LAWRENCE — Nearly two years ago, in the fall of 2010, a Kansas City native named Josh Swade opened The New York Times and saw a story about a special auction that was coming to the famed Sotheby’s auction house in New York.
The original rules of basketball, typewritten on two pages by a gym teacher named James Naismith in 1891, were going up for sale.
Swade, a 1993 BV North grad who grew up going to games at Allen Fieldhouse, had an idea. He had moved to New York in the mid 1990s to pursue a job in the music industry and was now working for a production company in New York. He knew of Naismith’s connection to KU and the history of the basketball program. What if he took to the road and could convince a few wealthy KU donors that the rules HAD to be in Lawrence?
The result of Swade’s idea is the upcoming documentary “There’s No Place Like Home.” The film, which includes co-director Maura Mandt, is now part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series and is set to air on the network on Oct. 16. And the early online trailer — which can be seen here — is drawing plenty of buzz from KU fans.
You probably know the end of the story. KU alumnus David Booth purchased the rules on Dec. 10, 2010, for more than $4 million, and KU now has plans to give the rules a permanent home near Allen Fieldhouse. But how did it all happen? On Wednesday, The Eagle talked to Swade about the project. (Here’s one spoiler alert: former KU coaches Larry Brown and Roy Williams appear in the trailer. But yes, KU coach Bill Self appears in the film.)
The Eagle: What was the motivation behind the project? Did the idea for the film come first? … How did this all start?
Swade: I grew up going to KU games. My dad is a huge Jayhawk fan. That really turned me on to Kansas basketball. So in November of 2010, I read an article in The New York Times about the rules coming up for auction. At first, it was kind of just like, ‘Wow, I couldn’t believe there were these rules.’ I can’t really remember if I knew they existed … but I just remember being impacted profoundly by this article.
And immediately, I think of Kansas basketball and James Naismith, because he has such a legacy there. And the more I thought about it alone… the more I thought it made more sense for the rules to be in Lawrence than anywhere else.
My motivation was strictly, in the beginning, to try and figure out a way to get those rules back to Lawrence, Kan. The film aspect of it was really a second thing for me. And quite frankly, is not something I really ever cared about — to be 100 percent honest with you.
The Eagle: So, you have the idea, and you know about the auction. But how did the film part come together?
Swade: So I work for a production company — a TV production company called Maggie Vision Productions — and we do a few different things. We’ve done some documentaries before. And when I heard about the auction, I went to my boss, and I said: ‘There’s this auction coming up. And it’s for the rules of basketball. And it’s pretty cool.’ … So I contacted Sotheby’s, and went there; they were having a press day, and I’m not in the media, but they said I could come. And I met the executive in charge of the auction, and I also met Ian Naismith — James Naismith’s grandson, the seller of the rules.
If reading about the auction piqued my interest, actually going to Sotheby’s and meeting Ian Naismith … that really lit a fire under me. And I went back to the office, and basically had formulated in my head: These (rules) had to be in Lawrence. So essentially, I pitched this idea to my boss, and she’s someone that responds to passion.
We had no money, no resources, nothing. I had to get a buddy of mine who doesn’t even shoot film; he’s a photographer. He brought a friend of his along, and we basically just hit the road to see if we could get anywhere with it.
The Eagle: So the next three weeks were essentially all about talking to KU boosters and big-time donors and those type of people?
Swade: Yea. Sotheby’s auction estimate was above $2 million. That was their baseline… and quite frankly, I thought they’d sell for more than that. So I knew we needed a lot of money. So from that point, it just becomes about trying to get in front of people — and really giving them the reasons why this would be so monumentally important.
The Eagle: Without giving too much away about the film, how much do you think KU fans will respond to it?
Swade: Well, I hope … I really think they’ll go crazy for it. Quite frankly, no major network is gonna air something about the history of basketball unless it’s PBS. Nobody wants to be bored … but having said that, we interweave what KU and what Kansas has meant to the game. … If there’s one thing I could say… it’s get ready Jayhawk nation.