New York City is buzzing about the NBA All-Star Game this weekend at Madison Square Garden. Yesterday, we looked at the history of the New York Renaissance team, aka the Harlem Rens, the most famous of the black fives. We also chose this Friday’s event at the Apollo Theater, the 10th Annual All-Star Gospel Celebration as one of our event picks of the week. Our Twitter followers sent us this Fun Map, a history of New York City Basketball released by the NBA. One of the most striking things this map tells you, without even looking at the detail, is the sheer number of NBA players that have come from New York City.
For the purposes of this post (as we’re not a basketball blog), we’re going to highlight some key locations in the city’s basketball history. There are the obvious like Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, but others more known to basketball fans are what we’ll focus on here.
A public court in a Harlem park named for Holcombe Rucker, who started a basketball tournament there in 1947 to keep at-risk kids off the streets. Players like Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving (a major influence in Michael Jordan) came played at what is colloquially known as “The Rucker,”, and over 700 kids gained college scholarships from the basketball program.
The Harlem Rens were formed by Bob Douglass in partnership with the Renaissance Casino and Ballroom, a now-abandoned, once-swanky venue that hosted dance parties led by bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Count Basie before Rens games. (Activists are trying to save the facade of the original ballroom from demolition). The Rens played until 1949.
By the old Madison Square Garden, they mean the 3rd iteration at 49th Street and 8th Avenue, opened in 1925. Besides basketball games and other sports events, this is where Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to JFK.
Settlement Houses were community centers for new immigrants living in tenements, where the children would be introduced to American society, often through the game of basketball. The map credits the Settlement Houses for the genesis of scholastic basketball and the first pro-leagues, with the original Celtics formed at Hudson Guilds, an Irish Settlement House.
Greenwich Village has gentrified around these basketball courts, surrounded by chain link fence, but the street games on courts half of the regulation size continue.
Now a homeless shelter but when it was operating as a hospital, Michael Jordan was born here.
And there are finally many schools, like St. Peter’s Boys High School on Staten Island, Queens College and St. John’s Universities which produced scores of basketball players. See more on the full interactive map on NBA.com.
See more maps in our Fun Maps Column.