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We have offered early baseballs in our auctions, dating back to the Civil War and before. But given the nature of the sport and how it evolved as a nationwide phenomenon, it is impossible to point to the first, to the origin. The same is not true for the game of basketball, which is the well-documented invention of a single man, a single mind. James Naismith is no Abner Doubleday-his "patent" on the game is not disputed. Nor is the birthplace of basketball-Springfield, Massachusetts holds this distinct honor. And it is from that small New England town that this archaic leather sphere originates, from the very court where Naismith gave birth to an American treasure.Quite similar to a volleyball in appearance yet constructed of much heavier leather, this spectacular find is the earliest stage of evolution in the piece of equipment for which the game is named. Original five-looped lacing is still in place, and the leather is worn but neither torn nor stained. The air bladder has obviously long since lost its ability to be inflated, but this does nothing to damage the inherent intrigue. It takes little effort to imagine Mr. Naismith cradling this ball under one arm as he explains the intricacies of the game to kids at the Y.M.C.A. Training School (now Springfield College) for the first time.The ball was inspected and deemed authentic by the Basketball Hall of Fame and is photographically documented on page twelve of Bill Gutman's The Pictorial History of College Basketball. Letter of authenticity included. This is among the most exciting pieces of early sports memorabilia we have ever offered, and certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity for serious collectors/sports historians.
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