BASKETBALL was accepted
in many foreign countries soon after the game was first played in the
United States. It was early introduced into several European countries,
although they did not play the game so extensively as some of the far
eastern nations. Even today the sport is not so popular in England as it
is in China and Japan. The Y.M.C.A., which had been instrumental in
spreading the game in the United States, was also largely responsible
for the foreign spread through its foreign branches.
There is little doubt
that the war of 1914 did much to increase the popularity of basketball
in foreign countries; as a direct result of seeing the Americans play
the game, it has been taken up and accepted by nations that previously
knew little of basketball.
I have seen the game
played in foreign countries, and I have received numerous pictures of
contests and courts from Australia to Alaska. In spite of the fact that
I have also written many letters trying to determine just when
basketball was introduced into other countries, I have been unable to
gather complete and accurate data. To attempt to state chronologically
when the game was first accepted by different nations might, therefore,
cause confusion. In a few instances, however, the introduction of the
game is clearly set, and in some the individual who first introduced the
game is known. One instance in particular is that of my native country,
If Canada may be
considered as a foreign country, it indeed may claim to be the first
country outside of the United States to play basketball. Of the ten men
on the first team, there were five Canadians. McDonald was from Nova
Scotia, Archibald and Thompson were from New Brunswick, and Patton and I
from Ontario. All of these men, with the exception of myself, returned
to Canada and took basketball with them.
The spread of
basketball in Canada was not so rapid as it was in this country. In the
first place, the Dominion was not so thickly populated as this country;
and in the second place, Canada was so well adapted for outdoor winter
sports that it did not feel the need for a new winter game. It has been
only in the past few years that basketball has taken a firm hold in the
Dominion, and today the game is widely played in all of the provinces.
The Dominion is divided
into basketball districts, and the winning team from each district
competes in a national tournament, the winners of which are declared
national champions. In the larger Canadian cities, the churches have
done much to popularize the game; and the high schools have taken it up
to such an extent that there is a representative on the rules committee
from that country.
Several years ago I was
invited to make a trip to Edmonton, Alberta, to see the Commercial
Grads, one of the outstanding girls’ teams, play. Mr. and Mrs. Percival
Page were in charge of the team made up of graduates of the Commercial
High School in Edmonton. The girls’ playing was a revelation to me; they
handled the ball as the boys do, and their floor work was far superior
to what I believed possible for girls. In spite of the fact that these
girls played either boys’ or girls’ rules, they were typical young
ladies, not the tomboy type at all.
Some years ago the
Toilers, one of the leading boys’ teams, from Winnipeg, made a trip to
Tulsa, Oklahoma, to play the champions of the United States, the Diamond
Oilers. The Toilers were defeated in two games and were returning by
plane to resume the series at Winnipeg, when the plane crashed at
Neodeasha, Kansas. Two of the players were killed, and most of the
others were injured. I felt then that this accident would break up the
team, but Colonel Sampson, who was in charge of the team at that time,
later informed me that they were carrying on and that they again
expected to have a national championship team.
Although basketball is
not so far advanced in Canada as it is in the United States, I feel sure
that in a few years, Canadian teams will be playing on an equal basis
with other teams in the world.
Don Alford, whom I had
coached on the University of Kansas team, went to Alaska in 1906 and
helped to organize a team in Nome. This Alaskan team liked the game, and
with practice and coaching it became so expert that a trip through some
of the States was scheduled. In spite of the fact that the players had
been together through only one season, their record in the United States
showed that these men from the North were as expert at basketball as our
own teams. I have been unable to learn the exact number of games the
Nome team won or lost, but as far as I can determine, it won more than
85 per cent of its games.
As there seems to be
little to indicate exactly when basketball was introduced into the
Philippine Islands, it is probable that the natives gained their first
information of the game through watching the American soldiers stationed
It was not until 1910
that a league was definitely organized. The Manila Y.M.C.A. and the
Bureau of Education both did much to promote the sport, and it is
through their influence that basketball has been adopted throughout most
of the twenty-one provinces. The Philippine colleges and universities
are using the game as a part of their physical-educa-tion and sports
program, and it has been adopted as an official event by the National
Collegiate Athletic Association of the Philippine Islands.
