CBC Digital Archives

Basketball rises from obscurity to streets and gyms everywhere

In 1891 at a YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., a Canadian athletic instructor invented a simple game involving a ball tossed into a peach basket. It would take nearly a century for basketball to gain worldwide prominence and develop its own culture, fashion and vibe. Along the way, Canadians have played a huge role in popularizing the sport, on the street, in gyms and in the professional ranks.

"It's a whole culture. It's got its own language and its own pecking order and folk heroes and its fashion," says one player at the annual Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament, held this year in Belding, Mich. Thousands participate each year in this event, including the Pit Bulls from Windsor. Their fun would never have been possible if not for the inventive mind 100 years earlier of Dr. James Naismith, from Almonte, Ont. As explained in this 1991 report from CBC-TV's The Journal, Naismith came up with the idea for the game simply to fill a need, giving young men in Massachusetts something to do indoors between baseball and football seasons. "Something to do" has also become an obsession with 12-year-olds on an inner city playground, who play the game until near exhaustion as it builds their character to new heights.
• The Original Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament was started in 1974 by Scott McNeal (alias Gus Macker) on his parents' driveway basketball court in Lowell, Mich. Eighteen friends competed that year but by 1987 the event grew so big that it had to be moved to nearby Belding. The "Gus Macker All-World Tour" took to the road that year because of demand from communities farther away. It stopped in five cities and drew over 10,000 players. According to the tournament website, the event has expanded since then to the point where it includes "both indoor and outdoor tournaments in over 75 cities and with over 200,000 players and 1.7 million spectators."
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Oct. 21, 1991
Guest(s): Arnold Barnard, Tim Price, Izzy Washington, Chuck Wellgus
Reporter: Tom Alderman
Duration: 9:04
This clip was edited for copyright reasons.

Last updated: February 14, 2012

Page consulted on October 4, 2013

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