Experience the home of basketball through captivating attractions and become immersed in the unmatched phenomenon of Hoosier Hysteria
The history of basketball is deeply engrained in the culture of Indiana. The state’s affection for the sport began in the early 1900s when a young man observed a version of basketball and introduced it to a YMCA in Crawfordsville, where it became quite popular.
Indiana’s passion for basketball is often referred to as Hoosier Hysteria, a term that connotes an environment full of excitement surrounding the game. The love for the sport is reflected by dedicated fan bases behind high school, college, and professional basketball teams. Even Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, noted the state’s affinity for the sport after checking it out for himself.
Indiana has demonstrated that there’s just as much passion in high school basketball as professional basketball. The state’s competitive high school basketball tournament commenced in 1911. It holds a significant place within Indiana’s sporting culture, especially for smaller, rural schools, as it only requires a minimum of five players to form a team, meaning these schools can compete against bigger city and suburban ones. High school student-athletes have gotten the opportunity to play in front of over 40,000 spectators as the final games typically sell out Gainbridge Fieldhouse Stadium in Indianapolis. Today, Indiana is home to some of the largest high school basketball gymnasiums in the country and sends an incredible number of young players to the National Basketball Association (NBA) in comparison to other states its size.
A basketball Mecca
Numerous renowned basketball players have emerged from Indiana, including the Boston Celtics’ small forward and NBA legend Larry Bird. Bird grew up in French Lick, where he steered his high school to the state sectional championship before playing for Indiana State University and Indiana University Bloomington. Oscar Robertson, nicknamed “Big O,” who played outside of Indianapolis, is another Indiana icon. The point guard secured multiple awards during his time in the NBA.
Attractions surrounding basketball culture are widespread throughout the state, from rural towns to the capital city of Indianapolis.
The Indiana Pacers, the state’s beloved professional basketball team, competes in the Eastern League of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Fans, spectators and visitors cheer them on at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Grab a fresh-made pretzel, watch the halftime show and enjoy the game!
Located in Knightstown, Indiana, Hoosier Gym is featured in Hoosiers, the 1986 film inspired by the true story of the Milan High School basketball team that won the state championship in 1954. Still in use, the gym was the home court of the movie’s Hickory Huskers.
Constructed in 1928, Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University in Indianapolis was named after the school’s legendary coach and athletic director, Paul “Tony” Hinkle. Like the Hoosier Gym, Hinkle Fieldhouse gained fame from Hoosier. It is home to the Butler Bulldogs men and women’s basketball teams. Preservation efforts have kept it in its original condition. A place of significance to Indiana’s basketball enthusiasts, it is one of the oldest arenas in the country.
A shrine to the history of hoops
NCAA Hall of Champions, a museum and shrine, showcases the best collegiate athletes in various sports and the values they embody—teamwork, discipline, and academic and athletic excellence. The museum is conveniently located in downtown Indianapolis’ White River State Park, near the city’s zoo and Indiana State Museum.
The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, also in the White River State Park Cultural District, currently has two exhibitions surrounding basketball. The Chuck Taylor All Star exhibit takes you through the life of a lesser known basketball star and loyal Hoosier whose name is on the iconic Converse All Star athletic shoe. The exhibit continues through January 27, 2025. The other, Going Pro, Basketball Origins in Indiana, consists of momentous photographs that tell the story of historic games, players and teams. Visitors have until the end of February 2024 to check it out.
In Terre Haute, you can’t miss the 15-foot statue of Larry Bird on the corner of 8th and Cherry streets. The bronze sculpture depicts Bird, in his No. 33 jersey, shooting from afar. It’s a great photo opportunity.
By Sophia DiVagno