Who doesn’t want to stand at Center Court in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and pretend they are shooting the final buzzer beater to win “the Championship game” under the watchful eyes of Hall of Famers in the Honors Ring above?
“Hardly anyone,” said John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Hall of Fame, which moved into its “new” space just doors down from its former home on West Columbus Avenue in Springfield back in 2002.
Doleva said those who have only visited the old Hall of Fame will be pleasantly surprised to learn that today’s shrine for everything basketball is “designed to reflect the energy and excitement of today’s game” including men’s and women’s basketball at every level: high school, collegiate, amateur, Olympic, and professional.
“Everything is built around our full-size basketball Center Court where there is non-stop activity, and we are constantly changing our exhibits and galleries, plus we have guest appearances that make each visit unique,” said Doleva.
Young or old, male or female, there is something at the Hall of Fame to appeal to the basketball lover in everyone.
“Kids gravitate toward activities on Center Court, whether it’s a clinic by guest coaches, a Hall of Famer or basketball celebrity, a free throw shooting contest, or even a forum about key events in basketball history. And after events like these, kids can’t wait to just shoot the ball on our historic Center Court floor,” he added.
As for adults, Doleva said they love to revisit their favorite era of basketball players and events throughout the museum.
“I often see different generations of the same family educating others in their family about their favorite player, team, or moment in the game. Adults also like to share with their kids the stories of achievement and the obstacles Hall of Famers had to concur to become the best in the game,” he added.
Peter McCarty of York, Maine, who visited the Basketball Hall of Fame with his kids for the first time in July, shared Doleva’s thoughts on the educational aspects of the Hall of Fame.
“The Hall of Fame offers a great learning opportunity for kids, not just about today’s popular players, but about the history of the game and those who made it what it is now,” said McCarty.
Still when asked about his experience at the museum, McCarty’s son, Jackson, 10, said his definite favorites were “shooting hoops and the virtual basketball game.”
New exhibits on Michael Jordan and the USAB Basketball tribute are current favorites at the Basketball Hall of Fame, but each gallery has a unique flavor and appeal celebrating the game, noted Doleva.
The museum’s top floor is the Honors Ring, where visitor can view plaques and biographies of the more than 290 individuals and teams who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. There is also a timeline of world history and basketball history since the game’s invention in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield. The second floor is considered the heart of the exhibits where visitors will find five different galleries called The Game, Players, Media, Coaches and Teams. There are displays, memorabilia and artifacts in each gallery, more than enough to bring you back for another day to continue your journey into basketball’s illustrious history.
The Hall of Fame also has interactive activities in almost every gallery, especially on the second floor where you can play one-on-one in virtual hoop against some of today’s best players, as well as find regular video games and become a sportscaster in the Media gallery, not to mention plenty of others.
“Visitors really enjoy seeing themselves on television as they read from a teleprompter,” said David Bolster of West Springfield, an attendant at the Hall of Fame whose regular station is at the Media gallery.
“But sometimes I do move around and people often ask me, especially in the Honors Ring, how you get enshrined,” he added.
And, there’s still more at the Hall of Fame in the form of a theater which you don’t need a ticket to visit and that runs basketball videos, television shows and more.
Summer hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is $16.99 for adults, $13.99 for seniors age 65 and over, $11.99 for youths 5-15, and kids under 5 are free.