📅 On This Day 10 Years Ago

by Josh Swade

ESPN 30 for 30: There’s No Place Like Home Director, Josh Swade, Recollects This Day 10 years Ago

They say time flies and certainly the last 10 years have flown by like an absolute blur. I can’t believe that it’s been 10 years since I had the privilege of witnessing David Booth win the auction for the Original Rules of Basketball from his office in Austin, Texas.

I still have a hard time wrapping my head around everything that transpired both the day of the auction, and the few weeks leading up to that day. One-month prior, I had never even met David Booth, and was just a regular guy (okay, a ridiculous KU fan) living in New York City.

As the story goes, I had read an article about the upcoming auction and decided to go see what it was all about. Looking back, it feels like fate that I only lived 10 blocks from Sotheby’s, where the rules were on display prior to the auction.

That was the moment that really got to me: seeing the document up close-and-personal. I just knew in my heart they had to be at KU. As absurd as it sounds, that really was what ignited the fire in me.

The journey to make it happen led me so many places. I zig-zagged all over trying to win support and figure it all out. Along the way I made lifelong friends, got in some “good trouble,” and surely upset some folks as well, but I realized in an even deeper way how truly special Kansas Basketball is, especially to fans like myself whose life has taken them away from the comfy confines of Allen Fieldhouse. It remains to them, like to me, like to David Booth the most perfect encapsulation of a simpler time. It reminds us of our youth, our friends and family, and winter afternoons in the greatest building on earth.

Along the way I was fortunate to have things fall into place. A news interview on TV led to a radio interview which was heard by Louise Allen, wife of Dr. Mark Allen, grandson of one Forrest “Phog” Allen. They became family to me. For those who haven’t seen the film, they played an absolutely integral role in making this all happen. Of course, so too did Coach Self, who spoke to David the day before the auction. Coach told David “what having the rules would mean to anyone who’s played here, what it would mean to any fan or any alum who has ever stepped foot in Allen Fieldhouse.” Many other coaches and players I spoke to echoed the same sentiment.

Still… there was really only one person it all came down to: David Booth. Arriving to his office on the morning of December 10, 2010, there was reason to feel optimistic. David’s friend, the former Senator and Basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Bradley just happened to be visiting that day. I took that as a good omen. I was the least likely one in the bunch, with a makeshift film crew documenting the whole thing.

I remember that when the bidding began, I wasn’t just nervous, I was absolutely dying inside. It was one of those moments where life doesn’t really seem real, like you’re living in a dream. Thinking about it all these years later still makes me very uneasy.

I stood and (couldn’t watch) as David jumped into the bidding at $1.8 million. The bidding went higher and higher. My heart exploding, I could hardly stand it. Once it reached the $3 million mark it was clear we were up against one other party. In the most drawn out, gut wrenching, back-and-forth affair, David Booth finally delivered the winning bid of $3.8 million dollars. The buyer’s premium brought the total to over $4.3 million dollars, at the time setting the world record for the highest priced piece of sports memorabilia ever sold.

I just remember hugging him. And then hugging him more and more. I think he got a little tired of me hugging him so much. But it truly felt like winning a national championship. It was genuinely the most incredible moment to be a part of, true and utter elation.

When you stop to think about what David Booth did in that moment, the way he preserved our storied legacy, (against a bidder from Duke nonetheless!), it really is mind blowing. I’m not so sure in such a critical moment of need, another alumnus in history has ever done anything more important for their alma mater. For years and years to come, Jayhawk fans from far and wide will be enjoying the Original Rules of Basketball and learning of the role Naismith played as the game’s inventor, founder and first coach of the KU program.

“I can’t imagine that I’ll ever do anything as significant, as satisfying and as cool as this,” David said a few months after it all went down. “It really is one of those unique moments in life when you are able to do something that is truly memorable.”

Which brings me to the one thing that I just can’t get over still, 10 years later. David Booth, the guy who made it all happen, grew up on Naismith Drive, just down the street from Allen Fieldhouse. That is some kind of storybook ending.

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.

Josh Swade