If you’re a sports fan on vacation in Boston – and you’ve done Fenway Park and the Duck Tour and the Freedom Trail, and the Cape and want to take a day trip out west, go to Springfield and check out the Basketball Hall of Fame. You’ll be glad you did. Ok, it’s a little out of the way. There’s not much in Springfield. If you have teenage kids, you could parlay the trip into some college visits too – UMASS, Mt. Holyoke, hippy Hampshire College, Ken Burn’s Alma Matter, Smith, and Amherst College are all within striking distance of Springfield
Architecturally, the Basketball Hall of Fame reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. Both invite the visitor to stroll along an open circular path; on one side, the exhibits; the other, an atrium which in the case of the HOF, is a regulation basketball court. Both look futuristic and out of place. The Guggenheim might have landed from another planet. The HOF, located in what might have once been a strip mall, could pass for a typical modern corporate headquarters except for the giant disco ball embedded in the center of the structure. It will not be mistaken for a Taco Bell, or a Rent-A-Center. Interestingly, the architects, Gwathmey, Siegel and Associates actually designed an addition and renovations to the famed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. No wonder the similarity!
Inside, a glass elevator ascends to the top floor where the visitor views photos high above of all 313 members of the Hall of Fame. The large black and white photos are not terribly impressive, even disappointing. Most basketball cards are of better quality. You know what came to mind as I viewed the greats: the View-Master. Remember those slides on circular discs? I felt like I was looking through one.
The photos, while interesting, weren’t the exhibit highlights for me. Nor were the dried out basketballs that looked like gigantic Milk Duds or the bathing suit uniforms from the 30’s. The kids all seemed to be enjoying the interactive exhibits – virtual hoops, the jump-o-meter and “You Make the Call”. I enjoyed seeing some of the old sneakers made of vulcanized rubber, trophies with that Antiques Roadshow patina and the covers of now defunct sports magazines. My wife and I both marveled at the height differential between 2 guys not in the HOF, Minut Bol and Mugsy Bogues shown in cutouts side by side. But the highlight for me, and this is going to sound so cornball, but it’s true, the highlight for me was shooting hoops on the court, along with hundreds of other HOF wannabes. I shot like a champion and retired after making a short, nothing but net jumper. I was literally “in” the Basketball Hall of Fame…for a day.