Naismith's basketball rules sell for $4.3M US

A historic document that details the original rules of basketball was auctioned off for more than $4 million US on Friday at Sotheby's in New York.

A historic document that details the original rules of basketball was auctioned off for more than $4 million US on Friday at Sotheby's in New York.

The two pages used by James Naismith to write the first basketball rules is shown during an auction preview at Sotheby's in New York. The rules were sold Friday for $4.3 million US. ((Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press))
James Naismith wrote the 13 rules 119 years ago with the aim of creating a new indoor winter sport for boys at a Massachusetts YMCA.

Naismith, who was born in Almonte, Ont., and studied at McGill University, was the physical education instructor at the YMCA.

"Basketball is a pure invention," said Selby Kiffer, senior specialist in American history documents at Sotheby's auction house, in October when the sale was announced.

"It's really the genesis, the birth certificate of one of the world's most popular sports. It's a sport that has had an impact on everything from fashion, such as sneakers, to culture that, in a way, transcends sports."

The rules were sold by the Naismith International Basketball Foundation for $4.3 million, which includes a buyer's premium. The proceeds will benefit the foundation, which promotes sportsmanship and provides services to underprivileged children around the world.

Ian Naismith, the foundation's founder and grandson of James Naismith, told The Associated Press in an interview in October that it was a family decision to put the rules on the auction block and give the money to the Naismith charity.

"It's what Dr. Naismith wanted," he said.

James Naismith wrote the original rules for basketball in 1891. ((Associated Press))
James Naismith penned the rules on Dec. 21, 1891, for the YMCA training school in Springfield, Mass. His boss had given him two weeks to come up with a new indoor activity for his gym class, and he wrote down the rules on the eve of that deadline.

He gave the list to his secretary, who typed them up on two pages that Naismith pinned on a bulletin board outside the gym. The auctioned copy of the rules also includes handwritten notes by Naismith.

He moved to Lawrence, Kan., in 1898 and became the first basketball coach at the University of Kansas. He coached for nine seasons before assuming other academic duties and serving as athletics director.

One of his players was Forrest (Phog) Allen, who went on to become popularly known as the "father of basketball coaches."

The two are memorialized on the University of Kansas campus, where the basketball court at Allen Fieldhouse is named James Naismith Court.

Naismith died in 1939, three years after his new game became an official sport at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

The invention of basketball was captured in this Heritage Minute video shown below: