Most people know that a Canadian farm boy from Almonte, Ontario, Dr. James Naismith is the man behind the creation of the game of basketball. However, the names of Finlay MacDonald, Lyman Archibald and John Thompson unfortunately are not normally associated with the game. But these three gentlemen have a special place in the history and development of basketball and had the privilege of being participants in Dr. James Naismith’s very first game played on December 21, 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. They also have the distinction of being Nova Scotian. That’s right; there were three men from Nova Scotia in the very first basketball game ever played.
Finlay MacDonald (Stellarton), John Thompson (New Glasgow) and Lyman Archibald (Truro) were students at Springfield College and were part of Naismith’s “class of incorrigibles” which he was assigned to inject enthusiasm into their compulsory daily physical education.
In a 1946 Halifax Herald interview, Archibald recounts what the first game was like. “Dr. Naismith at first used a nine-man team, considering basketball purely as a form of recreation for students at the YMCA Springfield College. However, once Dr. Naismith realized the game was to become a competitive sport he quickly sliced the players.”
Peach baskets were nailed to a 10 foot balcony at each end of the gym forming the “hoop”. In the early days and according to Archibald the ball seldom went into the basket with only one basket being scored on that December day. The game has come a long way since then with Nova Scotia leading the way as the basketball capital of Canada. It all stems back to our province’s historical connection to that first game.