Missouri man boasts basketball collection that any fan will appr - KCTV5

Missouri man boasts basketball collection that any fan will appreciate

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There are basketball fans, and then there are fans of basketballs. Jeremy Whitham is a 32-year-old man who falls into the second category. He keeps more than 1,000 balls in his basement. (Nathan Vickers/KCTV5 News) There are basketball fans, and then there are fans of basketballs. Jeremy Whitham is a 32-year-old man who falls into the second category. He keeps more than 1,000 balls in his basement. (Nathan Vickers/KCTV5 News)
"When people see this, they are amazed," Whitham said, showing KCTV5 News the pile. "Most people don't believe me unless I show them." (Nathan Vickers/KCTV5 News) "When people see this, they are amazed," Whitham said, showing KCTV5 News the pile. "Most people don't believe me unless I show them." (Nathan Vickers/KCTV5 News)
CLINTON, MO (KCTV) -

There are basketball fans, and then there are fans of basketballs.

Jeremy Whitham is a 32-year-old man who falls into the second category. He keeps more than 1,000 balls in his basement. 

Whitham lives in his own personal museum. His collection tells the story of the game through old commemorative balls made of leather and rubber. They are stowed in lockers and boxes and a heaping pile next to his laundry room.

"When people see this, they are amazed," Whitham said, showing KCTV5 News the pile. "Most people don't believe me unless I show them."

Whitham began collecting as a child diagnosed with autism. He said he found his first basketball when he visited his grandmother's farmhouse. He wandered into her barn and found an old, beat-up AMF Voit Classic 1000.

"I asked and begged until I got it," Whitham said.

Whitham's mother, Connie Whitham, let her son keep the ball. She said he was fixated on it. Jeremy Whitham loved the texture of the leather and the design of the seams.  

That was the beginning. Jeremy Whitham began collecting every ball he could find.

"We had two lofts and a barn full of basketballs in every closet," Connie Whitham recalled. "It was crazy."

But Jeremy Whitham had a gift. He learned everything he could about basketball materials and manufacturers. He taught himself how to patch and repair punctured balls and replace valve stems.

He fell in love with the history of the sport and the transformation of the equipment. Many early basketballs were laced together like footballs. Some had two interior pockets that had to be pumped individually. 

Jeremy Whitham found and collected them all.

"I thought if I kept them that I can always show people the history of basketballs and how they changed," he said.

Jeremy Whitham moved out of his parents' house at the end of 2016. He now lives independently and can keep collecting basketballs in his own space. 

He takes pride in his own autonomy and in the size and scope of his collection. He has joined nationwide networks of collectors to find antique and rare basketballs. Recently, he visited the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA and discovered that he had almost as many as the museum. And a few they didn't.

"People used to tell me I couldn't do anything," he said. "I believed if I kept on collecting basketballs and doing more with them I could prove to people that I can do anything I put my mind to."

Jeremy Whitham plans to keep collecting as many balls as he can find. He has a long list of balls he'd like to add to his selection.

The ball he'd like to find most is one matching the AMF Voit Classic 1000 he found in his grandma's barn in the original box. 

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