For those of you who don’t know me, I hail from Indianapolis, Indiana in the USA. While my hometown is known by many as the home of the Indianapolis Five Hundred motor race, it also happens to be, in my opinion at least, the epicenter of the sport of basketball.
And since basketball is an Olympic sport, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you my love for the basketball, otherwise known as “the orange,” and the game itself.
It is undisputed that the game of basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1892. What I believe is that while the game was born in Massachusetts, it was perfected in Indiana. The passion for the game in my home state is unsurpassed. It’s a passion that isn’t limited to the professional and university ranks, either. The State of Indiana is home to the largest high school gymnasiums in the world, which are also bigger than many university or college facilities. Here’s proof.
Indiana is also the birthplace of the college basketball coaching legend John Wooden. Nicknamed “The Wizard of Westwood” in honor of his ten national championships won while coached UCLA, he was born in the small town of Martinsville, Indiana. He attended college at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana and had his first coaching job at Indiana State University. While he never coached in the Olympics, +
In recent years, one of the most famous coaches from Indiana is Brad Stevens. As coach of tiny Butler University, Stevens led the Bulldogs to two consecutive national championship games. Since then, he’s moved on to coach the Boston Celtics, one of the most storied franchises in professional basketball history.
I could go on about coaches, but in the interest of brevity, allow me to turn to a few of the legendary players from Indiana. To me the greatest basketball player of all time is Oscar Robertson. The Big O attended Crispus Attucks High School, the only all African-American high school in Indianapolis. In 1955, as a high school junior, he led the Tigers to the state championship. In the process, Crispus Attucks became the first all African-American high school in America to win a state basketball championship.
He followed up that feat the following year by leading the Tigers to their second consecutive state championship. It wasn’t just any championship. It was an undefeated season, the first time that was accomplished in the State of Indiana. That’s not the end of the story, though. He was also a member of the 1960 USA men’s Olympic basketball team, which took home the gold medal.
For someone from a more modern era, I give you Larry Bird. In 1979, the “Hick from French Lick” led Indiana State University, which was a mere footnote in college basketball at the time, to the NCAA national championship game without a loss. While Indiana State lost that game, Bird’s epic battle with Ervin “Magic” Johnson led to the explosion of interest in the NCAA basketball championship.
After Indiana State, he went to the Boston Celtics, where he won three NBA titles, and was a member of “The Dream Team,” the 1992 USA men’s basketball team that was the first one with professional players on its roster. That team dominated the Olympics, winning by an average of forty points per game.
This year, the State of Indiana is represented on both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Paul George, a member of my Indiana Pacers (seen below in his Hickory uniform the Pacers wore this season in honor of the Hickory Huskers from the movie Hoosiers), is a two-time NBA all-star and one of the rising stars of the league. He’s making his Olympic Games debut this year as the USA men’s team attempts to defend the gold medal it won in London in 2012.
The incomparable Tamika Catchings, the heart and soul of my Indiana Fever, will be making her fourth Olympics appearance. In her three previous stints representing the USA in the Olympics, Tamika has never lost a game. It will be exciting to see if she can go four-for-four with a perfect record.
In addition to her on-court prowess, Tamika is a beloved community figure and an author. She’s retiring as a player later this year, and we will miss watching her drain three-pointers and make key steals. On the bright side, she got married earlier this year, so maybe we’ll see little Tamikas dribbling up and down the court in coming years!
So as you settle into your chairs and consult your Olympic Games schedules, do me a favor and keep an eye out for Paul and Tamika on the basketball court. I know I’ll be watching, because, as we like to say in my neck of the woods…
Thanks so much for hanging out with me today! Regardless of your favorite sport, I hope you enjoy this year’s Olympic Games from Rio. By the way, after all of this basketball talk, if you need to get your hoops fix, give the film Hoosiers a shot. Not only is it a great movie, it received two Academy Award nominations. Oh yeah, it’s based on the real-life story of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team, which is—you guessed it—from the State of Indiana.
Until next time, be well and may every shot you take catch nothing but net!
About Jim Cangany
Jim Cangany writes sweet, contemporary romance with a slice of sports on the side. He’s the author of the Irving University Series, which chronicles the story of the women’s college basketball team, the Irving University Lady Lions.
To find out more about Jim, visit his website, follow him on Twitter at @jimcangany, or like him on Facebook.
You can find Jim’s books at Amazon UK, Amazon US, and other major on-line retailers.
Giveaway - Jim Cangany is giving away a copy of On The Rebound his story featuring women's basketball.
To win, please just comment on the this post with your thoughts on Basketball. Who will win the gold at the Olympics? Your favourite players? Have you ever played that sort of thing?
One person will be chosen at random after 23:59 on 13th August 2016, and will win the ebook. Giveaway is open internationally. Please make sure you include an email address or twitter handle with your comment, or I can't track you down when you win!