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Saturday, December 17, 2016

December 17-18, 2016: Crowd-sourced BasketballStudying

[On December 15th, 1891, James Naismith invented the game of basketball. So for the sport’s 125th birthday, this week I’ve BasketballStudied five histories, figures, and stories connected to one of our most enduring pasttimes. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from the responses and thoughts of fellow BasketballStudiers—add yours in comments, please, and don’t forget to call glass!]
First, sample basketball-related posts from three of the SportsStudiers I read most avidly:
A review of the book Wartime Basketball at the great Sport in American History blog (where you can search for “basketball” to find lots more posts and book reviews).
Dr. Lou Moore has stopped blogging at his The Professor and the Pugilist site, but there’s still tons of great work there, including this last post on Derrick Rose and police brutality.
Andrew McGregor, founder and co-editor of Sport in American History, shares this rare radio interview with Monday’s focal subject James Naismith. He also adds that he’s “currently reading this for a future Sport in American History review,” shares this piece on Dean Smith, Kansas, and basketball history, and writes, “to be honest, basketball history has been slower to develop than some other sports. But it's starting to come along.”
Andrew Hartman, one of the biggest basketball fans and best cultural historians I know, shares this clip from the ground-breaking 1966 championship game between Texas Western and Kentucky. He writes, “Basketball remains my favorite sport because it seems to be the most creative, and this creativity shifts in really fun ways, just in my lifetime from Magic to MJ to Steph Curry. So fun.” And he adds, “First player I fell in love with was David Thompson of my hometown Denver Nuggets.”
Guest Poster Robert Greene II writes, “The story of the Harlem Rens is a great one.” He adds, “Don't watch it all but this was the first time an NBA team played against the Soviet Union in the USSR--and it was my Atlanta Hawks!” And he concludes, “the biggest basketball game not involving the USA was arguably between Maccabi Tel Aviv and CSKA Moscow in the European Championship semifinals in 1977,” adding, “here is footage of the actual game--it was played in Belgium because the Soviets refused to play in Israel or to allow the Israelis to play in the USSR. And I thought SEC football was vicious.”
Beazley Kanost, one of our true experts on the concept of “cool,” shares, “Walt Frazier and his book on cool were noted in the American Cool show at the National Portrait Gallery.”
Dave Grubb writes, “Given today's sad news [Sager passed on Thursday], it might be appropriate to do some kind of Craig Sager spotlight. From literally following Hank Aaron around the bases after his record breaking dinger, to his outlandish outfits and philanthropy efforts, to his well documented battle and ultimate passing. A pretty interesting guy that will be greatly missed.”
Matt Linton notes, “This old clip of Wilt's summer job in the Catskills is a personal favorite.”
Kelly Johnson highlights this 2012 story, about an NCAA investigation into a Massachusetts prep school famed for its basketball players.
Cynthia Lynn Lyerly shares this amazing story: “My dad coached the first integrated Varsity men's team at Hickory High School (NC). Many of the teams they played were not yet integrated, including an all-black team from Charlotte and rural teams that were all-white. In one game that first year in a rural school, the referees kept calling dad's black players epithets, but in a low voice that folks in the stands couldn't hear. Still, my dad's team was leagues better than this county team, and kept advancing. Then the refs started calling fouls on dad's players. His best player, who was black, started getting ridiculous fouls called on him. Then, at a crucial moment in the game, the refs called another made-up foul on his player and this player said "Come on!" and they called a technical on him. This was at a crucial moment, like under a minute to go. Three uncontested foul shots and if the other team made two of them, the game would go to them. Hickory High's fans that traveled to this game were all white. (African Americans knew they would not be welcome at this rural school.) They weren't clued into the racist refs (and let's face it, many of them had opposed desegregation all along) and they were VERY upset with dad's player for "mouthing off to the ref." So my dad...not caring about the game any more...he stands up and walks up to the ref, gets in his face and says "Are you dumb or are you just blind" (in a high school game....this sort of thing was NEVER EVER done)...and the ref tells him to sit down, but dad keeps on, knowing what will happen....and the ref calls a technical on my dad and he was thrown out of the game. The fans all turned on my dad. Many people demanded that the principal fire my hot-heated father for his outburst, for setting a bad example, and for losing a game that Hickory should have won. My dad was pleased with the outcome, as nobody remembered the technical his black player had had called on him.—This story is not about anybody famous (though there was a player on this team who is now a leading NCAA coach, but he wasn't involved), but I know you care about the history of American race relations so I thought you might find it interesting.”
Guest Poster Tim McCaffrey shares one of his early columns, about a brotherly basketball rivalry.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Other basketball stories or histories you’d share?


  1. Thanks for including me Ben!
    Here are a few more things worth exploring:

    -- The Black Fives Foundation is doing some great work recovering and telling the story of African American involvement in early basketball:

    -- This article from the Chicago Tribune is a year old, but it discusses how a game between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Minneapolis Lakers helped integrate the NBA:

    -- And of course, some other great readings on basketball not mentioned above: Aram Goudsouzian's biography of Bill Russell, Johnny Smith's "The Son's of Westwood," and Adam Criblez's forthcoming book "Tall Tales and Short Shorts."