December 12th, 2010
The original rules of basketball, invented, typed and annotated by YMCA PE teacher Dr. James Naismith in 1891, sold at Sotheby’s New York on Friday for $4,338,500 including the buyer’s premium, a record price for sports memorabilia. (That was the same auction where the Little Bighorn flag sold for half the sum and Robert Kennedy’s copy of the Emancipation Proclamation sold for $3.7 million.)
The winning bidders were David and Suzanne Booth. David is a Kansas University alumn who has donated large sums to his alma mater and whose family funded the Booth Family Hall of Athletics at KU. As a boy he and his family lived at 1931 Naismith Drive in Lawrence.
James Naismith founded KU’s basketball program in 1898 and was Athletic Director at the university for 40 years. He wasn’t a great coach, as fate would have it — he was the only coach in the school’s history to retire with a losing record — but he did coach Forrest “Phog” Allen who would one day follow in his mentor’s footsteps as KU head coach and would not only win a lot more, but would go on to found the National Association of Basketball Coaches and become known as the Father of Basketball Coaching. Both men are in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where Naismith invented the game.
Given Kansas University’s connection to the dawn of the sport, Naismith’s decades of contributions to the school program and Phog Allen’s prominent role in the development of basketball, Booth felt strongly that the original rules should get pride of place at KU.
“We’re very excited about it,” David Booth said from his office in Austin, Texas. “I think they need to figure out an appropriate venue for them. I don’t know what that is. Maybe in a (new) museum. Maybe with the statue of Naismith looking back at Phog (Allen). I think it’s a little bigger than the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. This is serious stuff.” [...]
Booth said he spoke with KU basketball coach Bill Self on Thursday and again Friday, after making the winning bid.
“He’s fired-up,” Booth said. “He looks forward to creating the right venue for them and we’ll work with them. He’s fabulous. He was a factor in us doing this, just his enthusiasm and the way he’s made me feel over the years. He’s amazing how he can make people feel great.”
Also a factor in Booth’s decision to bid aggressively was Phog’s grandson, Mark Allen, who researched the rules to be sure they were authentic and who helped persuade Suzanne Booth that they were worth the inevitably huge expenditure.
The seller Ian Naismith, James’ grandson, will give the proceeds (about $3.8 million after expenses) of the sale to the Naismith International Basketball Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes sportsmanship, integrity and fair play and provides services to underprivileged children.