The Far Eastern
Athletic Association, which is in many ways comparable to the Olympics,
lists basketball as one of its events. Competing with China, Japan, and
India, the Philippines have won a good percentage of the basketball
In a letter, Regino
Ylanan says that the interest in basketball in the Philippine Islands is
growing each year, and that the proficiency with which it is being
played is showing a marked advance.
The West Indies
It has always been my
opinion that basketball would not be accepted in the southern countries
as readily as in the northern, because many of the southern countries
can use outdoor sports the year around and because indoor exercise is
not necessary. Yet many of the southern countries, as well as the
smaller islands, have taken up basketball; in most instances, the game
is included in the school activities.
Only recently Miss Anna
McCracken, an instructor in the University of Kansas, told me that her
aunt, Miss Alsina Andrews, from Hector River, Jamaica, had spoken of the
popularity of basketball in Jamaica. Miss Andrews explained that most of
the schools were private schools aided by the British government and
that basketball was played extensively by the boys of the island. These
boys are largely Indians, although there are many Negroes and some few
In many of the smaller
islands of this district where basketball is popular, the game is played
entirely out of doors; the courts are the earth, pounded hard by the
constant tramp of bare feet.
I have been unable to
learn how old these courts are or when basketball was first played in
Jamaica, but it seems that the game was well established by 1926. Haiti
is well acquainted with basketball, although I cannot learn when it was
introduced into this island.
Cuba, on the other
hand, has quite as extensive basketball program. The game is played in
the schools, and both school and independent leagues are well organized.
In Puerto Rico,
basketball has become a national sport. In a letter, Julio A. Francis
states that a meeting was held January 12,1930, in Mayaguez, to form a
basketball association. This meeting was largely attended by officials,
sports writers, and representatives of teams. The result was the
formation of the Puerto Rican Basketball Association, which elected for
its officers men who were interested in the promotion of the game. I
feel it a distinct compliment that, along with Theodore Roosevelt, then
governor of the island, I should be elected as honorary chairman of the
introduced into South America in 1896 by a missionary stationed in S§,o
Paulo, Brazil, who organized a team in McKenzie College.
This team took up the
game readily and was well on the way to becoming adept at the sport. One
day as the coach was working with the boys, he accidentally left a paper
on his desk, and in this paper was the picture of a girls’ basketball
team. Some of the team saw the picture and immediately refused to play
any game that was meant for girls.
Although this attitude
has almost disappeared, there are a few sections of South America where
the boys still refuse to play basketball. Jess Hopkins, who has done
much to promote the game in South America, stated in a letter that on a
trip through Brazil he found some sections where basketball was still
considered a girls’ game. Mr. Hopkins is known as the father of
basketball on the southern continent.
In the larger cities of
South America, basketball is played much as it is here. In Montevideo,
Uruguay, the game is played in gymnasiums; the organization in this city
compares favorably with those of our larger cities here in the United
It was a raw spring day
in 1918, and the streets of Paris were damp and uninviting. As I walked
along the Rue St. Michel going from my hotel to my office, I passed one
of those small book shops that are so common in France. One of these
shops I had noticed several times, and as I was early that morning, I
stepped through the crowded door into its dim interior. Books were
everywhere, old books and new ones, classics and the cheapest novels. As
I stood in front of one of the racks, I noticed a small red book with
the chapter title “Le Basketball,” in Les Sports pour Tons by Em. Weber.
I bought the book and took it to the office with me. Upon examination I
found that it was a French translation of the basketball rules. I was
interested to know when the book was printed, but I could find no date
either in the rules themselves or on the frontispiece. When I turned to
the advertisements in the book, I found the date 189T.
There is no doubt, as I
have said, that the War had a vital influence on the spread of
basketball in the European nations. In France it was common to see
basketball goals at the American cantonments, and the play on these
courts was always witnessed by a group of French people. I remember a
group of French soldiers watching a game. After its finish, they took
the ball and attempted to throw it into the basket. They were at first
quite awkward in their attempts, but the rapidity with which they
learned to pass and shoot was astonishing. It was largely through the
American soldiers that the
French people became
acquainted with the game as it is really played by men. Although the
French girls had played basketball for some time, its popularity among
the men did not come until after the Armistice.
