The University of Kansas

In Naismith’s voice

The story behind the Rules of Basket Ball

The only known audio recording of James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, was recently uncovered by a KU professor. In the clip, Naismith describes how roughhousing in basketball’s first game led him to draft his 13 original rules, written in 1891.

While researching his book, “Religion and Basketball: Naismith's Game,” Michael Zogry, associate professor of religious studies, found references to a brief radio interview with Naismith in 1939. The three-minute interview aired on the New York radio program "We the People.” Naismith discusses setting up the first basketball game with two peach baskets in a gymnasium at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, in December 1891.

After inventing the game, Naismith went on to earn a medical degree. He was hired by the University of Kansas in 1898 as chapel director, director of physical education, and university physician. He went on to serve KU for nearly 40 years as a professor of physical education, chairing that department until 1924. He also served as KU's first athletic director and was the first basketball coach from 1899 to 1907. Naismith died in November 1939 in Lawrence and is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Lawrence.

The game’s rules arrived at KU and Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 30, 2016. They were presented at the halftime of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge game against the Kentucky Wildcats.


The University was granted permission to house this audio clip in the University Archives. However, usage rights do not extend to public broadcast on media outlets. Any media interested in using a clip of James Naismith's radio broadcast please contact George Diepenbrock at about the process for receiving the appropriate permission.

DeBruce Center

The DeBruce Center, adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse, is nearing completion. It will be the permanent home of Naismith's original "Rules of Basket Ball" document.

The rules were purchased by auction in 2010 by David Booth, an alumnus who grew up in Lawrence, and his wife Suzanne. The rules will be flanked by displays about Naismith, the “father of basketball” and Phog Allen, the “father of basketball coaching.”

“Naismith’s story is a great American success story and I’m proud to have found this piece of his legacy and made it public.”
— Michael Zogry