ALMONTE - The man with the most famous peach basket on the planet has come back home to Almonte. The official unveiling of the much anticipated Dr. James Naismith statue took place at Centennial Square on Mill Street on Saturday, July 23.
Hundreds of eager onlookers waited in anticipation for the statute, which had been discussed by town residents as much needed addition for more than three decades.
“We’ve been talking about it for 30 or 40 years,” said Mississippi Mills Mayor John Levi.
The mayor spoke about the impact Naismith’s sport has had around the world.
“Basketball is now played in over 200 countries,” he said.
In addition to the large crowd, the event attracted several special guests including two of James Naismith’s grandsons, Jim and Stuart Naismith. Jim travelled from Texas to be at the ceremony, while Stuart came in from New York.
Stuart told the crowd his grandfather, “Poppa Jimmy,” told him there are two things to do in life and everything else will come.
“Be honest and be kind,” he said. “If you ever need to know what the right thing to do is, do the kind thing.” Jim Naismith was happy and touched that the Town of Almonte invited him and his family to take part in the ceremony.
“Thank you so much for inviting me and my family to this event,” he said. “It’s just delightful to be here.” Naismith Foundation Chair Al Rae spoke at the event and appeared overcome with joy at the sight of Mill Street’s newest addition.
“I want to thank you all,” Rae said. “What a beautiful depiction of what a wonderful man.”
The bronze statue was sculpted at Kansas University by Eldon Tefft, an artist in his 90s. Naismith was Kansas University’s first basketball coach. He coached there from 1898 to 1907.
Tefft created an additional Naismith statue for Springfield College in Massachusetts, the home of the first ever game of basketball. The cost of the statute was $50,000, but that was a small price to pay for a man that created one of the most popular sports worldwide.
Another Almonte resident who was happy to see the statue finally find a home on Mill Street was Naismith Basketball Association president Kevin Hickey.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “The board, Al Rae, did a super job.”
Hickey said the association donated $5,000 towards the purchase and shipping of the statue. Young basketball fans gathered around the statue to take photos with the new addition to Centennial Square. Eleven-year-old Liam Hickey said he was impressed with Tefft’s work.
“I like it, it’s nicely made. It fits the town good.”
A $4 token of appreciation
Shortly after the statue unveiling ceremony, another tribute was paid to the good doctor of basketball, courtesy of Alliance Coin & Banknote.
The family-run company created a $4 collectible token with a picture of Dr. James Naismith on one side and Mississippi Mills on the other.
Operator Sean Isaacs wrote in an email that the tokens were struck by the Great Canadian Mint in Edmonton, with a total mintage of 4,000 pieces. He added they have a face-value of $4, and can be negotiated at any participating merchant in Mississippi Mills.
The coin is the first-ever municipal token issued by the Town of Mississippi Mills.
“It is our hope that this will be an annual event that will not only continue to contribute to the branding of Mississippi Mills, but also create and ongoing series of collectibles that will find new homes with collectors across Canada and (certainly in the case of the Naismith piece) around the world,” Issacs said.
Jim Naismith was on hand to help unveil the token. He was presented with a special set of collectible coins from Issacs.
“I’m not an expert in this (field) but I can see that it’s beautiful,” Jim said.
With files from Desmond Devoy.
Carleton Place-Almonte Canadian Gazette