There was magic as the new Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was unveiled in Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 28, 2002--and I'm not just talking about Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who, as a 2002 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinee, was, indeed, among those present to celebrate the grand opening of the $45 million, 80,000-square-foot facility.
There was the magical interaction of more than 2,700 Springfield kids who participated in the Great Hall of Fame Basketball Pass--shepherding a basketball through the streets of Springfield on a course from Springfield College, the birthplace of basketball, to the new Hoop Hall. There were interactive illusions that put youngsters on video screens throughout the museum--calling the plays, broadcasting the game or challenging NBA stars to a little one-one-one action. The Harlem Globetrotters, who were also welcomed into the Hall of Fame the prior evening, had a few tricks up their sleeves, too.
More about this exciting New England attraction in a bit, but first...
A Sport is Born
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and during the brutal New England winter of 1891, James Naismith, a physical education student at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, now Springfield College, found himself with an unenviable assignment--devise an indoor game to occupy the attention of a rowdy class of young men.
A couple of peach baskets, a soccer ball and a set of 13 rules later, Naismith had given birth to the game he called "basket ball." The recreational sport spread like wildfire as Naismith's original rules were circulated to other YMCAs, and by 1936, the game's inventor had the pleasure of witnessing the introduction of basketball as an Olympic sport at the Games in Berlin. Still, it's not likely he ever envisioned that basketball would become a sport played by more than 300 million people in more than 200 countries of the world. Nor could he have likely predicted the heights to which today's professional basketball stars have soared.
The first Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1968 on the campus of Springfield College. In 1985, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was relocated to downtown Springfield. As the city's planners began in the late '90s to dream of an expanded and revitalized urban environment along the Connecticut River, it was only natural that the Hall of Fame would serve as the centerpiece of the Springfield Riverfront Redevelopment Project. In addition to the new shrine to Naismith's game and its legendary players, the 18-acre project features an Uno Chicago Grill, Max's Tavern and Mama Iguana's restaurants, the Hilton Garden Inn (check rates at kayak.com), a Visitor Information Center and a riverfront park.
Visit the Hall
If you call yourself a basketball fan, you really have to plan a pilgrimage to Springfield. Fans of all ages can easily lose themselves for hours within the three-story, spherical museum, which has 35,000 square feet of exhibit space for basketball memorabilia and artifacts, three theaters, interactive kiosks loaded with Hall of Famer data and trivia, Subway restaurant and a Hall of Fame museum gift shop. That's just for warm-ups, though. The real fun is hitting the full-size "Center Court" for some shooting, passing and other skills challenges or heading to the second floor's high-tech, experiential attractions that allow you to measure your vertical leap, sit in the broadcaster's seat, coach a team to victory and even play a game of "Virtual Hoops."
For a look inside the Basketball Hall of Fame, take my Opening Day Photo Tour. Along the way, you may just get to see a celebrity or two.
If you're going to the Basketball Hall of Fame... click here for what you need to know including hours, directions and admission prices.
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