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James Naismith. Photograph of an oil painting by Lon Keller, 1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115891).

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Naismith, James (06 November 1861–28 November 1939), inventor of basketball, was born in Almonte, Ontario, the son of John Naismith, a lumberman and carpenter, and Margaret Young. In 1870 both of Naismith’s parents died in a typhoid epidemic, leaving him to be raised by a religiously strict grandmother and then by a bachelor uncle. His schooling was interrupted by five years’ work in a logging camp, but in 1883 he entered McGill University, intending to study for the ministry. After receiving his A.B. in 1887, he studied theology for three years at a Presbyterian seminary affiliated with McGill; during his last year he directed undergraduate gymnastics classes. Having excelled athletically in school, he decided that rather than become a clergyman he could do good more effectively by combining sport and religion in the teaching and promotion of physical education. In 1890 he enrolled in a two-year course for Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) physical directors at a new training college in Springfield, Massachusetts....

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Ruble, Olan G. (17 February 1906–11 November 1982), professor of physical education and women's basketball coach, professor of physical education and women’s basketball coach, was born Olan Guy Ruble near Chariton in Lucas County, Iowa, the son of Lon S. Ruble and Gertrude Curtis, farmers. Ruble attended a rural elementary school. Following graduation from Norwood High School in 1923, he earned a B.A. from Simpson College in 1928 and a master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1937. In 1930 he married Marguerite O’Neall, with whom he would have one child....

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Wade, Margaret (30 December 1912–16 February 1995), basketball coach and physical education teacher, was born Lily Margaret Wade, in McCool, Mississippi, the eighth and last child of Robert Miller Wade and Bettie Veal Wade, farmers. Margaret grew up at a time when high school women’s basketball was extremely popular in small towns and rural communities throughout the country. Her parents farmed land near Cleveland, Mississippi, and she played forward for the Lady Wildcats of Cleveland High School. After graduating in 1929 she enrolled at the recently opened Delta State Teachers College in Cleveland, where she studied physical education. Delta State started a women’s basketball team her freshman year, and Wade played the first three seasons. The team, however, proved short-lived. A national group of college-based female physical educators had launched a campaign against women’s competitive sports, arguing that women were better served by “moderate” exercise and noncompetitive play. After the 1932 season Delta State administrators succumbed to those arguments and ruled that basketball was “too strenuous for young ladies.” Wade and her teammates were furious. “We cried and burned our uniforms,” she later recalled, “but there was nothing else we could do.”...

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Walsh, David Henry (05 October 1889–02 June 1975), educator, coach, and basketball official, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the son of Samuel Walsh, a city laborer, and Catharine (maiden name unknown). As a youngster Walsh played basketball and baseball with neighborhood playmates. He took sport seriously and developed a strong competitiveness. At Hoboken High School, from which he graduated in 1907, the 5′ 8″, 180-pound Welsh lettered four years in both sports....