One of the earliest known “action” photos of the game of basketball has hit the auction block.
Taken just 17 years after James A. Naismith had invented the game while teaching physical education in Springfield, MA, the 5×7 photo shows a group of Columbia University students standing around the basket as another player attempts to shoot what is presumably a warm up free throw.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is among over 1,200 in RMY Auctions’ December Premier online catalog. The back of the photo bears the stamp of George Grantham Bain, one of the most celebrated sports photographers of the early 20th century. A note at the top refers to the game by its original name of “Basket Ball”.
Taken in a gymnasium on the New York school’s campus, the photo shows another student practicing his boxing skills in the background and offers a glimpse into the early days of the game. While the equipment is still relatively rudimentary (those aren’t exactly Air Jordans they’re wearing), the game had advanced to the point where peach baskets had disappeared in favor of metal poles, backboard and actual nets attached to the rim.
Colleges led the way for the relatively quick development of the game and helped spread its popularity to where intercollegiate game was played in Minnesota in 1895. However, the NCAA Tournament was still over 30 years away when this image was taken.