It’s here! Final Four weekend! One of my favorite weekends of the whole year. And not only are there no #1 seeds left – I like pulling for the underdog – but Butler is back in the big arena! Go DAWGS!
Most basketball fans and even a few who don’t care for the sport know that it was invented by Dr. James Naismith. Perhaps you knew that too, but do you know WHY he invented it?
Naismith overcame much tragedy as a young person having been orphaned at age 9. Even though he dropped out of high school he went on to finish not only secondary school but college as well; receiving a master’s degree from Montreal’s Presbyterian Theological College.
Convinced that he could better demonstrate the gospel through sports than through the pulpit he chose to serve as a physical-education instructor at the Young Men’s Christian Association’s International Training School for Christian Workers (now Springfield College). Naismith’s vision?
“To win men for the Master through the gym.”
Naismith wanted an indoor activity for students to play during the winter months. After toying with indoor versions of football, soccer and lacrosse, Naismith spent two weeks testing various games but had no success.
Finally, drawing from all of these he settled on a ball that could be easily handled, play that involved running and passing but no tackling, and a goal at each end of the floor. So at a Springfield YMCA in 1891 the game of basketball was born.
From their beginning in 1851, YMCAs on college and university campuses had tremendous participation nationwide. Reportedly, close to 50,000 men were enrolled in YMCA college Bible studies by 1905.
Basketball served as a vital tool for outreach during its first 50 years. In his 1941 book “Basketball: Its Origin and Development,” Naismith wrote, “Whenever I witness games in a church league, I feel that my vision, almost half a century ago, of the time when the Christian people would recognize the true value of athletics, has become a reality.”
Although the sport may have lost its relationship to Christianity, it will always have the tremendous legacy of a founder who had a consuming passion to share God’s gospel of grace!
What might God accomplish through you and I if we had such a passion for those who don’t know Jesus?