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Basketball in Kansas

Dr. James NaismithAlthough basketball had its beginnings in Massachusetts, Kansas was one of the first states to adopt it as a college sport. Dr. James A. Naismith, an instructor at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, invented the game in the winter of 1891-1892. He was looking for a more interesting way to participate in calisthenics and gymnastic games. He introduced the idea to his class, and began to establish the rules. Thus the game was born.

In 1898 Dr. Naismith joined the staff at the University of Kansas. Since basketball had spread to many YMCAs across the country, it was already being played in Kansas but was generally considered to be a woman's sport, and thus received little attention. Naismith introduced basketball to his male physical education classes. The men immediately took to it and the Kansas basketball craze had begun. The Kansas University Weekly reported on December 10, "... it appears that the basketball mania would carry all before it."

On February 4, 1899, KU faced its first varsity game, against a YMCA team in Kansas City, Missouri, that was more experienced. KU lost 16-5. The half time score was close with YMCA 4 and KU 3, but the large number of fouls in the third quarter proved to be KU's downfall. KU was somewhat handicapped by the fact that the baskets at the YMCA were fastened to the wall while those the team was accustomed to were about 12 feet from the wall. The attendance at that first game was 150.

The dribble was unknown at that early date, and KU home games were played on the skating rink for the first season. Many men considered basketball a girl's game and refused to play. This changed in the early 1910s when women's basketball was banned from most institutions.

Basketball became the premier sport in the Midwest, but it took a bit longer for the eastern states to begin to consider it a sport at all. By 1940 eastern states had accepted the game and players there worked rapidly to catch up to their Midwest competitors.

The original uniform for basketball players consisted of long trousers and loose shirts. This has greatly changed in the modern era with loose shorts and tops, and specialty shoes to improve a player's performance.

From those early days basketball has retained its popularity in Kansas. Today rivals KU and Kansas State University face off each year, dividing the state in loyalty, and providing entertainment for the nation.

Entry: Basketball in Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2004

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.