Are you the world’s biggest fan of the KU Jayhawks? Have you ever dreamed of owning a piece of their unparalleled basketball history? Well Theatre Salina wants to give you a chance to own multiple pieces of that rich history thanks to the generous donation from retired lawyer and sports memorabilia collector, Robert Jones.
“I had a case that involved a card collection,” Jones said of his entry into the world of sports memorabilia collecting. “As I discussed his collection with the client we opened a box of cards. I was hooked. From that point I became an avid collector but there was no focus, I just bought anything and everything.”
But after several years exploring the hobby, Jones began to narrow his sites to specific
types of memorabilia and cards.
“This was in 1984 and 1985 (when I started collecting) and over time I started developing a focus, collecting mainly baseball cards and memorabilia. Then in 1996 I started collecting the basketballs. Having been a KU fanatic since I was a teenager, after that first ball, I got the team signed balls every year. When I turned 70, after collecting for around 35 years, I began selling things. When I thought about, however, selling my KU basketballs, I did not want to break them up and I decided to donate them, which I did during the summer of 2022.”
Joel Embiid, Kirk Hinrich, Andrew Wiggins, Scott Pollard, and 2022 National Champions Christian Braun and Ochai Agbaji are just a few of the signatures featured on this incredible collection.
Tickets to enter the raffle are $100 each and the basketballs are on display in the lobby at Theatre Saline, and on MainStage shows and events. Ticket sales will end at Dancing with Salina Stars 2023 late next summer, or when sales reach 1,000. The winner will receive the entirety of this unique compilation of Kansas basketball history.
In all, the collection includes 25 basketballs from the years 1996 through 2022. During that span the Jayhawks boasted two NCAA championship teams, two NCAA National Runners-Up, and two NCAA Final Four, five Elite Eight, and four Sweet 16 qualifying teams.
In total, 46 players who signed the basketballs went on to NBA careers, with 11 of them currently still playing. It also includes the signatures of Hall of Fame coaches Bill Self and Roy Williams, as well as Celtics’ legend Paul Pierce.
“I donated my collection of KU basketballs to Theater Salina because I hoped there were KU fanatics out there like me who would want to keep this collection,” Jones said.
“The balls are all sequential from 1996 through the 2022 Final Four.”
Another benefit of the collection is the legwork Jones has already done for any collector or die-hard KU fan. A timespan that ranges from the final year of the Big Eight to last year’s iteration of the Big 12 Conference in the twilight years of Texas and Oklahoma’s membership. Through that time, the Hawks won 20 regular season conference titles and 11 Big 12 Tournament championships.
“By acquiring these balls through this raffle one saves the time, patience and cost of assembly and can acquire the ability to keep it growing on into the future,” Jones said. “It also gives the Theater revenue to apply to its continued growth. Theatre Salina operates from ticket sales but most people would be surprised at how much it depends on donations from the community. Without those contributions the theater could not survive economically.”
Theatre Salina is a non-profit organization “whose mission is to create live theatre to inspire, educate, and entertain.”
With its origins in 1960, 13 years before the opening of the current location on Iron Avenue was completed in 1973, the organization has provided opportunity for countless children and adults to take part in, and enjoy, quality live theatre.
A particularly unique facet of Theatre Salina is the opportunity it provides for Salina’s youth and adults to engage their love of the performing arts. The Center for Theatre Arts provides classes ranging from theater, to vocal music, to dance, and is the only performing arts academy between Topeka and Denver.
“For a theatre like ours, one that creates everything you see on our stages, donations of this kind are transformative,” Executive Director of Salina Theatre Michael Spicer said. “They allow us to take huge strides into the future, and expand our capacities to entertain our audiences and educate our students.”
When asked about how he could let such an amazing collection go, Jones didn’t have to think twice.
“As a person who has been involved with the theater since 1979 – on its board numer-ous times – and thus knowledgeable about its economic realities, what I have done is a small effort to help meet these needs. If we can sell all 1,000 tickets that money will supply a small part of the need. I told someone who asked me a similar question this: ‘I loved the KU Jayhawks since I was a child, but I love the Salina Theatre and what it has done and will do in the future, more.’ The sale of the basketballs and the money raised from its sale will provide a much greater good to Salina, its children and to the promotion of the arts, than anything else I can do.”