After the Armistice was
signed, the Inter-Allied Games were held in Paris, and although the
Americans won the basketball title, the French and Italian teams that
had recently taken up the game furnished most interesting competition.
Only recently I picked
up a paper and noticed that the girls’ championship team of the United
States had returned from a trip to France to play the champions of that
country. I had seen the American champions play and was much surprised
to learn that they had been defeated by the French team and that the
French women held the world championship.
Although France has
wholeheartedly accepted basketball, England has shown little enthusiasm
for the game. In searching for a record of some English team, I find
mention only of the London Y.M.C.A., and there is little in regard to
history of this group.
Soon after the origin
of basketball, Miss Bessie Fotheringham went to England and introduced
the girls’ game. The acceptance of basketball by the girls of that
country stamped the game as one that was played by women, and the
English men therefore refused to play it. England has not been alone in
this attitude, but it seems that most of the other countries in which
basketball was introduced as a girls’ game have overcome this viewpoint,
and both men and women are now playing.
The Far East
While I was attending
the Training School, one of my classmates, a Japanese named Ishakawa,
made the first sketch of a basketball game. This drawing was printed in
the guide for 1893 and has been reproduced many times. Mr. Ishakawa
attended the University of Wisconsin after leaving Springfield, and, I
understand, he returned to his native country soon after his graduation.
Whether he introduced basketball into Japan I am unable to say; I do
know that as early as 1900 Hancock, in his book on physical education in
Japan, mentions basketball as an important part of the program for
Although basketball was
undoubtedly introduced into Japan soon after its origin, it was not
generally accepted as a sport for boys until about 1913, when Mr.
Franklin Brown, a graduate of the Chicago Y.M.C.A. College, went to that
Brown organized teams
and leagues in several of the larger cities, and with the help of some
students who had attended school in the United States, he was successful
in making the game so popular that it is played extensively throughout
The Japanese have sent
several teams to the United States as well as to the Oriental Olympics.
Wasida College sent a team that toured our West Coast, and a Y.M.C.A.
team visited Honolulu and played a series of games. In 1938, a team from
Meiji University played an exhibition game against Washburn College at
Topeka, Kansas. The Japanese, although under a distinct handicap in
size, were fast as lightning on the floor and handled the ball and
played with astonishing agility. After this game I met the members of
the team and their manager. Through their interpreter they told me that
basketball was one of the leading sports of their country and that each
year it was spreading rapidly.
Not only did Mr. Brown
develop the game in Japan, but he made several trips into Manchuria and
was instrumental in introducing the game into that country.
China was one of the
first foreign nations to take up basketball, and I believe that the game
was played there within a few years after its origin. Robert Gailey, who
played center on the Princeton team, introduced the game into China in
1898. Although basketball was rather extensively played, it was not
until several years later, when Dr. Charles Siler went to China, that
the scientific type of basketball was played. Doctor Siler was an old K.
U. basketball player, and it was largely owing to his efforts that the
game earned the popularity that it now enjoys. In 1908, Dr. Max J. Exner
went to East China as National Director for the Y.M.C.A. and spread the
game in the eastern section of China through the tournaments and leagues
that he organized.
A few years ago I
received an interesting letter from Mr. M. Y. Ambros, who was traveling
through China and was in Peiping at the time he wrote. Mr. Ambros says:
We remember you very
often, Dr. Naismith, while looking from the train or riding in a
rickasha, In all parts of different cities we saw basketball goals
everywhere. It will be a real pleasure for you to travel through the
orient to see how much basketball is really played. It cannot be
described or pictured; it cannot be told; it must be seen.
Just recently we saw
the girls’ league playing at Peiping “Y” gymnasium. Lots of spectators
from all kinds of social levels, coolies beside the soldiers, and the
family carrying a baby in hands, the referee in a long Chinese skirt or
coat, the encouragement of the players by the crowd around. You can just
feel what the game means to them.
India is another of the
Far East group that has organized basketball, and from that country
comes the report of the Bengal Basketball Association. This Association
came into existence at a meeting called by Mr. M. J. Mukerjee, director
of physical education of the Calcutta Y.M.C.A. The official playing
code, as promulgated by the basketball rules committee, has been adopted
by the Bengal Association. Nineteen organizations are represented in the
Bengal Association, and I understand that this group meets annually.
