Fellow Rotarian Curtis Marsh, Director of Information and the DeBruce Center at KU, told the remarkable story of how James Naismith’s original 1891 rules for the game of basketball came to reside on campus. Naismith invented the game to provide a rigorous indoor winter activity for the young athletes he worked with at a YMCA in Massachusetts. The thirteen typewritten rules became the “initiating document,” perhaps the only one in existence, for any sport. Naismith brought the game to KU where he worked with legendary coach Forest “Phog” Allen and the KU basketball tradition was born. The copy of the original rules passed into the possession of Naismith’s family. The family decided to auction off the rules through Sotheby’s Auction House, and an incredible bidding war transpired between KU grad David Booth and a wealthy Duke University grad. Booth won the auction with a 4.3 million dollar bid and presented them to KU. The DeBruce Foundation then provided the lead gift for the new building on campus that presently serves as a “shrine” for Naismith’s original rules.
The DeBruce Center construction finished last April; it is a beautiful 34,000 square foot structure that houses the rules and serves as a gathering place for people who love KU basketball and wish to view a unique piece of basketball history. The original rules are on display, in addition to displays honoring James Naismith and coach Phog Allen. When viewing the rules, an actual recording of James Naismith explaining the game may be heard. There is also a 332-pound sculpture of Naismith created by former KU Professor Elden Tefft. The DeBruce Center features the Courtside Café which seats 200 and there is also a space for catered events. Curtis Marsh told us the Center has the best food on campus and that student athletes take their meals at the center. He urged people to visit the center to appreciate how the KU basketball tradition is honored.