Springfield, Massachusetts is known as the birthplace of basketball. During StoryCorps’ visit to Springfield, we parked the MobileBooth outside of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Paul Lambert, who gave us a great tour of the Hall, recorded some of his stories about the history of the game.In December 1891, James Naismith invented a simple game for his students at the Springfield YMCA Training School to play between fall and spring games. His students loved the game so much, they had rules published and took the game to YMCA school around the world. By 1894, young people were playing the sport in China. By 1936, 40 years later, it was an Olympic sport. At the time there were also young women who were students at the YMCA school who wanted to play the game and Dr. Naismith encouraged them. Basketball is now the fastest growing sport among young people world wide. “The joy of basketball’s expansion around the world is a remarkable story.” said Paul.
“There are people around the world playing basketball of all shapes and sizes.” Following World War II, wheelchair basketball was invented. “One of the sad parts of history is that every time we have a war, there are more folks that suddenly need that diversion and wheelchair basketball has definitely thrived… Try sitting in a chair and throwing a free throw… “During our stay in Springfield the Basketball Hall of Fame held its 2008 Enshrinement Ceremony. This year, 7 players, coaches, and announcers were inducted into the Hall including Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Pat Riley, Cathy Rush, and Dick Vitale.Growing up, Paul went to college basketball games in Boston and to Celtics games with his father, Pierre Lambert, who told him, “A ball is a perfect toy.” Basketball is a perfect example of his words, it is one of the most accessible games, played on courts and streets across the globe. Basketball has grown far beyond the expectation of Dr. Naismith, who first played with two peach baskets and ball that barely bounced.