Strange Yet Beautiful Traditions of Basketball
Since basketball’s founding over 100 years ago, the sport has infiltrated every corner of the globe and become one of the most popular sports on earth. Basketball’s home in the US remains the center of the sport, however, with countless players, fans, and teams. With so many passionate basketball fans in a country as large and diverse as America, it’s fair to say that strange and amazing traditions popping up were almost inevitable.
From the professional to the amateur, strange traditions are embedded deep within the sport at every level. Basketball’s array of superstitions and behaviors, serving as part of the overall spectacle, are part of what makes the sport the best in the world. See how players and fans alike enliven basketball.
NBA: Pregame Rituals
With its 5-on-5 format, there’s no room on an NBA team for players not at the top of their game. Professional NBA athletes perform at the highest level of the sport, playing against opposition just as talented as them. Naturally, the high-stakes intensity of the NBA has spawned some interesting pre-game rituals from players.
For Michael Jordan and LeBron James, their shared ritual of tossing chalk into the air (or in Jordan’s case, at the courtside broadcasters) became a lighthearted and beloved element of pregame to keep spirits high. For others like NBA legend Kevin Garnett, calmly tapping his head against the padded upright supporting the basket before every game of his 21-year playing career provided a sense of calm to help him achieve greatness on the court.
College: Taylor University’s Silent Night
Colleges and universities are home to many of tomorrow’s basketball stars, some of the most passionate fans on the planet, and the hopes and dreams of millions rooting for their team and admiring each year’s Cinderella story during the national frenzy of March Madness. When looking for odd traditions surrounding the sport, however, where else to look but in Indiana?
Taylor University, a small college in Upland, Indiana, and home to basketball team The Trojans celebrates the Friday in December before final exams with an unforgettable tradition.
Every year there is a home basketball game at Taylor on the specified Friday, and students attend wearing assorted costumes ranging from pajamas to Oompa Loompas. When the game begins, the crowd remains completely silent until Taylor’s 10th point is scored. When the shot goes in, pandemonium ensues around the court as students go wild. Afterward, the crowd unites in a group recitation of “Silent Night.”
The tradition has garnered significant media attention since its inception in the 1980s and has even served as the direct inspiration for several students to attend the college.
Indiana: Hoosier Hysteria
Basketball may have been born in Massachusetts but found its home in the Hoosier state. Indiana’s obsession with basketball is well-known, and it’s not rare to see a hoop in most driveways, back lots and school playgrounds. Our state’s college and professional teams maintain a rabid following, but few things ignite passion in Indiana fans like the Indiana High School Boys Basketball Tournament.
Organized by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, this competition is one of the oldest and the most prestigious high school basketball tournaments in America. The tournament features schools from across the state traveling and competing, marking local pride and carried by an atmosphere like no other. Particularly famous heroics from the tournament have been immortalized in the movie Hoosiers, and faithful fans will remember each winning school forever.
Even being recognized as the most passionate base for basketball by the sport’s inventor, James Naismith, it’s clear that Hoosier Hysteria is an important statewide tradition that stands apart in the annals of the sport.
It’s a testament to basketball’s timelessness, addictiveness and ever-present drama and excitement that it has become one of America’s, and the world’s, most successful sports. With fans packing venues from high school gymnasiums seating only a few hundred, to arenas containing tens of thousands, each aspect of basketball culture is likely to continue a strong culture that creates and supports weird – and wonderful – traditions.