In the photo of the Sotheby’s auctioneer and others at the front of the room when the bidding for the original Naismith basketball rules closed last Friday, everyone was smiling.
It probably had something to do with the winning bid of $4.3 million to purchase the two-page document.
Kansas University officials and others in Lawrence, however, had special reason to celebrate the event because the typewritten pages, with handwritten notes by basketball inventor James Naismith, had been purchased by KU alum and benefactor David Booth and his wife, Suzanne. The Booth name is well-known in local athletic circles because of the Booth Family Hall of Athletics on the east side of Allen Fieldhouse. The monument to KU athletics of all kinds was funded by David Booth and other descendants of his parents, Gilbert and Betty Booth, who lived near 19th Street and Naismith Drive in Lawrence and were devoted fans of Jayhawk basketball.
Obviously, David Booth has traveled a successful and lucrative professional path since graduating from Lawrence High School and KU. The university is fortunate to have such a loyal supporter.
In an interview, KU basketball coach Bill Self said he had talked at length to Booth the night before the rules were auctioned. Self noted that Booth is a very competitive guy and was pumped up about the upcoming bidding.
Local basketball fans and KU officials now are pumped up about the prospect of bringing the Naismith rules back to what many, including Booth, viewed as their rightful home. That is Booth’s intention, but after the auction he noted that the rules are “a little bigger than the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. This is serious stuff.” Providing a location with the proper security for such a valuable document will be a challenge — possibly a pretty expensive challenge. KU officials are dedicated to providing the proper venue, hopefully without diverting funds from the school’s academic mission.
It’s true that Naismith was living and teaching in Springfield, Mass., when he wrote the rules of basketball, but there’s no doubt that KU played a pivotal role in developing the game after Naismith moved here and teamed up with coach Forrest “Phog” Allen. Naismith lived here for 40 years and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.
The Naismith family decided to sell the rules to raise funds for Naismith International Basketball Foundation. The purchase price should be a boon for that organization. There’s no doubt that local basketball fans and historians are excited about Booth’s purchase and the prospect of bringing the rules to Lawrence.