The game of basketball was born in Massachusetts, but it grew up in Indiana!
In 49 states, basketball is just a game, but in Indiana, it means something more. Whether it is the world’s largest high school gym or collegiate basketball cathedrals like Assembly Hall or Hinkle Fieldhouse; whether it is the Indiana Pacers or the Hickory Huskers; whether it is Oscar Robertson or Larry Bird; Indiana is second to none in basketball tradition.
The Team That Sparked Hoosier Hysteria – The Milan Miracle
For many, the movie Hoosiers epitomizes basketball in Indiana. Did you know the movie is based on a true story? In 1954, tiny Milan High School (enrollment of 161) shocked the state, winning the Indiana state championship. While the movie adds quite a bit of drama to endear viewers to the Hickory Huskers, the enthusiasm for the sport in the state is spot on. Today, Milan is home to Milan 54 – Hoosiers Museum, a museum full of memorabilia from the ’54 Milan team and the movie Hoosiers. The collection of props from the movie is the largest known in existence.
The home of the Hickory Huskers is a little over an hour north of Milan. The Hoosier Gym is located in Knightstown and was a source of a great deal of local history before the movie immortalized the facility. Home to an annual high school all-star game (with teams wearing the colors of the movie’s final game), the facility is a must see.
Soak In Indiana Basketball History
Less than 20 minutes from The Hoosier Gym is the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, a 14,000 square foot museum that is full of memorabilia and interactive displays about basketball in the state. The Hall of Fame features inductees such as Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Bob Knight, John Wooden and many more. A visit to the hall of fame, puts you mere feet away from the world’s largest high school gymnasium, New Castle Fieldhouse. Holding up to 10,000 spectators, you’ll want to check the schedule and plan to take in Indiana high school basketball at this historic venue.
Indiana’s Capitol is a Basketball Town
Indianapolis is a natural next step on your journey through Indiana’s basketball landscape. Home to the Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever, Butler Bulldogs and the IHSAA state finals, there is a almost always a big game going on in the Circle City.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse has been rated as one of the finest sporting arenas in the world and is home to the Pacers, Fever, the IHSAA finals and the Crossroads Classic, which features Indiana, Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame each year.
Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse was the filming site of the final game in Hoosiers and has been home to the Bulldogs for more than eight decades. The venue reigns as one of the nation’s great sports arenas. The classic facility was constructed in 1928 and has stood the test of time, maintaining the splendor, character and atmosphere that makes it one of the nation’s most famous basketball.
Indiana native John Wooden is immortalized in Indianapolis, as Wooden’s Legacy, a bronze sculpture at the corner of Georgia and Meridian Streets, depicts the legendary coach surrounded by the legs of five players representing the different eras of his legendary career as a player and coach in the sport.
Choose Your Allegiance
In the Hoosier State, college basketball is a big deal, and the arenas are historic because of it. Bloomington’s Assembly Hall has been called the “Carnegie Hall of college basketball.” The epicenter of Indiana University Basketball since 1971, the facility was the home of the 1975, 1981 and 1987 NCAA champions, all of which were coached by Bobby Knight. A perennial powerhouse, IU’s games are an amazing experience if you can find tickets. The adjacent Cook Hall is a practice facility for IU’s basketball programs and features a state-of-the-art museum and history center.
Purdue Basketball contends for Big Ten titles every year in Mackey Arena. The facility has been a campus landmark for more than 40 years and was home to the 1999 NCAA Women’s Championship team.
Few people personify Indiana basketball like Larry Bird. A native of French Lick, Bird played at Springs Valley High School, where there is an oversized bust of the famous alumnus outside of the school. Bird led Indiana State to the 1979 NCAA championship game. Indiana State’s Hulman Center features a 17-foot statue of Bird called “Larry Legend.”
However you decide to experience Indiana basketball, you are not likely to be disappointed. While many will see a basketball game as an athletic event, in Indiana it is truly a part of Hoosier culture. With so much of the state’s history wrapped in the game, it is no wonder the game’s creator, James Naismith, said, “Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”