Basketball was actually invented by a Canadian teaching in New England. Dr. James Naismith was a physical education teacher and student at a YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891 when he decided he needed to come up with an activity to keep his students in better shape during the long, cold New England winters. He wanted an activity to do in a gymnasium. Though many of his ideas were considered either too physically rough or not suited for indoors (some involved tackling), James took a peach basket and nailed it 10 feet above an indoor track. “Basket ball,” as James called it, was born. A soccer ball was used to shoot baskets. At first, each basket was worth one point each, so whichever team had the most baskets won.
The first game was played in January 1892. It ended in a 1-0 score. The only point came from a shot taken 25 feet away from the basket. The court was roughly half the size of the present-day standard court. By 1898, the standard rule was that five players from each team could be on the court at a time.
Since a peach basket had a bottom in it, the ball would have to be manually removed each time someone made a basket. To make it easier, James had a hole drilled through the bottom of the basket so a rod could be used to push the ball up and out. Eventually, he figured out that having the entire bottom cut out would work better, though by 1906 the sport had grown so fast that rims with nets were created to shape the game much as it is today.
James never played basketball in college — because he had not invented it yet. However, he was a standout athlete at Canada's McGill College as a lacrosse and football player and as a gymnast.
In James's diaries, recovered by family members in 2006, many were astonished to learn that he based the game of basketball largely on the rules for a childhood game popular in the 1800s called “Duck and Run,” in which a stone was placed on an elevated object, usually a tree stump, with a player from one team guarding it. Players would throw “ducks” (rocks) at the stone to try and knock it off the pedestal. Once the stone was successfully knocked off, the players would run to try to pick up their ducks, but if they were tagged before returning successfully behind the throwing line, they were “it” and had to guard the stone.