The College Basketball Experience in Kansas City
From the moment we entered an elevator to The College Basketball Experience and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, at Sprint Center, there was no question what this attraction is about. Inside, photographs of coaches and players plaster three upper walls. The door opened onto a long hallway full of more bright-colored imagery, news footage, and newsreel voices merging with loud music.
Around the corner the first of several basketball courts came into view near a two-story photo of Lew Alcindor and Coach John Wooden. The image was taken after UCLA claimed their fifth national title under Wooden, in 1969 – against his alma mater of Purdue.
Why put this facility in Kansas City, Missouri? The NCAA was born here, and was its home for more than five decades. The Kansas City Municipal Areana is also legendary in basketball history. But this isn’t a museum, full of trophies, championship balls, and team jerseys. However, some signs do provide historical information, such as the fact that basketball was exclusively a floor game until the jump shot was born in 1946, at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Instead, visitors can immerse themselves in various aspects of the game, spread across 41,500 square feet. In fact, the web site cautions, ‘You may sweat.’ Signs also remind guests they must wear athletic shoes on the courts (no hard soles).
Interaction is the name of the game here. Stretch your arms from side to side, against a wall-mounted meter, to learn how your measured height compares to individual college players. Step into a footprint and compare your shoe size to that of college basketball legends.
A small chalk board beside one court invites visitors to ‘Claim your bragging rights! If you beat the leader write in your name and score.’ Another sign reads, ‘Try to make all nine shots before the buzzer sounds.’ Hoops are also mounted at varying heights, down to seven feet, to accommodate all sizes of visitors.
The lower floor houses the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Individual posters honor 25 college basketball greats with large photographs as well as their court positions, stats and awards. Technology facilitates another activity, in which visitors use an XBOX to mimic classic basketball moves. Inside the Honor Theater, basketball documentaries flicker across a small movie screen.
You can access up-to-date news and information from ESPN’s College Basketball website; and learn about the professional partnership between Dr. James Naismith – who brought basketball to Kansas University students, in 1899; and renowned ‘KU’ coach, Forrest ‘Phog’ Allen. Basketball fans may be surprised to learn that Phog became an osteopath after retiring from his coaching duties, treating baseball legends such as Casey Stengel and Mickey Mantle.
They will also appreciate a bright graphic called the Coaching Tree. The Coaching Tree depicts dozens of NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball coaches that have stemmed from renowned Coach John Wooden. Another interactive exhibit allows visitors to look up individual college basketball legends and read their short, though comprehensive biographies.
High tech and high action characterize The College Basketball Hall of Fame and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s a great place for basketball fans and other curious visitors.