Basketball’s “Hoophall”

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BASKETBALL’S ONE AND ONLY HOME:  ‘HOOPHALL’

For the Love of Basketball, Make the ‘Pilgrimage’ Today

By Mike May

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (www.hoophall.com) in Springfield, Massachusetts is an audio-visual testimonial to the game of basketball which has evolved the game into a national and worldwide sensation.  From the outside, the hall is a steel structure.  On the inside, it’s the most thorough tribute to the game of basketball on the planet.  This three-floor complex honors basketball at every level:  high school teams, college teams, national teams, professional teams, individual players, legendary coaches, respected referees, contributors to the game, accomplished administrators, innovative promoters, brilliant broadcasters, seasoned sportswriters, and game-winning shots! 

Simply put, if you like basketball, you should go to the Basketball Hall of Fame.  If you coach basketball, you are required to go.  And, if you play basketball, you have to go…..and bring a teammate.  

To refer to this destination as a hall of fame is somewhat of a disservice.  It is truly much more than pictures of players, championship team photos, famous jerseys, and replicas of historic trophies.  The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a three-story interactive, informative, educational, and entertaining exhibit that chronicles basketball’s birth, development, growth, and global expansion into one of the greatest, if not the greatest, team sports.  

“In the world of basketball, we like to believe the Naismith Hall of Fame is clearly positioned at the apex of basketball achievement,” says John L. Doleva, president/CEO, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  “We are clearly not the largest or most powerful basketball entity, but those that are in the Hall of Fame are clearly ‘the Best of the Best.’ The Hall of Fame’s positioning statement is “To celebrate the greatest moments and people in the game.” And while we focus on our Hall of Famers, that positioning clearly allows us to also celebrate those that are not Hall of Famers, but who have made a significant contribution to the game—whether it was a generation or two ago or whether it was from a game last night.”

From the moment that you start your tour, it’s a big ‘wow.’  Kudos to the curators of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for gathering the historical photos, jaw-dropping video, interesting artifacts, and magical moments from the game’s past which enable fans and visitors to relive and get reacquainted with the game’s highs and lows: big wins, heartbreaking losses, game-winning shots, rim-rattling slam dunks, coast-to-coast layups, game-saving steals, and, yes, missed free throws.

“Unlike most of the major American sports Halls of Fame, the Naismith Hall recognizes everyone that plays basketball: men and women, boys and girls, high school, college and pro, coaches, players, referees and contributors from around the world,” adds Doleva.  “No matter what part of the game you love as a fan, you will find strong representation of that game in the Naismith Hall of Fame.”

In a nutshell, it’s fair to say that the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame staff has done everything in its power to bring the game’s historical momentos and keepsakes to Springfield for the world to see, touch, read, photograph, and admire.  In other words, since they have built it, you must come!

When you visit this hall of fame, you will be as educated by the informative, fact-filled displays as you will be entertained by the Anchor Desk in the Media Gallery, the Rebound Game, the Vertical Leap demo area, and the Test Your Wingspan exhibit.  For instance, did you know that Elgin Baylor was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the 1958 NCAA Final Four, despite the fact that his University of Seattle team lost to Adoph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats in the championship finale?  Did you know that in 1922, traveling and double dribble violations were changed from ‘fouls’ to ‘changes in possession’ violations?  And, basketball for women was introduced in 1893 at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts by Senda Berenson Abbot. 

The tour of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame begins at the top — on the third floor.  An elevator takes you from the lobby to the ‘penthouse,’ so to speak.  Each floor is a circular exhibit which enables you to wind your way from display to display and from floor to floor.  At the end, you conclude your visit by having a chance to step foot on the Jerry Colangelo Hall of Fame Court where you will be able to shoot jump shots, launch a three-pointer, make layups, attempt free throws, try a slam dunk, and play a game of H-O-R-S-E with a friend, relative, or teammate.  Basketballs are provided, courtesy of Spalding.  What’s cool and historical about this basketball court experience is the chance to shoot on the various forms of goals and backboards that have been used over the years, including a peach basket.

Let’s get back to the third floor.  At the outset, it’s like walking into a visual basketball encyclopedia.  The basketball background of every inductee into the hall is well chronicled and on display.  It’s worth noting that the first class of this hall of fame was inducted in 1959 and included legendary University of Kansas coach Forrest C. ‘Phog’ Allen; Dr. Naismith; and legendary football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, who actually played in the first public basketball game at the Springfield YMCA where he scored the faculty team’s only basket in a 5-1 loss and coached the University of Chicago against the University of Iowa in the first college game played with five players on a side on January 16, 1896.    