In 1920, H. C. Buck
wrote from Madras, India, that in his city a school of physical
education had been opened and that physical directors were being trained
for all parts of India, Burma, and Ceylon. He added that basketball had
become an important sport of these countries and that it was sure to
make progress in the schools and colleges as well as in the Y.M.C.A.
basketball in the Far East it may be well to mention some of the other
distant countries that have taken up the game. Down off the east coast
of Africa, Madagascar received the game from the French soldiers
stationed at that place. Though the people of this island were
acquainted with the game, it was not until Eugene Beigbeder went there
in 1924 that basketball was really organized. Today it is played in the
schools and forms an important part of the sports program of that
In the southern part of
Asia there are several countries that have not only adopted basketball
but have also translated the rules into their own languages.
The Near East
In 1924, I received a
letter from Chester K. Tobin, who was connected with the Y.M.C.A. in
Turkey. I knew Mr. Tobin here in the United States before he went to
Constantinople, and I was pleased to hear that the Turkish people were
translating the basketball rules into their language. The letter from
Mr. Tobin asked if I would write a message to the boys of Turkey, to be
printed in the front of the rule book.
At the time I received
the letter, I was in a camp in the Rocky Mountains, and I answered on
the only available paper that I could find, a few sheets of foolscap.
Several months later I received a copy of the basketball rules from
Constantinople, and in the front of the book was my picture and the
message that I had written. I had not kept a copy of my letter to Tobin,
and I never knew just what I said.
Egypt is another
country that has developed basketball to an astonishing degree. A recent
picture that I received from Cairo shows a group of boys playing on an
open court and clad only in shorts.
G. M. Tamblyn is
largely responsible for the introduction of the game into Egypt, and his
interest and work in this country have resulted in the games being taken
up by the schools and in the formation of leagues. In 1925, Mr. Tamblyn,
along with Dr. William A. Eddy, of Cairo University, formed the Egyptian
Basketball Union; today this organization largely controls the sport,
especially around Cairo. At the time of its conception, the Union had as
an ideal the spread of basketball throughout the nation, and it is
largely owing to the influence of this organization that basketball has
attained the status that it has there.
Syria is another
country that has used basketball as a recreation for many years. In
1901, Joseph A. Goodhue, who was physical instructor at the Protestant
College in Beirut, organized eight teams in the college and arranged a
tournament. A letter written in 1929 related that the game had become
so popular that
many institutions were building athletic fields and installing
Central and Southern
In recent years
Czechoslovakia had advanced rapidly in the number of teams that were
playing basketball. F. M. Marek was instrumental in pushing the game in
that country, and his interest and work was a decided help in the
formation of a basketball league in the European countries.
While the game was
played by both boys and girls, the lack of adequate facilities kept the
game from spreading rapidly. Prague was probably the basketball center
of the nation, and basketball was a part of the activity program of the
schools in this city.
That basketball is
taking a firm hold in the southern European countries is clearly
indicated by a meeting that was called in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1932.
In this year, representatives from ten countries met at the First
International Basketball Conference. The Conference was called as a
result of a request by the National Basketball Federation of
Czechoslovakia, Portugal, and Switzerland.
The meeting was called
as a result of the general dissatisfaction that existed because of the
variations of the rules and the lack of a uniform playing code; the
outcome of the Conference was the formation of the International
Federation of Basketball. The ten countries represented in this
Federation were Czechoslovakia, Portugal, Switzerland, Latvia, Italy,
Argentina, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania. They adopted the
rules that are used here in the United States with a few variations to
meet the national conditions of the countries mentioned.
One interesting fact
about the conference was that, although France was invited to attend,
that country was not represented. A statement was made that France was
unwilling to change the rules that were used in that country, and a
separate conference was held in Paris. This conference was rather a
national meeting, and none of the nations represented in the
International Federation of Basketball were present at the Paris
There is every
indication that some of the countries that do not play basketball at the
present time will soon take it up. In 1936, basketball was included for
the first time in the Olympic Games, in Berlin. There is little doubt
that this did much to increase the interest in basketball over the