Basketball Players, Coaches & Teams General Memorabilia • Memorabilia en General de Jugadores y Equipos Básquetbol
Naismith’s Original Rules of Basketball go to auction December 13
Every once in a while, a piece of sporting memorabilia goes up for sale that makes you take a deep breath and think, “Wow!”
Such will be the case on December 13 when Sotheby’s auctions off James A. Naismith’s original 13 rules of basketball.
Ian Naismith, a grandson of the man who invented the sport back in 1891, talked to FIBA.com about the original rules that could fetch millions of dollars with the money ultimately to go to charity.
He said: “We obtained the rules in 1980 from my father, James S. Naismith - my brother James P. Naismith, my sister Frances and I.
“And we donated them almost immediately to the family's foundation (International Naismith Basketball Foundation).
"The document is just two pieces of paper, common paper.
“And my grandfather mounted them on cardboard - just common cardboard, thin cardboard, in 1926, '27 - because he was going to frame them and put them in his office on his wall.
"They were typed by a stenographer. Her name was Mrs. Lyons. She typed them while he was getting the goals.”
If you haven’t heard about the origins of basketball, the sport came about after the superintendent of physical education at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Mass., asked Naismith to create a new indoor game.
After thinking about the popular sports at that time like baseball, football, lacrosse, rugby and soccer, and the games from his own childhood like ‘duck on a rock’, Naismith came up with Basket Ball.
Thirty years later, it became basketball.
Ian Naismith tells the story of the day that everything came together.
"He wanted to get boxes and he couldn't get boxes, so the janitor (Pop Stebbins) had peach baskets and that's how we got the word basketball," he said.
"So he (Naismith) got these baskets and put them up, and Mrs Lyons finished typing up the rules at 1130 in the morning and that's when they played the first game.
"The rules - he put them on the bulletin board - two pages.
"They were called his prized possession - that's what he called them in his autobiography.”
The very rules that are going to be auctioned off went missing, in fact, after that very first game that involved students at the school.
"Somebody took them down after the first game was over,” Ian Naismith said.
"One of his students, from North Carolina - by the way, his name was Frank and he came from Charlotte - came up the next day and said, 'Doc, you know those two pieces that you had on the bulletin board in the gym?'
"The Doc said, 'Yes, somebody stole them.'
"Frank said, 'No, I took them. They're in my trunk upstairs in the YMCA in my room because I know the game is going to be a real success and I wanted you to have them.’
"So he took them back to my granddad that day. That was the only day that we didn't know where they were.”
Does Ian have a favorite rule?
"I would have to say probably not,” he said.
“There are 13 rules - 10 of them are still in the game today. So it's still very recognizable.
"I think the funniest rule is number five - no shouldering, holding, pushing, striking or tripping in anyway.
"That would be my favorite.
"Within that same rule, if a foul is made with an obvious intention to injure the other party, then they had to sit out. They were thrown out of the game so a team would play one-man short.”
James A. Naismith died when Ian was one.
Nearly 120 years on from the time the game was invented, Ian Naismith believes his grandfather would have mixed feelings about the sport today.
"He'd be very pleased that it's the fastest growing game in the world with youth,” Ian said.
“He'd be thrilled with that.
"He'd be discouraged with the amount of money people are making within the sport and the greed that has taken place because he gave the game to the world not with that in mind.
"He told his youngest son, my dad, 'You don't make money out of my baby, but you're the caretaker of the next generation.'
"Now there are a lot of good people in the game, so don't misunderstand me, but it really has become a different ballgame.”
James A. Naismith would not have envisioned, perhaps, of how incredible some of the basketball players would turn out to be.
"He'd be amazed at the athletic ability,” Ian said.
"I always joke, I say, 'I know Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) and I can't imagine trying to explain Shaq to my grandfather.'
"He would never conceive of this man being able to do at his size. It's a fun thing, in a way.
"But there's too much money. Too much money pretty much messes up everything. That's the reason we have never taken money out of the sport.
"Our grandfather would want the money to go back into his game and into kids.”
Ian Naismith isn’t sure what price the Original 13 Rules of Basketball will go at auction.
"They were appraised at $5million in 1996. This was a very good appraiser who does appraisal work for the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress - the best that we could find in the country at that time,” he said.
"People have come to us and tried to buy them.
"I had a $10million deal floating around the last two years that I didn't do.
"I don't know what they're going to bring.
"It's a one-of-a-kind document.
"I just don't know. I would assume they'd go for $5million plus.
"There is going to be a reserve, but I'm the only one that knows the reserve.
"When I get to the price that feel they need to be cut loose, I'm going to cut 'em lose.”FIBA
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