The Rules are home!

Original Rules of Basket Ball Page 1
Original Rules of Basket Ball Page 2

In 1891, Dr. James Naismith was charged with creating a new game that would keep his class of 18 young men occupied during an especially bitter New England winter. He knew he would have to keep the group from tackling each other, as they did in football and rugby, and he would have to keep them from throwing or hitting the ball as hard as they could, as they did in baseball and cricket. He typed 13 rules that laid out a game that worked within the confines of a small gymnasium. 

It was made clear through these rules that the game would not be played with clenched fist, nor would harming an opponent be tolerated. There was no mention of dribbling, although it became a part of the game just a few years later. Many of the Original Rules remain a part of the spirit of the game today. And there is no other major sport in the world that boasts an initiating document like the Original Rules of "Basket Ball."

The 13 Original Rules of "Basket Ball" is a piece of sports history that is intertwined with the University of Kansas and its storied tradition of basketball excellence. James Naismith, who wrote the original rules in 1891, was KU’s first basketball coach and started what would become one of the most successful basketball programs in the nation, and the most tradition-rich.

David Booth, of Austin, Texas, donated the original document of Naismith’s “Rules of Basket Ball” to the university. He bought the rules in a celebrated public auction at Sotheby’s in New York City. A graduate of Lawrence High School, Booth earned two KU degrees: a bachelor’s in economics in 1968 and a master’s in 1969.

Booth’s motivation for bringing the rules back to Lawrence, Kansas, was that “they’re incredibly important and should be at KU. Naismith invented basketball and was there for 40 years. And Coach Phog Allen was one of the key figures in making it so popular,” Booth said.

He spoke with coach Bill Self after making the winning bid for the rules. “He was a factor in making this gift, just his enthusiasm and the way he’s made me feel over the years. It’s amazing how he can make people feel great,” Booth said.

Those visiting the DeBruce Center can view Naismith’s Original Rules in the Rules Gallery (Level 2), at the south end of the building. The rules rest in a case that is built to keep the document secure and well-preserved. At the push of a button, the case is lighted, the electrochromic glass front becomes transparent, and you hear Dr. Naismith himself explain how he came to invent the game of basketball.