RCW: A Look Back 4.13
Given that November 28, 2017, marks 78 years since the death – at age 78 – of basketball inventor James Naismith, let’s take A Look Back at his grave and memorial in Lawrence.
Upon entry to Lawrence’s Memorial Park Cemetery, one immediately sees the James Naismith memorial off to the left. It features a tall stone engraved with Naismith’s image, set back from a paver plaza at the end of what looks remarkably like an old-fashioned “key” on a basketball court. Set into the paver surface are larger stones engraved with the coaching biographies of Forrest “Phog” Allen, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Larry Brown and Roy Williams, as well as smaller stones with the names of all Kansas men’s and women’s basketball coaches with their years coached and final KU records. Benches around the plaza are engraved with an abbreviated version of Naismith’s life story. The memorial is visited by people throughout the year who leave flowers, Jayhawk items and other basketball-related paraphernalia, but many might not know that Naismith’s gravesite is elsewhere in the cemetery.
Naismith is actually buried toward the back of the cemetery, alongside his wife, Maude, by a tall column. Nearby are the graves of several family members. Some dedicated fans of basketball have found this gravesite, as evidenced by the basketball-painted rocks and coins placed atop the headstone.