Naismith’s original rules of ‘Basket Ball’ freshly installed, now on view at KU’s DeBruce Center

photo by: Sara Shepherd

James Naismith's original rules of Basket

Kansas University’s DeBruce Center is now truly complete: James Naismith’s original rules of “Basket Ball” — the high-profile acquisition for which the building was constructed — are installed and on display.

The building opened to the public a few weeks ago and the rules were put in place Friday morning, in a flurry of activity that involved removing and reinstalling a wall panel, security system verification and humidity and temperature checks in the display case, said Curtis Marsh, director of the DeBruce Center.

“We had a pretty intense morning,” he said.

Most of the modern, open-concept, glass-walled DeBruce Center is flooded with natural light. But the Rules Gallery — the passageway between the DeBruce Center’s atrium and Allen Fieldhouse where the rules are installed — is darkened by design to protect the historic document.

The two-page, handwritten rules of “Basket Ball” are displayed in a glass wall case along with a small portrait of Naismith. At the press of a button next to the case, the light inside comes up slightly and the voice of Naismith himself begins to play. It’s the only known audio recording of Naismith, a 1939 radio interview that was recently discovered by a KU professor.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

James Naismith's original rules of Basket

In addition to the tiny-by-comparison rules, the gallery features oversize wall displays about Naismith — the inventor of basketball, one of KU’s early basketball coaches and the university’s first athletics director — and legendary KU basketball coach Forrest “Phog” Allen, a contemporary of Naismith’s. There’s also backlit quotes, laser-cut into the steel walls, by other former KU basketball coaches and players.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Visitors look at James Naismith's newly installed original rules of Basket

Current KU basketball coach Bill Self walked up to get his first glimpse of the newly installed rules while I was there Friday morning.

Self said he’d seen the Mona Lisa, a tiny painting that’s one of the world’s most famous, and said the rules display reminded him of that.

“What makes it so cool is how simplistic it is,” Self said. “For those two pieces of paper to have such an impact in our sport is what makes it so special.”

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self gets his first glimpse of the newly installed rules of Basket

KU alumnus David Booth and Suzanne Booth purchased the rules at auction in 2010 for $4.3 million, a sports memorabilia record according to Sotheby’s in New York City. The $21.7 million donor-funded DeBruce Center opened to the public April 25 and also features a cafeteria, gift shop and lounge space.

The DeBruce Center, 1647 Naismith Drive, has extended hours for commencement weekend. The building will be open until 9 p.m. Friday, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

The DeBruce Center, 1647 Naismith Drive, on the Kansas University campus.

“>Click here for more photos of the DeBruce center

• I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage at Reach me by email at, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at