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James Naismith Original Basketball Rules: Document Gets Spotlight in 30 for 30

Photo Credit: ESPN
Photo Credit: ESPN
Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

We've all done it. Sitting down, pen in hand and supposedly the world's next innovative genius, we write out what will be the world's next phenomenal invention. 

For most of us, we realize that our idea is asinine or (more likely) already invented and move on with our lives. For James Naismith, that sit-down brainstorming session created the sport of basketball and is the subject of the newest ESPN 30 for 30 film, There's No Place Like Home.

The documentary, which debuts on Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, is from Maura Mandt and Josh Swade and follows the latter's journey to bring Naismith's original rule set for basketball to the University of Kansas.

While Naismith invented the game when he was a physical education teacher at a YMCA, his longest-lasting impact came at Kansas, where he was the basketball program's head coach and served on the faculty for many years. 

In the large scheme of things, creating an entire film about the rules' journey back to Kansas is, quite frankly, a little inane. Sure, it's a cute little story, but it's not like we're talking about a harrowing quest on par with 127 Hours or anything.

Nonetheless, what the film hopefully does is give a glimpse at basketball's evolution from those 13 original tenants of the game to the worldwide phenomenon we see today.

After all, a quick look at the original document is evidence of how unbelievably different the basketball LeBron James plays is from the "basket ball" (it was two words originally) Naismith originally intended. 

We've all heard about the peach basket for what seems like forever. And it's also widely known that there was no shot clock, three-point shot or even the slightest notion of what a slam dunk would become. 

However, even some of the most basic fundamentals of the game were starkly different. 

Here is a look at one of the most glaring instances, via USA Basketball

A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.

Yes, that's right; there isn't even a remote mention of the word dribbling in that entire paragraph. While that may open up a cavalcade of snarky comments about players "these days" and their traveling problems, that rule is just one of many that underwent a massive overhaul over the years. 

That does not make this document any less important, though. It would be as if saying the Constitution has no meaning simply because we've amended it so much (obviously on a much smaller scale).

By bringing this document to the forefront, let's hope There's No Place Like Home can serve more so as a recognition of Naismith and about how those initial 13 rules gave the framework of the game we love, not some silly journey that few outside of Lawrence truly care about.

Naismith and the evolution of the game deserve the recognition. Hopefully, when we tune in on Tuesday, the filmmakers saw it that way as well. 

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