My 15-year old son and I visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield MA recently and then went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY the next day, a great father-son weekend.
The Basketball Hall of Fame building is gorgeous. The hands-on activities (Rebound, vertical leap, etc.) were fun. Definitely has the feel of a real gymnasium. Dr. would be proud with the new facility.
However, we were both disappointed overall with the Basketball Hall of Fame (most people I talk to have the same reaction). And especially after being in Cooperstown the next day, Springfield just pales by comparison. The contents of the Basketball HOF just felt lacking. There were so many things not there. Being a Celtics fan, let me share some things that would have been great to have just from a Celtics perspective: More on Larry Bird & , didn’t see championship rings, nothing about Johnny Most, nothing about the triple overtime game against Phoenix, “ stole the ball”, piece of the old parquet floor, maybe a championship flag reproduction. There's so much great memorabilia from other teams missing as well, floor of the Great Western Forum, Chamberlain’s 100-point ball or shirt from that night, almost nothing about the amazing Pete Maravich & his days at LSU.
Where was all the Lakers/Celtics story? What about the All Star Games, the Slam-Dunk Competitions (I did like the 12’ hoop display), Spud Webb, the 1972 Olympic loss to the Russians, the other years of domination by the US. Where was the Dream Team, their jackets, maybe some gold medals, the art of the slam dunk (Dr. J., Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Shaq). Maybe a life size exhibit of the big men to stand next to (Yao Ming, Wilt Chamberlain, Manute Bol).
Cooperstown had lots of great rivalry items from the Red Sox & Yankees. Compare the HOF inductees exhibit at Springfield and Cooperstown, there is no comparison. I felt like I should kneel before I went into the inductee baseball exhibit. Cooperstown feels (and smells) like a church.
Maybe some of these things were at the Basketball HOF and we missed them, but a lot wasn’t. I just can’t help but feel that someone in Springfield is not being aggressive about chasing down memorabilia for the HOF or being creative enough. Cooperstown touched me, seeing the Babe Ruth bat used to call the homerun, Schilling’s bloody sock, perfect game balls, World Series Rings, Lou Gehrig’s uniform, but not Springfield. Nice to say you went, but after you go, you'll probably have the same feeling, you could have skipped it.
P.S. I wrote the director of the Basketball HOF (John Doleva) with much of the text in this post. I got a reply of just my email with no comments from him. Strange. Hopefully my letter got shared with his staff and they take some to heart.