This I believe: Basketball Matters.
In the winter of 1891, Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball at the YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts. The school–a training enclave for missionaries—educated students studying to introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
In Dr. Naismith’s view, basketball and the foundational message of true Christianity were interlaced.
The idea for basketball came to him after this revelation: the bitter Northern winters dictated the need for an indoor game…a game exponentially more graceful than football, and simpler than baseball.
He wanted a game where finesse stood equally with power.
It was, most assuredly, a Sunday night…late…when the good Doctor drafted the rules. Originally, there were thirteen (analogous, perhaps, to the thirteen colonies). He asked the janitor to locate two half-bushel peach baskets and hang them from the gymnasium balcony. The first game was won 2-0 when a future missionary scored on a twenty-five foot shot.
Young missionaries, as they departed the school, were enjoined to teach the game. By the 1936 Olympics—those of Jesse Owens fame– basketball was played in more than 150 countries. Dr. Naismith’s rules had been translated into fifty languages.
Naismith believed basketball must remain simple. A ball…a basket…a boy or a girl. Other sports, he believed, were elitist –requiring substantial money or equipment. Basketball, he said, was a game for the people, not just the well-to-do.
This game, in 2007, is the most popular participant sport on Earth. More girls under 18 play basketball than any other sport.
From the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan, to the dusty streets of old Bakersfield, everyone hoops.
I’ve played on the back streets of Kowloon Peninsula in Hong Kong, sun-drenched courts in Christchurch, Barbados; a rooftop in San Francisco with the Golden Gate framing the foggy skyline; and of course, on Venice beach in my native Los Angeles.
I was 44 when I stopped carrying basketball shoes in my CR-V. I was 33 (with two sons) when I accepted the Lakers weren’t going to offer a ten-day contract.
“The game is easy to play, but difficult to master,” said Dr. Naismith. “One can just decide to play it, or one can master it, or be any place in between and still have an enjoyable experience.”
These words…his words are profound in their descriptive simplicity.
We love basketball because it reflects who we are. We teach it to our sons and daughters with the quiet hope they will someday know the beauty of a game winning shots at the buzzer, or how the time/space continuum is disrupted as everyone watches the ball and the seconds on the clock wondering if it’s going to fall. In that tenuous moment of waiting, the dreams of a season– and perhaps a career– hang in the shadowy balance.
When the game begins to matter to us– with more than a surface involvement—we are changed…into better players and better persons–not just for now, but for eternity.
This I believe, Basketball matters.
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