Basketball History


No other city in the United States can boast its array of basketball history like Lawrence. Although the game was invented in Springfield, Mass., Lawrence is where the game of basketball "came of age." KU has the only college basketball program to be founded by the inventor of the game. With three NCAA National Championship teams, it's safe to say that Lawrence is embedded in basketball history.

Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball on December 21, 1891 to fill the need for an indoor winter sport. In 1898, he brought the sport to the University of Kansas, becoming the school's first basketball coach. Incidentally, Naismith is the only coach in the school's history with a losing record.

Forrest C. "Phog" Allen became KU's second basketball coach when he replaced Naismith in 1908. Allen served for 39 seasons at KU, and to date is the fourth most successful coach in the history of college basketball. In addition, Allen is KU's winningest coach of all time. He was instrumental in the movement to bring basketball to the Olympic games. While Naismith is often called "the father of basketball," he reportedly coined Allen the "father of basketball coaching."

Today, Naismith and Allen's presence can be felt each time one enters Allen Fieldhouse, where KU plays its games. Students and fans alike come alive as the "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" chant resonates in the air. In 1996, USA Today called the university's basketball program the best of all time, citing its lengthy history.

There are several historical markers in Lawrence that commemorate the city's basketball history. A marker on the Douglas County Bank grounds at 807 Kentucky indicates the location of the first KU home basketball game on February 10, 1899. An exhibit at the Watkins Community Museum of History, "The Basketball Man: James Naismith", recounts Naismith's life in Lawrence. A memorial to Naismith is located at the Naismith Memorial Gardens, 1517 E. 15th Street. The Booth Family Hall of Athletics, located on the first floor of Allen Fieldhouse, commemorates former KU players and coaches.

If you'd like, you can even visit the burial sites of both James Naismith and Phog Allen.

James Naismith Memorial
Memorial Park Cemetery
1517 E 15th St.
Lawrence, KS

Dr. F.C. "Phog" Allen Memorial
Oak Hill Cemetery
1605 Oak Hill Ave.
Lawrence, KS

Historic Cemeteries of Lawrence walking tour (PDF)