technique and skill of the game. In
return for this advancement, basketball has given to the colleges a
winter sport that is recognized the world over, which is not only
selfsupporting but also important in the college intramural programs.
When basketball was
originated, the colleges were comparatively slow to adopt the game. Some
schools played very early, but it was not until about 1900 that they
recognized the game as an important part of the college sports program.
One of the reasons that the colleges did not play basketball earlier was
that the coaches and physical directors were not familiar with the new
sport. The colleges did not really accept the game until the boys who
had learned basketball in the Y.M.C.A. and high schools enrolled with
them. Many of the college physical directors think that the colleges
introduced basketball into the high schools, but in reality the high
schools introduced basketball into many of the colleges.
Geneva College, in
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and the University of Iowa both played
basketball in the season of 1892. Which of these two colleges may claim
the first game, I do not know. Mr. C. O. Beamis, a Springfield boy, had
gone to Geneva College as physical director. Beamis had seen the game
played in the Training School gymnasium while he was home on a vacation.
He realized that it might solve the need of a winter activity in his
school. I told him of the success we had and explained to him the
fundamentals of the game. On his return to Beaver Falls he started the
game in Geneva College; it is my belief, therefore, that this college
was the first to play basketball. Iowa might have played as early as
Geneva. In 1890, H. F. Kallenberg was an instructor at the Springfield
school and left to accept a position at Iowa in 1891. When the
basketball rides were published, Mr. Kallenberg obtained a set and
organized a group of teams. I have corresponded with both schools, but I
have not been able to learn just when either school played its first
Leland Stanford also
played the game soon after its origin, under the direction of W. O.
Black. In 1893, Mr. Black graduated from Springfield and accepted a
position in the physical education department at Leland Stanford. Black
had played basketball while attending school, and soon after his arrival
at the California school he organized a team.
During 1894 and 1895,
many of the Eastern colleges began to play basketball. They were at
first handicapped because they could find so few opponents among
colleges that it was hard to schedule games. Many of the early college
teams were forced to play Y.M.C.A., high school, and other outside
organizations; it was not uncommon to have the college teams of this
period soundly trounced by some secondary school team or one that was
made up of some group of younger boys.
In the winter of 1893,
two teams from Springfield played an exhibition game at a physical
directors’ convention in the Yale gymnasium. Pearson S.
Page, the physical
director at Andover, reminded me in a letter a few years ago that he had
played on one of the Springfield exhibition teams. Many of these
directors had never seen a basketball game, and on returning to their
respective schools, began to organize teams. Dr. W. H. Anderson, of
Yale, who was present at this convention, soon introduced the game into
Yale in 1894 and into the Anderson Normal School of Physical - Education
(now the New Haven Normal School of Physical Education) . It has been
impossible for me to obtain information as to just when the different
colleges began to play basketball. I have written many letters in an
effort to gather data on this subject, but usually I learn that the
physical director during that period has long since left or is no longer
living. No one seems to have kept a record of the early games.
Although the growth of
basketball in the colleges was comparatively slow, it established itself
on a firm basis, and by 1905 it was recognized as a permanent college
winter sport. Leagues and conferences had been formed, and coaches and
directors were intensely interested in the development of the game.
The general acceptance
of basketball by the colleges led them to feel that they were entitled
to publish their own set of jrules. They felt that college basketball
was on such a high plane that it was unnecessary for them to be governed
by the A.A.U. In 1905, the colleges first set up their own regulations.
Though I have already discussed these regulations, I should like to say
here that the colleges did not, at that time, ask any other organization
to accept the collegiate rules; those organizations that adopted them
did so of their own free will.
The college conferences
have played an important part in the control of basketball. Indeed, it
would have been impossible to have the sport on a high plane had it not
been for their regulations concerning eligibility and playing rules. The
conferences h£ve not been uniform, but their regulations have tended to
elevate basketball to the position that it enjoys in colleges today.
There is no doubt in my
mind that the finest basketball played today is in the colleges. We
often hear a comparison of the merits of collegiate teams and those of
the independent or professional teams. I do not claim that collegiate
teams are superior to many of the independent teams, but I do believe
that the college players, as a group, are far superior to any other
group that may be mentioned.
In making a comparison
of the college and independent teams, it will be well to ask how many of
the independent players received much of their basketball training in
colleges. I am sure that the percentage is very high.
