James was under pressure. He’d only just begun as phys-ed director at the YMCA Training Academy in Springfield and the head of his department had already put him under deadline. He sat on a bench outside of the gymnasium watching the cold December rain soak the soccer fields in a nasty mud.
Two weeks. Two weeks to come up with some “distraction” to keep his students in shape during the winter months. Something fair for all the players. Something that won’t take up too much room. He turned and glanced into the gym to see his bloody-nosed students wrestling on the hardwood floors. Something not too rough.
The rain began to let up and James took a walk across campus. Stopping at a pond, he watched a little duck swim up and jump onto a rock to shake out his feathers. James laughed to himself as he remembered the game he used to play as a child back in Canada. Some passing teenagers noticed the bird and started throwing pebbles at it, trying to be the first to knock it off his perch. But all the boys’ hard-thrown pebbles were missing their mark and the duck nestled down and tucked his head under his wing.
James walked over to the boys. “Put a little more loft on your shots, fellas. Softer, with more loft.”
One of the boys tried out the advice and the stone followed a high arching path before it found its mark and the duck let out a startled quack as it plunged back into the water.
“Hey, I think you’re onto something, mister!”
On January 20, 1892, James Naismith nervously oversaw his Duck on a Rock inspired “distraction” played out for the first time - basketball. The peach baskets would eventually be replaced with iron rims.