In Indiana, basketball is like a religion. There’s even a word for the enthusiasm that surrounds the sport in the state: Hoosier Hysteria.
Basketball made its way to the Crawfordsville YMCA in the Hoosier state in 1894. Here, the passion for the sport was ignited forever. Basketball was invented three years prior on the East Coast, but Montgomery County in Indiana is known as the “Cradle of Basketball.” Even the pioneer of the sport himself, James Naismith, stated that Indiana is the true “center” of the sport, a truth that the state is certainly proud of to this day.
And nowhere is this more clear than in Bloomington, home of the Indiana University Hoosiers.
The Big 10 team holds an admirable number of accolades, including five national championship titles, 22 Big 10 regular season championships, and 40 NCAA Tournament appearances. Bobby Knight, the retired longtime IU men’s basketball coach who led the team to three national championships, is a household name in Indiana and around the country. Knight’s successor, and former player, Mike Woodson now coaches the Hoosiers in Bloomington.
The city, where the Hoosiers continue to don their candy-striped warm-up pants, is certainly the place to uncover Indiana’s rich basketball history and discover how Hoosier Hyster started.
Where to Go
Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall: Simon Skjodt has been the renowned home of Hoosier nation since 1971. The iconic arena celebrated its 50-year anniversary last year, and it has seen the likes of not only basketball legends but entertainers, political figures, and other celebrities pass through its multi-million dollar walls. Gameday at Simon Skjodt is an experience in itself, but whenever you happen to find yourself at the state-of-the-art IU basketball arena, be sure to take in the enormous amount of basketball history that surrounds you. Simon Skjodt is a museum-arena hybrid and here visitors can learn about the history that fills its halls through things like the interactive video monitors on the first floor, where you can research the team using the IU Library catalogs. There are nods to the old arena in various corners of the facility, like a piece from the IU basketball court and even the historic Assembly Hall scoreboard that has been restored to show the live score and time of every Indiana home game. Check the IU website for when tours are available.
Where: 1001 E. 17th St., Bloomington, IN 47408
Cook Hall: A quick jump from Simon Skjodt, this training facility for the IU basketball teams also offers a unique learning experience through its Pfau Shine Legacy Court. The museum and exhibit space takes visitors on a journey through IU basketball history and showcases artifacts, trophies, memorabilia, and interactive displays that teach you some interesting tidbits about IU basketball’s championships and team traditions. Check the IU website for when tours are available.
Where: 1051 E. 17th St., Bloomington, IN 47408
IU Archives: Located on the 4th floor of Wells Library East Tower on IU’s campus, the IU Archives is the most comprehensive source of information on the university’s history, and it includes a wealth of information about IU basketball and its culture. The IU Archives is where basketball history buffs can sift through all of the historical IU basketball documents their heart desires — whether that be newspaper & magazine clippings, Sports Illustrated covers, news releases, sports pages, or any other team files that you can think of. Browse through files from IU basketball’s championship eras and imagine yourself as a Hoosier witnessing history back in the day. As you indulge in your IU basketball history lesson in the reading room, be sure to take in the black and white photographs of IU’s campus and portraits of influential IU figures. Most of the collections are stored offsite, so be sure to make an appointment with an IU archivist at least one day before your visit and they will have your requested documents waiting for you in the reading room.
Where: Wells Library E460, 1320 E. 10th St., Bloomington, IN 47405
Where to Stay
Graduate Bloomington Hotel: The Graduate in Bloomington is the perfect stay for basketball lovers who want to be immersed in Hoosier basketball history in their hotel. You’re immediately greeted with a “Welcome to Indiana Basketball” tiled floor, and that’s how you know that you’re in the right place. Vintage bleachers can be found in the lobby, and if you shift your gaze upward then you’ll find chandeliers made from vintage basketball hoops (they’re too high up to dunk on, unfortunately). As you make your way to your specially designed room, your eyes will be drawn to the vibrant carpet with basketball motifs sprinkled across it. You might even get lucky and have an old basketball locker as your closet. Bobby Knight lovers rejoice, as there are signs of the IU coach’s feisty temper in the red chair chandelier hanging from one of the ceilings, as well as the multiple chair portraits featured throughout the hotel’s hallways.
Ever seen the movies Hoosiers and Breaking Away? There’s an Indiana State Champs banner and also a Cutters (which refers to the Bloomington stonecutters who used work in the city’s old limestone rock quarries) banner as a nod to the cherished sports flicks.
Where: 210 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47408
Where to Eat
BuffaLouie’s: BuffaLouie’s offers an IU basketball history experience unlike any other. This bustling restaurant on South Indiana Avenue is home to an impressive selection of IU basketball relics, such as photographs of memorable action shots, signed jerseys, and its fair share of acknowledgement of the Hoosier’s five NCAA Championship titles. While you’re taking in your surroundings and noting the Bobby Knight appearances in the art, order a basket of bone-in wings and a burger.
Where: 114 S. Indiana Ave., Bloomington, IN 47408
For recommendations on where to grab a drink, check out our guide to the best sports bars in Bloomington, Indiana.