Basketball’s agriculture connection

By Brandie Piper

Many people know James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891 while working at a YMCA training school in Massachusetts. But did you know the early years of the game have ties to agriculture?

For the first decade or so, basketball players aimed to get the ball into peach baskets nailed to walls on either side of the court. According to History Bits, Naismith’s original idea was to use boxes, but he had trouble finding some. Instead, he used old peach baskets from a school cafeteria.

The baskets still had their bottoms, so each time a basket was made, someone with a ladder had to climb up and retrieve the ball. Eventually, Naismith removed the bottoms from the baskets, which helped speed up the game.

In addition, the first intercollegiate basketball game featured the Minnesota State School of Agriculture (now the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), which played Hamline College in 1893. The ag school won 9-3 in the basement of Hamline’s science building.

When the first professional basketball team was formed in 1898, peach baskets were still in use. They weren’t replaced by nets until the early 20th century.

One final ag connection to note: before inviting the great game of basketball, Naismith grew up on a farm near Almonte, Ontario, Canada.

Published Nov. 12, 2015 on

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