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The History of “Duck on the Rock”

When young James Naismith, the Inventor of Basketball, lived in Bennie’s Corner, Ontario, Canada back in the late 1800s, he played a kid’s game known as, “Duck on the Rock”.  He played “Duck on the Rock” with his neighborhood friends behind a Blacksmith Shop where there was a large rock about knee high.  Each of the kids would pick out a throwing stone, which was about the size of a softball, to play this rock-throwing game.  The dynamics of arching the throwing stone at the “Duck” rock inspired James Naismith several years later to conceive the idea of arching a ball into a peach basket thus inventing the game of basketball! (Read full Naismith quote below!)





How DUCK ON THE ROCK inspired Naismith to invent Basketball

On pages 48-50 of his 1941 book, “BASKETBALL: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT”, James Naismith explains how the childhood game of “Duck on the Rock” was the inspiration behind his invention of the game of basketball.  Here is his full quote from the book:  

By what line of association it occurred to me, I (James Naismith) do not know, but I was back in Bennie’s Corners, Ontario (Canada), playing Duck on the Rock.  I could remember distinctly the large rock back of the blacksmith shop, about as high as our knees and as large around as a wash tub.  Each of us would get a “duck” stone about as large as our doubled fists.  About twenty feet from the large rock we would draw a baseline, and then in various manners, we would choose one of the group to be guard, or “it”.  To start the game, the guard placed his duck on the rock, and we behind the baseline attempted to knock it off by throwing our ducks.  More often than not, when we threw our ducks we missed, and if we went to retrieve them, the guard tagged us; then one of us had to change places with him.  If, however, someone knocked the guard’s “duck” off the rock, he had to replace it before he could tag anyone. It came distinctly to my mind that some of the boys threw their ducks as hard as they could; when they missed, the ducks were far from the base.  When they went to retrieve them, they had farther to run and had more chance of being tagged.  On the other hand, if the duck was tossed in an arc, it did not go so far.  If the guard’s duck was hit, it fell on the far side of the rock, whereas the one that was thrown bounced nearer the base and was easily caught up before the guard replaced his.  When the duck was thrown in an arc, accuracy was more effective than force.  With this game in mind, I thought that if the goal were horizontal instead of vertical, the players would be compelled to throw the ball in an arc; and force, which made for roughness, would be of no value.  A horizontal goal, then, was what I was looking for, and I pictured it in my mind.