I’m pretty sure that I visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Back when I was a boy. Maybe Cor’s age, maybe slightly younger. But my memory of the experience is not very sharp. And even if my memory was sharper, the site has changed quite a bit in the last thirty years.
Today’s Basketball Hall of Fame uses a lot of touchscreens. (They gave each visitor a special stylus, as a special precaution against COVID-19). Even the “Ring of Honor,” featuring all the players and coaches who’ve been inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame, is largely digital. No brass busts, like in Canton’s Football Hall of Fame. No signed memorabilia, like in Cleveland’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Just a series of glass panels, with the names of each year’s class of inductees engraved. All the actual history was accessed through several large touchscreens where visitors can scroll through pictures, video clips, quotes, and facts about each individual.
There is some memorabilia, but really not as much as I would have expected or hoped to see. Even with the historical items that were available to look at, there wasn’t a lot of information about the items. Some pieces were completely unlabeled.
The lack of labeling may be a result of the renovation process they’re currently undertaking, but still… It seems to me that they could have done more with the one-of-a-kind physical artifacts. Where is the sheet of paper with a handwritten “100,” originally held up by Wilt Chamberlain after setting the record for most points scored by an individual player in an individual game? What happened to the headband that fell off of LeBron James’ forehead Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals? We planned a whole day to browse the collection, but we probably saw it all in about an hour.
That being said, it turned out to be a boon that we visited during the time of COVID-19. We sneaked in two days before a new travel advisory from the Governor would have made our trip impossible. As a result, Cor and I didn’t see any other visitors for our first hour and a half on-site. Even at its busiest, the number of visitors roughly equaled the number of staff at the Hall of Fame. The staff demonstrated great eagerness to accommodate us and answer any questions that we wanted to ask. They looked up information when they didn’t know the answers to our questions. And they even gave us local restaurant recommendations.
Our favorite part of the Basketball Hall of Fame, however, was the basketball courts.
Underneath the distinctive dome, we delighted in the full-sized, hardwood court. Both ends of the court featured professional-grade rims, nets, backboards, and stanchions. One side of the court provided an area with lowered rims for dunking. The other side of the court included a peach basket (representing the invention of the game), a metal backboard (like you might find on an inner-city basketball court), and a barn-wood backboard (evocative of rural settings). They were fun.
Cor and I probably spent two or three hours on the basketball court because we were having such a good time. We had the space to ourselves for much of the time (especially in the morning), so it felt extra-special. We wore ourselves out by 3:30 PM, though, so we went back to our hotel to rest and watch the restart of the NBA basketball season on TV.
I’m glad we went. But I’m also glad that we included other activities in our trip to round things out.