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James NaismithJames Naismith

The Man Who Invented Basketball

Rob Rains

Narrated by Kenneth Campbell

Available from Audible

Book published by Temple University Press

It seems unlikely that James Naismith, who grew up playing "Duck on the Rock" in the rural community of Almonte, Canada, would invent one of America’s most popular sports. But Rob Rains and Hellen Carpenter’s fascinating, in-depth biography James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball shows how this young man—who wanted to be a medical doctor, or if not that, a minister (in fact, he was both)—came to create a game that has endured for over a century. James Naismith reveals how Naismith invented basketball in part to find an indoor activity to occupy students in the winter months. When he realized that the key to his game was that men could not run with the ball, and that throwing and jumping would eliminate the roughness of force, he was on to something. And while Naismith thought that other sports provided better exercise, he was pleased to create a game that "anyone could play."

With unprecedented access to the Naismith archives and documents, Rains and Carpenter chronicle how Naismith developed the original rules of basketball, coached the game at the University of Kansas—establishing college basketball in the process—and was honored for his work at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin.

Rob Rains is a former National League beat writer for USA Today's Baseball Weekly and for three years covered the St. Louis Cardinals for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. He is the author or co-author of autobiographies or biographies of Tony La Russa, Ozzie Smith, Mark McGwire, Jack Buck, Red Schoendienst and many other sports celebrities.


“Dr. Naismith was so much more than the inventor of the sport and James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball is a well written documentation of his outstanding attributes as an educator, religious scholar and leader of young people. Naismith lived his entire life without regard for personal glory or financial rewards, but rather for setting examples of integrity and perseverance for all to follow. Everyone who reads this book will have a better understanding of the evolution of the game, but more importantly, they will realize that when we follow Dr. Naismith’s general life principles, we and the game become the real winners.”

—Billy Packer

“The original Dr. J played rugby, not hoops, and rocked a handlebar mustache, not a ’fro. That Doc is the subject of a spiffy new biography...More breezy bio than thatched thesis, Rains traces the foundation of basketball to “Duck on the Rock,” a game Naismith played as a child growing up in Canada. Years later, then-YMCA employee Naismith summoned basketball at the 11th hour to win a bet he could invent a new indoor game. If you want to get really old school, James Naismith is where it’s at”


“Rains (formerly, USA Today) and Carpenter, granddaughter of Naismith (18611939), offer readers a sound biography—and heartwarming study—of the man who invented one of our most popular games. Carpenter’s introduction connects readers with her family’s history, drawing them in and making them want to know more about the Canadian Naismith... Rains covers all aspects of Naismith’s life, not simply the story of basketball, and this results in a straightforward yet in-depth look at Naismith, who vowed "not [to] let anybody work harder today than I do," a mantra that many readers will find inspirational. In addition to its broad appeal to basketball aficionados, this would be an excellent addition to all local libraries seeking to enhance their biography section as well as their sports collection. It will certainly have appeal to YA readers as well.”

Library Journal

“The volume...provides new insights into Naismith’s own perspectives on life, sport, faith, and basketball. Thus, it provides a unique look at Naismith.... the book reads well, has useful information, and is a nice addition to the history of basketball.”

The Journal of Sport History

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University Press Audiobooks