December 10, 2010
The gavel has come down. According to the AP, David and Suzanne Booth have purchased the original document of James Naismith's 13 basketball rules at a Sotheby's auction on Friday.
David Booth is an alumnus of the University of Kansas, where Naismith founded the basketball program, and he hopes to bring the rules to the university for display. And this is his right, because we now know that he bought the memorabilia for a cool $4.3 million, which includes the buyer's premium of $300,000.
This is about twice the price that was expected heading into Friday's auction, and it is believed to be the highest price ever paid for a piece of sports memorabilia. Not bad for a couple pieces of paper that were once nailed to the wall of a YMCA 119 years ago, or left in a suitcase in a Hooter's restaurant just a few years ago.
Naismith's rules are unique in the annals of sports history as they represent the most direct link between a sport's founder, and the sport we know today.
Soccer, baseball and American football were all created as amalgamations of several different types of games, but basketball (though it took its influences from a 19th century child's game called "duck on a rock," and though we've learned that that Mayan aristocracy played a more bellicose version of that game centuries ago) is more or less a direct derivation between Naismith's original 13, and the game you're watching tonight. Unless the Sacramento Kings are playing.
I know this because I have a copy of the original 13 framed and posted just a few feet from where I'm writing right now, purchased from Ian Naismith about three years ago for 10 bucks at a local mall. Ian is Dr. Naismith's grandson, and he's been in sole possession of the original 13 for a while, only selling now to help fund the Naismith International Basketball Foundation.
If you're interested, and you should be, Sotheby's has a really cool look at what the Booths paid for on Friday.
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