Only one of the four+ major professional North American team sports has a clear-cut inventor.


The game has no clear singular origin, having evolved from the British sport of cricket that uses a bat and ball. Abner Doubleday, a general in the Civil War, has often mistakenly been credited as the game’s inventor—even by some of its players. But there are no facts to support this and no indication that Doubleday ever considered himself among the game’s originators. He has been credited with one first, however: Doubleday reportedly aimed the first Union gun to be fired in defense of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the War Between the States.


James Naismith, a Canadian-born physical education instructor tasked with productively occupying youths indoors during the harsh winters of Springfield, Massachusetts, invented the sport in the winter of 1891. He wrote and developed the game’s original 13 rules, which were posted in the March 2017 Inventors Digest.


The objective answer is, there is no answer. China, Great Britain, Scotland and Italy are among the countries credited with inventing the game, but there are so many different derivations of the sport that it’s impossible to definitively identify its originator. As for the Americanized game of football that evolved from a combination of rugby and soccer, Walter Camp is known as “The Father of American Football.” He invented the line of scrimmage and the system of downs.


This debate is more of a where than a who. Montreal stakes its claim as the birthplace of hockey because it was the site of the first documented indoor hockey game in 1875. (James Creighton, who organized that game, has sometimes been referred to as the inventor of hockey but never made that claim.) says evidence points to hockey originating in Europe in the 1600s. Windsor, a town in Nova Scotia, Canada, has a highway sign saying it is the birthplace of hockey. Kingston, Halifax, Ottawa and Deline in Canada also lay claim. Drop the gloves! This one’s a real donnybrook.