While the colleges have
spread the game by presenting contests before thousands of spectators,
they have also developed the technique of the game to a remarkable
degree. As the high schools expanded their sports, they went to the
colleges to find coaches who were experts in basketball. In this manner,
the college-trained players not only spread but they also developed the
game. It is needless to say that most of the secondary coaches of today
are far superior to the early college coaches and that there were few
college teams as late as 1900 that would have a chance with the
high-school basketball teams of our larger cities today.
It may seem odd that
the construction of gymnasiums and field houses has affected the spread
of basketball; these great buildings, however, have allowed many
spectators to see the game. As a result, the enthusiasts have organized
many of their own teams.
In the past few years,
the colleges have also developed coaching schools. These schools,
conducted by some of the outstanding coaches of the country, give the
teachers from the smaller schools a chance to meet and discuss new
developments of the game, such as rules and systems. Several times I
have visited these schools, and I have found the discussions most
It is only fair to give
due credit to the colleges for their development of basketball. I feel,
however, that there is another point to be considered: colleges, at the
present time, dominate the game. The number of collegiate members of the
rules committee far exceeds the membership of any other organization.
The colleges have taken the responsibility of regulating the game for
all the institutions that are playing it. In my opinion, their control
may not be beneficial to the game. It seems unfair, moreover, that the
colleges should make drastic rules for themselves, then force other
organizations to accept them.
With the introduction
of the ten-second rule, many of the high-school and not a few of the
college conferences ignored the change in play. At the present time,
there is much discussion of other changes that have been suggested. Most
of them are directly concerned with the colleges and take no recognition
of the superior numbers who play the game in other organizations. It is
my belief that if the colleges change the game, they should expressly
state that many of the revisions affect only their own rules.
If, in the coming
basketball season, the papers should announce that the Holyoke,
Massachusetts, High School played and defeated Dartmouth and Holy Cross
Colleges, many people would be inclined to think that there must have
been some mistake. In the season of 1900-1901 the Holyoke team defeated
both of these teams along with some other strong teams. It was not at
all uncommon for the early high-school teams to outrank the allege
Basketball was accepted
by th^mgh schools before the colleges took it up as an organized sport.
There may be several explanations for this fact, but I believe that the
younger boys who.played in the Y.M.C.A. gymnasiums took the game with
them into the high schools. It was only after these boys graduated from
high school and entered college that basketball really began to take
hold in that institution.
The first basketball
league of which I have any record was in Denver, Colorado, in 1896,
while I was physical director of the Y.M.C.A. As the high schools did
not have a gymnasium, the games of their league were played in the “Y”
gym. There were few officials at that time, and as a result I did much
of this work. Many of the high-school players were also students in my
Y.M.C.A. classes, and usually after a game the boys would ask me for
information about their technique or play. Their enthusiasm was largely
responsible for the high type of play in this league.
Though I have no
definite record, I know that the game spread very rapidly in the high
schools; and it was only a few years after the introduction of
basketball until many high schools all over the country were playing
games among themselves. Today there is no other institution that has so
many teams as the high schoo^
A few years ago I
attended an interscholastic tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana. At the
most advantageous point on the floor was a row of reserved seats.
inquiring about them, I was told that these seats were reserved for the
college coaches at the tournament. During the course of the evening, I
noticed two of the outstanding coaches of the country carefully
observing the play and taking notes. Just how much of the reputation of
these men depended on their selection of future basketball players I do
not know, but I think it safe to say that there are few high-school
tournaments where college coaches may not be found looking for mate
know more basketball than any one of the instructors under whom they may
It must not be inferred
that basketball is confined in the high schools to the very few teams
that represent the schools. The game is used as an intramural sport as
well as a class exercise. It has been estimated that 95 per cent of the
high schools in this country play basketball; and if this estimate is
anywhere near correct, the high schools certainly lead all other
institutions in the number of players. For this reason, the various
state high-school athletic associations have organized to control as
well as to develop and to stabilize the game.
Mr. Arthur Trestler was
largely responsible for the splendid organization of the high schools in
Indiana, one of the first states to conduct a series of tournaments. The
winners of these tournaments still meet in Indianapolis to play for the
state title. I was invited to attend one of these tournaments, and the
sight of the Indianapolis Coliseum, packed mth fifteen thousand people,
gave me a thrill that I shall not soon forget.
