The James Naismith Reader: Basketball in His Own Words

Doug Stark. Univ. of Nebraska, $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-49621-901-5
In this lackluster compilation, sports historian Stark (Breaking Barriers: A History of Integration in Professional Basketball) collects the writings of James Naismith (1861–1939), the inventor of basketball. In 1891, Naismith was a faculty member at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., when his boss challenged him, as Stark writes in the introduction, “to create an indoor game ‘that would be interesting, easy to learn, and easy to play in the winter and by artificial light.’ ” Naismith included elements of rugby and, when he was unable to find boxes for the goals, he used what was available: peach baskets. Over time, Naismith added more rules to the game, and as he said in a 1932 radio interview, “The most important one was that there should be no running with the ball” and no tackling. Naismith’s letters, articles, and speeches, which make up the bulk of the work, however, tend to repeat the sport’s origin story rather than expand on it. Stark also only offers perfunctory introductions to the selections, so that, rather than creating a narrative or arc, the pieces feel disconnected from one another. This effort falls flat. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/20/2020
Release date: 02/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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