James Naismith's original basketball rules to be auctioned off

Working from home has its privileges, when the local ISP allows, and I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to ply my trade in settings of my own design.

Though there's nothing like pounding out a good 800 words in a sweaty postgame in a nervous and exhausted media room, and I'm sure there are joys untold behind tossing copy around under the unforgiving glare of the fluorescent-lit and asbestos-insulated newspaper offices, I will always treasure the fact that I am lucky enough to be able to work from home. Especially since I moved out of my parents' basement.

I don't have an office, though. The funds just aren't there, yet. Until I do, the living room will have to suffice. And though I'm allowed to decorate my little corner of the living room in whatever fashion suits my leanings, I've only decided to decorate it with one thing.

Well, two things.

These are copies of James Naismith's original 13 rules for the game of basketball. I bought them, rather inexpensively, from Naismith's grandson Ian a few years ago, and while I still don't understand why Ian had to sign my copies, I'm grateful for the chance to talk and interact with the grandson of the man who changed my life.

I met Ian in a mall in Lafayette, Indiana -- the heart of hoop country, to be sure, but let's get real; it was a mall in Lafayette, Indiana. Not the most stunning of locations. But Ian was on the road, trying to get the message out about a game that he thinks has been led astray; and as someone who is reminded on a daily basis as to why this game is as great as it has ever been, I didn't really want to hear more complaints about Latrell Sprewell during my meeting with Naismith, a full decade after Spre's final game with the Golden State Warriors. His earnestness, though, was coming from the right place.

Ian's having some health problems of his own these days, and after years of obsessively tending to the care of his grandfather's monumental on-paper achievement, he's decided to put the original 13 up for auction. In an auction house that seems suitable for their presence -- Sotheby's.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times has the story:

Now, it is safeguarded at Sotheby's, which will auction it in Manhattan on Dec. 10. Sotheby's expects it to sell for at least $2 million.

In a telephone interview from North Carolina last week, Ian Naismith said the family has previously had offers for the document, but had turned them down. Naismith said that he contacted Sotheby's to sell the rules to replenish the fund of the Naismith International Basketball Foundation, which he said had suffered because of his wife's death and his health problems. A few years ago, Hellen Carpenter, a cousin he said he had never met, sold some of his grandfather's effects at another auction.

Ian clearly cares a great deal about his grandfather's legacy, so I have implicit faith in the guy that he's making the right decision. It can't be easy for him -- the man walked around with the original rules locked in a metal suitcase that was, seriously, handcuffed to him for years -- but he of all people knows what's best in this situation. And hopefully the documents' newest home will afford them somewhat near the same care and love shown to them by Ian Naismith.

The entire piece by Sandomir is really a fantastic read, even if you are already well versed in the story behind the rules. It's especially fun to go through if you're reading or about to read Free Darko's Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball, which we'll have a review of later this week at BDL.

What to Read Next