I was to speak at the
final game of the tournament, and arrived at the Coliseum to find that
the doors had been closed. There were no seats left, and many people
were being turned away. At the door I presented a reserved seat ticket
and an official’s badge, only to be informed by the guard that he could
allow no one to enter. I explained to him that I was to speak there that
evening, but he only smiled and shook his head. As I stood there
chuckling to myself, a captain of police stepped up to me and asked what
the trouble was. I explained my predicament. He asked my name, and when
I told him he exploded, “Good Lord, man, why didn’t you say so long
Most of the states all
over the country have adopted the same system that is used in Indiana,
and the old system of having all the high-school teams in the state meet
at one place for a grand big elimination tournament has largely been
done away with. While this old system had some advantages, there were
also many drawbacks. One of the older schedules lists 1,478 players as
contestants in one tournament. This number was not unusually large, but
it may well show the problems that arose.
Basketball has played
an important part in intramural programs, and statistics (see p. 191)
show that there are more teams entered in basketball than in any other
sport. Not long ago I was talking to Mr. Harley Selvedge, head of the
physical education department at Paseo High School, in Kansas City,
Missouri. Mr. Selvedge told me that in his school there were 112 teams
of six men each who played basketball in their regular classes. Beside
these teams there were forty that were playing an intramural schedule in
addition to the regular school team.
While I do not feel
that basketball should be substituted for a physical-education course in
high school, I do feel that the game supplies an interesting and
profitable activity for the growing boy.
A few years ago, on a
visit to my only sister I asked her if she had ever forgiven me for
leaving the ministry. She looked seriously at me, shook her head and
said, “No, Jim, you put your hand to the plow and then turned back.” As
long as she lived she never witnessed a basketball game, and I believe
that she was a little ashamed to think that I had been the originator of
My sister was very
religious, and the attitude that she took toward sports of all kinds was
not at all uncommon. I can distinctly remember in my boyhood days the
concern that was felt for the men and boys who were taking part in
athletics. It has only been in comparatively recent years that the
churches have accepted athletics as an aid; it will never cease to be a
wonder to me when I hear some athletic event announced from the pulpit.
Just how much
basketball has had to do with the acceptance of athletics in the
churches is a moot question. It is very likely that many of the churches
realized the necessity for some activity that would keep the young
people interested, and as basketball was easily learned and required
little capital to outfit a team, it presented a desirable recreation.
Today, there are few cities in the United States that do not sponsor a
church basketball league; and in some of the larger -cities, hundreds of
teams are sponsored by the churches.
Probably the first
church to form a basketball team was the one directed by Doctor Hall in
New York City. Many times I have heard this man speak from the pulpit,
and it is not a surprise to me that he was among the pioneers to foster
sports for the younger people in the church. I am not sure of the exact
date that this team was formed, but it was in the early part of 1897.
It was not until 1904
that a group of churches, realizing that basketball might be a distinct
help, met and organized a league in New York City. Four churches were
represented in this first league; since its organization, this league
has probably grown to be the largest in the world. The following year,
the Cleveland churches formed a league; and today there are several
hundred teams in that city playing regular schedules throughout the
basketball season. Today, one church league in Brooklyn, New York,
consists of sixty-six teams. In Toronto, Canada, a city where only a few
years ago the city fathers refused to let the street cars run on Sunday,
there is a church league of seventy-five boys’ teams and thirty-one
In 1905, the
theological colleges began to take up basketball, and the development of
the game in these institutions had much to do with the spread in the
religious organizations. When the students graduated from these
institutions and went into the field, they took with them a favorable
attitude toward basketball; much credit must be given to these young men
for the acceptance of sports by the churches.
While the high schools
undoubtedly have the largest number of highly organized teams, churches
and Sunday schools all over the country have organized teams and
leagues, and the number of boys and girls that are taking part in these
leagues runs into hundreds of thousands. More and more, basketball will
be an opportunity of solving the problem of leisure time.
In Dallas, Texas, I was
invited to witness some basketball games. I expected to see two teams in
action. Imagine my surprise, on entering one of the buildings, to see
ten courts laid out. I was informed that each court was used every night
of the week, and that many of the teams represented churches or Sunday
schools. A partition cut off about half of the courts. One section was
always free to any one wishing to watch the games, and the other was
used by the teams that charged admission.
Whenever I witness
games in a church league, I feel that my vision, almost half a century
ago, of the time when the Christian people would recognize the true
value of athletics, has become a reality.
