The Halliburton Case

We starting building out our new home for 94.7 WMAS and ESPN 1450 at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield MA in late 2007. As 2008 rolled along the great recession hit, and our million dollar studio project budget got cut back continuously as the economy grew worse. The final budget number came in at a paltry $179,000, or, scrap the project.

This meant lots of trade and do-it yourself projects and long days working to come in under budget. My radio colleague in Harrisburg, PA, Bob Adams, even came to help push the project forward for no compensation.

One day as we were running wires for our new cubicles, a colorful, outspoken gentlemen charged into the studios. He was larger than life and had a Halliburton case handcuffed to his arm, just like Oscar Goldman in the Six Million Dollar Man. He shouted “My name is Ian Naismith, and do you know what I have right here in this case?” He made me guess a few times as we struck up a conversation, and eventually became friends.

Several months later we launched our little ESPN station and I had my friend Ian on the local afternoon show a few times. He loved to talk, tell stories, and pontificate about the contents of that military grade secret case he never let out of his site.

Ian Naismith was the grandson of the founder of Basketball, Dr. James Naismith. His grandfather invented round ball a few blocks away from where we broadcast. Ian was proud and let everyone know how important the contents of that Halliburton case were. He liked to ruffle feathers and could be a bit much for some people. That case that never left his side contained real treasure. You see, in that metal suitcase were the original rules of Basketball from 1891.

He was trying to get a bidding war going between the Basketball Hall of Fame and the University of Kansas for the original rules. He said they were worth $10 million and that’s why they never left his side. In the end the University of Kansas got the rules. Kansas alum, David Booth, paid $4.3 million to keep the sacred 2 page document at KU, where Dr. Naismith spent 39 years coaching basketball. A fitting final resting place for such an important basketball archive.

Before Ian sold off the rules, he offered to make me a copy and sign them. Like the rules themselves, he was a little rough around the edges. He loved to relive life tales and to dominate conversations, but I felt I understood him. Sometimes people just want to be heard, to tell their story, and to feel important. If we spend more time listening to what people have to say, you never know what adventures lie ahead. So it was with Ian Naismith, a larger than life fella who popped into my life one day, and left me with a piece of history.

Ian passed away on a train during one of his trips to Springfield. All those loud stories he shared came to a quiet end. The original rules of basketball out of the Halliburton case and on display at the University of Kansas. My 2nd edition signed by Ian on my wall.

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