The roots of the game of basketball are also well chronicled and preserved in Springfield, beginning with a facsimile of Dr. James Naismith’s original 13 rules of the game which are on display at the hall of fame, just as they were announced in 1891 by Naismith at the YMCA Training School in Springfield.  It’s fair to say that those 13 original rules are basketball’s version of The Ten Commandments.  Other basketball treasures on display include a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Star high-top basketball shoes from Converse; Shaquille O’Neill’s size 23 sneakers; a pair of ‘Pistol Pete’ Maravich’s floppy, gray socks; the game ball from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s final regular season NBA game on April 23, 1989; and an action photo from the 1936 Olympics where basketball made its Olympic debut.  By the way, the gold-medal game that year in Berlin was played between the United States and Canada.  The Americans prevailed in the game which was played outside in the rain! 

As you navigate the hall, you will continue to be educated, enlightened, enthralled and entertained.  It never stops, which is a good thing.  

For coaches who crave to learn more about the game’s fundamental strategies, there’s a section that showcases many offensive and defensive plays such as Adoph Rupp’s Single-Pivot Post, Al McGuire’s Triangle & Two, and Bob Knight’s Motion Offense.  

For future journalists who now play the game of basketball, there’s a wing dedicated to the men and women who once played and/or coached the game who are now members of the media such as Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale, Jon Barry, Kara Lawson, Cheryl Miller, Reggie Miller, and Rebecca Lobo plus an area – Call A Play — where you get to give your play-by-play ‘take’ on the final moments of a big game from basketball’s historic past.  

For high school basketball fans, there’s a section of the hall dedicated to the game of high school basketball, the legendary coaches, dynasty programs, and championship games.  There are also special areas which honor the annual state high school basketball tournaments in the states of Indiana and Kentucky, the girls high school tournament in Iowa, and the boys tournament in New York City.  

For college basketball history buffs, it’s revealed (1) the name given to an early form of the fastbreak (2) which collegiate program was the last to win both the NCAA and NIT Championships in the same year; and (3) when was the first college ‘game of the century.’  If you don’t know, former Purdue coach Ward ‘Piggy’ Lambert introduced ‘racehorse-style basketball’ while coaching at Purdue; CCNY (City College of New York) won both national titles in 1950, and; the first collegiate ‘game of the century’ was in 1945 when Oklahoma A & M (with big Bob Kurland) played DePaul (led by George Mikan) at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  By the way, the boys from the Sooner state prevailed that day over the team from the Chicago suburbs.  

And, for pro basketball fans, you get to find out whose idea it was to introduce the 24-second shot clock and when it was first introduced.  The concept was the brainchild of former Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone and put into effect beginning with the 1954-55 NBA season.

Without a doubt, a trip to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame should be on the ‘bucket list’ of every basketball player, coach, referee, administrator, journalist, broadcaster, team owner, sponsor, and fan.  By stepping inside the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, it’s one way for you to honor the imagination of Dr. James Naismith whose main goal with inventing basketball was to simply create an indoor sport to act as an ‘activity bridge’ between the end of football season in the fall and the beginning of baseball season in the spring.  It’s fair to say that his idea was a success — nationally and globally.  Thank you, Dr. James Naismith!  The basketball universe, especially the Hall of Fame in Springfield, is eternally indebted to his imagination and foresight.

Before making the pilgrimage to Springfield, check out the Hall’s website (www.hoophall.com), prepare a ‘scouting’ report, and make a ‘fastbreak’ dash to the Hall.  And, don’t forget to wear your Chuck Taylor All-Stars!      

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The author of this story is Mike May, a freelance sports writer based in Wellington, Florida.  Mike, born in Elyria, Ohio and raised in Seymour, Indiana, is a lifelong basketball fan and player.  He is also an experienced high school basketball coach, who has visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  He encourages you to visit the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, at your earliest convenience.  Mike can be reached via email: mmaymarketing@gmail.com

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Mike May is a freelance golf writer based in Wellington, Florida. Mike, an avid golfer, is also a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He traces his roots as a golf writer to the 1983 British Open Championship at Royal Birkdale -- which he attended for all four days -- and then voluntarily wrote his own account of that major championship event. In addition to being a golf writer, Mike coaches girls high school basketball, officiates high school soccer, and works with a cause (PHIT America) that is focused on bringing daily P.E. back to all U.S. schools. Mike is a 1985 graduate of the University of Florida where he earned a degree in broadcasting. Mike can be reached on email at: mmaymarketing@gmail.com