There are two other
religious organizations that closely resemble the Y.M.C.A. in their
objectives and methods: the Knights of Columbus and the Young Men’s
Hebrew Association. The Catholic institutions early took up basketball
in the parish houses; Father Matthew’s Temperance Societies had teams
before records were kept.
The first church league
was composed of Catholic teams and was organized in 1904 in New York
City. The number of leagues in the Catholic churches increased rapidly
for the next few years.
In answer to an
inquiry, Thomas It. Hill writes concerning the Knights of Columbus:
Basketball has been
played among the various councils in Philadelphia intermittently for the
past twenty years. However, with the organization of the National
Council of this society in 1921, the game was adopted as a major sport
and leagues have been conducted each year since that time.
In 1923, Chicago had a
Knights of Columbus league consisting of eighteen teams.
Loyola University, of
Chicago, has, since 1923, held the National Catholic Interscholastic
Basketball Tournament, and the number of teams in this tournament is
increasing each year. These teams represent Catholic leagues of cities,
states, and districts scattered over the United States.
The Young Men’s Hebrew
Association had many players and a number of teams in the early history
of basketball. Before the spread of this organization for Jewish people,
many of them made use of the Y.M.C.A. privileges. In 1915, there were
thirteen cities that reported having teams or leagues playing regular
schedules. In New York City there were fifteen Y.M.H.A.’s, and from
these teams the Metropolitan League was formed. In 1923 the organization
formed a league that was known as the Big Brother Jewish League in
Philadelphia, and each year these leagues have increased in number as
the game has grown in popularity among these societies. One season, the
of Kansas City was
runner-up for competition in the national tournament, representing
It is indeed
interesting to note that the settlement houses were among the very early
institutions to take up basketball.
As I sat in a National
Collegiate Athletic Association meeting one day in New York City, a
young man next to me leaned over, introduced himself, and asked me if I
would come over to Brooklyn that evening and speak to a group of boys. I
assured him that I would be delighted to do so, as I had wondered about
the work that these organizations were doing.
The young man told me
just how to reach the place, and as I followed those directions that
evening, I found that they led me to an old gray stone church. The
basement of the church was lighted, and as I made my way down the worn
steps, my young acquaintance met me. He took me into the building and
showed me the large gymnasium filled with benches. I had expected to see
a small group of younger boys, but I soon realized that I was to talk to
a large audience of boys ranging in age from twelve years to twenty—boys
who were used to taking care of themselves. I noticed their alert
faces—ready for any kind of fun and willing to take part in any kind of
an escapade. It is seldom that I have worked harder to present the story
of basketball than I did to that group. This meeting was my introduction
to settlement-house work, and I began to inquire when these houses had
first used the game.
According to my record,
Hull House in Chicago was the first to play outside games. In 1900 it
scheduled several games with outside organizations, and it found that
basketball was a material help in keeping some of the boys off the
streets. Several settlement houses in New York City had played for some
time before this, but the competition had always been within the
institution. It was not until 1903 that a permanent organization was
formed for the control of basketball; today the game is considered one
of the major activities in the settlement houses.
Though the game has
been extensively used in connection with settlement work, it has
received little publicity, because the attention has been given to the
development of the boys rather than to the winning of the games.
As the whole country
has become conscious of the need for recreation, many of our large
industrial institutions have set aside appropriations for it. Basketball
is today the most important sport sponsored by the industries. Most
large cities have industrial leagues that are of immense value, not only
to the players but to the industries as well. I have seen two rival
industrial teams play games that caused as much interest and feeling as
most of our college games. A manufacturer in Chicago once made the
statement to me that the games played between the departments of his
factory did more to develop loyalty to the organization than any other
As the industrial teams
became highly expert, they began to travel over the country, and their
sponsors realized that in the teams they had a means of advertising. The
Cook Paint and Yarnish team of Kansas City, known all over the United
States; the Hillard Chemical Company of St. Joseph, Missouri; the Tulsa
Oilers, a team that played the outstanding teams of the country; and the
Wichita Henrys, at one time an outstanding team of the country—all are
teams that have an amateur standing and that are sponsored by industrial
There has been some
objection to the industries using basketball as an advertising medium,
but I part see no foundation for it. Often when a boy graduates from
college, he is given a job with some firm with the understanding that he
will play on the firm’s team in his spare hours. This play not only
allows the boy to continue his physical activity, but also allows him
the advantage of being well known. In my estimation, these are distinct
advantages to the boys themselves, and hundreds of them have become
highly valued members of the organizations for which they went to work.
