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Win The Argument: “Kansas Invented Basketball”


This is the first in a series of posts in which you, the savvy Kentucky fan, will learn (if you don’t already know) how to debunk popular arguments that opposing fans might throw at you. 

This past weekend I was part of a bachelor party that descended on St. Louis for a few days.  We met several interesting people, including a 300lb S&M enthusiast named Sassy Sarah, a taxi driver named Francis and a girl who called herself the “Next Erin Andrews”.  But perhaps the one person that was most memorable was a Kansas fan named Nelly.  No, this wasn’t the same St. Louis Nelly you’re thinking of.  This Nelly was a hairdresser from Kansas City.    So what do eight Kentucky fans and a KU fan do after a few rounds of drinks while sitting in the shadows of the Arch?  Argue basketball, that’s what.

While Nelly knew her KU basketball, she continued to revert back to one argument.  It didn’t matter UK’s accomplishments, Kansas held the trump card because, in her words, “We invented basketball.”  She was reffering, of course, to James Naismith’s time at Kansas.  Naismith, who we all know invented the game in 1891, became the first coach at Kansas in 1898 and promptly started a basketball team.  Thus started the glorious history of KU basketball and Lawrence became the cradle of hoops.  Or so KU fans want you to believe…

The truth: First, James Naismith was Canadian.  He was born in 1861 in an Ontario town that doesn’t even exist anymore.  He didn’t come to the United States until 1891, and then he went to Springfield, Mass. where he became a PE teacher at the local YMCA International Training  School.  It was there in Springfield where he invented basketball.  That’s why Springfield is the location of the Basketball Hall of Fame today.  After Springfield, Naismith went on to Denver to get his M.D. and only then did he arrive in Lawrence.  So note, Canadian by birth and lived in two places in the US before even getting to Kansas.

In addition, upon further research we find that Kansas just jumped on an already booming basketball bandwagon that had been popularized by YMCAs across the nation.  So yes, the inventor of basketball was the first coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.  That fact is, to me, is pretty cool.  I can even understand why KU fans love to say they invented the game, but they didn’t.  Another interesting tidbit is that Naismith is the only coach in the history of that program to having a losing record at 55-60.  So maybe he created it, but he kind of sucked at it.

So, savvy UK fan, don’t stand for it when KU fans say they invented basketball.  They didn’t.  The inventor of basketball did coach there, but to say they themselves invented it is a massive stretch.  If anything, the YMCA should be thanked for popularizing the sport.   Now, if you’re ever presented with the “We invented basketball” argument, you know what to do.  Let’s see them try and debate whether or not Kentucky has the best fans.  Some things just can’t be argued.

Congrats to Adam and Stephanie!

Article written by Patrick Barker