New game of basket ball is introduced to Seattle in February 1893.

  • By Cassandra Tate
  • Posted 2/12/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2980
In February 1893, Thomas S. Lippy, physical education director at the Young Men's Christian Association in Seattle, hangs two half-bushel baskets in the YMCA gym and begins teaching the rudiments of a new game called "basket ball."

The rules of the game -- which had been invented just 15 months earlier at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts -- were still a little haphazard. Teams consisted of nine or more players, all of whom were on the floor at the same time. They played with a soccer ball. The scoring tended to be low, since someone had to climb up to retrieve the ball after every successful basket. Still, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described the game as being "nearly as exciting as football."

The public was invited to watch the game for the first time on March 22, 1893, as part of a "gymnastic entertainment" in the YMCA building on Front Street (now 1st Avenue). The Post-Intelligencer reported that the "hotly contested" exhibition game ended with a score of 4-1 after two 10-minute halves.

The game caught on quickly. By May, the Y was making plans to develop Seattle's first outdoor "basket-ball" court, at a lot on 3rd Avenue between Virginia and Lenora. An article in the June 1893 issue of the YMCA's monthly Bugle Call noted that basketball had become "the most popular of all the games among the junior classes." The article approvingly described the game as being "a fine all around body builder," one that "quickens the action of the most lethargic and developes [sic] good judgment in the boys." It also noted that the players were eagerly awaiting the completion of the outdoor court. Meanwhile, "Many lively and hard fought games have been played on the gymnasium floor lately."

By 1895, hoops and nets had replaced the half-bushel baskets and five-person teams had become standard. Sports writers began giving more attention to the game; leagues were organized, and tournaments held. Under the coaching of A. G. Douthitt, who succeeded Lippy as physical director, teams from the Seattle YMCA dominated the Northwest Basket Ball League and the Pacific Coast League from 1898 until about 1915. "The popularity of basket ball generally is now more pronounced than ever," the Saturday Mail reported six years after Lippy hung the first baskets in the gym, "chiefly because it gives such a magnificent opportunity for a display of a skilled handling of the body."


Sources: Bugle Call, February 1893, p. 11-12; Ibid., May 1893, p. 8; Ibid., June 1893, p. 15-16; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 22, 23; Ibid., April 12, 1893; Saturday Mail, January 21, 1899.

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