James Naismith, the Presbyterian minister who invented basketball, was born November 6, 1861, Almonte, Ontario, Canada, twenty-six miles south-west of Toronto.

The International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School recruited Naismith in 1891. Once on board, Luther Halsey Gulick, Jr., head of the Physical Education Department, told the young Presbyterian minister to invent non-contact sport that would replace the boring calisthenics used during the winter for YMCA attendance was dropping off, and idle hands often turned to ill-pursuits. As a former athlete, Naismith relished the challenge, but during the long incubation period questioned whether if this was an impossible task.

Chart Highlights

  • Naismith has a grand trine in earth.
    • It starts with Pluto in the ninth, where he was transforming the stodgy YMCA into something more dynamic for his fellow man.
      • Pluto is a semi-sextile away from both Uranus (individual achievement) and the midheaven (dreams and goals) in the tenth house of intellectual variety (Gemini).
      • Naismith has a lot of sextile-like associations in his chart showing the helping hands of the surrounding people.
    • The next planet in the trine is the Moon in the fourth, showing how much inspiration was a large motivation for him.
      • A sextile away in Sagittarius, the women in his family appear, helping him with ideas.
    • The third point starts with a point, his ascendant at 15 Virgo (keyword Association, aptly enough), and then via a translation of light envelopes both Saturn (Tenacious) and Jupiter (Fame one way or another) as he was born during a lesser conjunction year.
    • Naismith is a splash planetary pattern.

From Hat boxes to Peach Baskets

Eventually Naismith felt that field hockey, and cricket, sports two popular sports with no body contact were the best foundations for his new exercise, but without a scoring mechanism he knew the idea was doomed, as it made it just another form of calisthenics.. Originally his team comprised nine men for either side with only one person as the official scorer.

Still, how to score or what the goal was remained the problem. His sister, Venus, at 27 Sagittarius 25 (Keyword Masterful) in the fourth house, suggested hat boxes. Great idea, but the hat boxes were not sturdy enough to last an entire game, so half-bushel peach baskets, shown in the picture below, were the replacement. Another failure, as the players discovered quickly enough that a stepladder was now a required piece of equipment, so retrieve the ball.

The next game refinement of cutting out the bottoms of the baskets shows the subtlety of Virgo. Despite all these changes to scoring, Naismith’s original prohibitions of walking or running with the ball in one’s arms like football were never changed, and are still the basis of the game. A few years later, watching from the sidelines, his wife asked him to modify the setup for women; she was interested.

Refining and more refining

The Y could not fully remunerate Naismith, much less promote the sport, so ,in 1898 he left Springfield, Massachusetts and went cross-country to the Gross Medical College, Denver, Colorado — now the University of the Colorado School of Medicine. Here he worked on refining the sport, toying with knee pads and other protective gear. He got a medical degree from the school, always searching for ways to perfect his game, but also ensure it remained a non-contact sport and alleviate the problem of player injuries.

Another move, his last. This time he was chairman of the physical education department at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, where he also coached basketball for the next forty years until 1908. Besides basketball, they credit him with inventing the protective helmet for football players.

Naismith died November 28th 1939, in Lawrence, Kansas. The basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts is named in his honour. During his life he all appeared in three silent movies .He turned all offers to patent the game, believing it was something all should share. We are sure glad he did.


  1. Rains, Rob, Naismith: the Man who Invented Basketball, Philadelphia, PA, Temple University, c. 2009