In return for the interest and money the industries have spent on teams
all over the country, it is only fair that they should derive some
measure of the advertising as well as the increased loyalty developed by
The term All American,
as used in sports, usually denotes a selection of players who are
supposedly the best in the United States. I have in mind a team that was
composed of players who really were all Americans. Basketball among the
Indians has had little publicity; yet a letter that I have from Dr. H.
F. Kallenberg tells of the introduction of basketball of 1892. Doctor
In the summer of
1892_I. attended, with C. K. Ober, conferences of 'Sioux' Indians held
at Big Stone Lake, Souf£ Dakota? The following summer I attended the
same conference which was held (at Pierre. At both of these conferences
I introduced basketball, and it was played for the first time by the
Indians. We cut small saplings for uprights and in place of baskets we
used a rim made of willows and fastened to the uprights. The Indians
took to the game like ducks do to water, and soon basketball became
their chosen form of recreation.
Carlisle was the first
Indian school to play basketball, but the success that it met with there
showed that the game was especially adapted to Indian youth. It was not
long after, that U. S. G. Plank introduced the game into Haskell
Institute. During each winter I made it a point to see several games at
Haskell, because I delight in the agility of the Indian boys.
I have talked to
several coaches of Indian teams and have found that coaching a team of
Indian boys presents several problems that are not found among white
boys. One coach told me that he had several good players who would not
take part in the sport for fear of ridicule, and that some of the boys
felt it inexcusable to make a mistake. They would not run this chance
before a group of people. Besides, the Indian teams are usually made up
of comparatively small men. This fact is a distinct handicap to them;
but their ability to move quickly and their art of deception overcome
the disadvantage of their height, so that wherever these teams play they
are assured of a large crowd of spectators.
I have often said the
most expert dribbler that I have ever seen was Louis (Little Rabbit)
Weller, of Haskell Institute. I have seen him take the ball under bis
own basket and weave his way in and out the entire length of the floor.
It always amused spectators to see Little Rabbit take the ball and, by
dribbling, challenge the much larger players to take it from him.
After a game in which I
had watched Weller play, I was talking with some of the officials when
someone touched me lightly on the arm. I turned to see a tall,
well-built Indian boy extending his hand. Immediately my mind flashed
back over the years to the time when I first came to Kansas and when
this man had played guard on one of the first Haskell teams. How well I
remember his superb guarding! To me this player, named Archiquette, had
embodied all the requirements for a perfect guard.
Military and Naval
Since that early
contest in April, 1892, between the Y.M.C.A. and the 26th Separate
Company, a military organization, the military forces of the United
States have continued to play basketball. The armories have supplied a
place for the games, and there are few branches of the service that are
not represented by hundreds of teams. The development of the game by the
military forces has been in some measure responsible for the spread of
basketball into the foreign countries.
After the Armistice,
two teams from the American Army, one from Orly Flying Field, and the
other, an artillery outfit from Bordeaux, visited the British sector to
play basketball. They found that the British did not play the game
because it had been introduced into England as a girls’ game.
When the Americans
found that there were no British teams, they played an exhibition game.
At the conclusion of the exhibition, a group of British officers asked
if they could not have a try at it. As these men had no basketball
shoes, they borrowed them from one of the teams, and, pulling off their
tunics, they started to play. The hall was tossed up and, try as they
might, the Englishmen were unable to get their hands on the ball. A
major who had been so cocksure that a Britisher could excel at any sport
made the remark, “Why, we did not know that it was that kind of a game,
or we would certainly have used it as training for bayonet practice.”
The military men have
always been of an athletic type, and it was natural that they would take
up any form of sport that was available for winter use., Within five
years after the game was started, there were eighteen military
organizations playing regular schedules. National guard units, as well
as the regular service, had teams, and during the nights that were not
taken up by drill, the different companies or branches of the service
used the armories for basketball games.
The Navy did not take
up basketball so quickly as the military branches, but when it once
started, it organized teams in the different yards. Soon each ship with
sufficient recreation space was busy developing a team to represent it.
Both the Army and the
Navy have been instrumental in spreading the game to foreign countries.
As the Army is usually posted in one place longer than the Navy, it
naturally has had a better chance to introduce the game into foreign
lands. Both the Nayy and the Marines, however, have promoted the game.
Mr. R. I. Forbes, who is stationed in China, recently told me that the
Marines in Peiping not only play games with the Chinese teams but also
aid these teams by coaching and officiating.