In 49 states, basketball is just a game, but in Indiana, it just means more. Any basketball bucket list should include these 20+ places to visit in Indiana.
Whether it is the world’s largest high school gym or collegiate basketball cathedrals like Assembly Hall or Hinkle Fieldhouse; whether it is the Indiana Pacers or the Hickory Huskers; whether it is Oscar Robertson or Larry Bird; Indiana is second to none in basketball tradition. We have made a list of the must-see basketball attractions in Indiana, that should be on any fan's basketball bucket list.
The Cradle of Indiana Basketball
Basketball's creator, James Naismith, once said, "While the game was invented in Massachusetts, basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport." And basketball's arrival in Indiana occurred in 1892 at the Crawfordsville YMCA. Rev. Nicholas McCay brought the game to the Hoosiers State, and it is no surprise that the first IHSAA State Basketball tournament crowned the Crawfordsville High School team as champions. While the YMCA no longer stands, a historical marker is in place to mark the arrival of Indiana's game. Read more about the 1911 team.
The Team That Sparked Hoosier Hysteria – The Milan Miracle
For many, the movie Hoosiers epitomizes basketball in Indiana. Did you know the movie is based on a true story? In 1954, tiny Milan High School (enrollment of 161) shocked the state, winning the Indiana state championship over state power Muncie Central on a last-second shot by Bobby Plump. While the movie adds quite a bit of drama to endear viewers to the Hickory Huskers, the enthusiasm for the sport in the state is spot on. Today, Milan is home to Milan 54 – Hoosiers Museum, a museum full of memorabilia from the ’54 Milan team and the movie Hoosiers. The collection of props from the movie is the largest known in existence.
If you want to take the experience a step further, head to Indianapolis, where Bobby Plump owns a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Broad Ripple called Plump's Last Shot. After his big shot at Milan, Plump went on to star at Butler, and if you're lucky, you might catch him shooting hoops in the back parking lot at the restaurant. Make sure to order the menu's massive pork tenderloin sandwich.
The home of the Hickory Huskers is a little over an hour north of Milan. The Hoosier Gym is located in Knightstown and was a source of a great deal of local history before the movie immortalized the facility. Home to an annual high school all-star game (with teams wearing the colors of the movie’s final game), the facility is a must-see.
One Year Later, Hoosier Hysteria Went Nationwide
If Milan's 1954 lit the match of Hoosier Hysteria, Crispus Attucks High School poured the gasoline that started a blaze that drew the attention of the nation the very next season. Led by future NBA hall of famer Oscar Robertson, Attucks became the first all-black high school team in the U.S. to win a state championship. They followed that up with the first undefeated season in state history and a second state title in 1956. Crispus Attucks High School won a third title in 1959 and a fourth in 2017. Today, the high school is also home to Crispus Attucks Museum, which features memorabilia from the school's history, including the basketball team's historic run in the 1950s.
Soak In Indiana Basketball History
Less than 20 minutes from The Hoosier Gym is the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, a 14,000-square-foot museum that is full of memorabilia and interactive displays about basketball in the state. The Hall of Fame features inductees such as Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Bob Knight, John Wooden and many more.
A visit to the hall of fame puts you mere feet away from the world’s largest high school gymnasium, New Castle Fieldhouse. Holding up to 10,000 spectators, you’ll want to check the schedule and plan to take in Indiana high school basketball at this historic venue.
While in New Castle, make sure to stop for a photo at the Steve Alford All-American Inn. Alford was an All-American at Indiana University, leading the Hoosiers to the 1987 National Championship. He now is the head coach at Nevada and is the namesake of this hotel property in his hometown and the giant sneaker that sits outside. As Alford's coaching career has moved him around the country, the shoe has changed colors, but it hasn't gotten any smaller...
Indiana’s Capital City is a Basketball Town
Indianapolis is a natural next step on your journey through Indiana’s basketball landscape. Home to the Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever, Butler Bulldogs and the IHSAA state finals, there is almost always a big game going on in the Circle City.
Gainbridge Fieldhouse has been rated as one of the finest sporting arenas in the world and is home to the Pacers, Fever, the IHSAA finals and the Crossroads Classic, which features Indiana, Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame each year.
Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse was the filming site of the final game in Hoosiers, the site of the Milan Miracle and has been home to the Bulldogs for more than eight decades. The venue reigns as one of the nation’s great sports arenas. The classic facility was constructed in 1928 and has stood the test of time, maintaining the splendor, character and atmosphere that makes it one of the nation’s most famous basketball.
Indiana native John Wooden is immortalized in Indianapolis, as Wooden’s Legacy, a bronze sculpture at the corner of Georgia and Meridian Streets, depicts the legendary coach surrounded by the legs of five players representing the different eras of his legendary career as a player and coach in the sport. In addition to the John Wooden Statue in Indianapolis, there is another in Lafayette to view as well.
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is home to the Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience. The world-class museum includes The World of Sports, with experiences featuring numerous basketball activities and memorabilia, including items from the Pacers. Outdoors, you'll find the Avenue of Champions, with statues of 12 sports legends, including basketball legends Reggie Miller, Oscar Robertson, Tamika Catchings and Bobby "Slick" Leonard. Finally, the Indiana Pacers and Fever Basketball Experience features hoops of various heights to allow even the smallest athletes to enjoy Indiana's favorite game.
The NCAA Hall of Champions is an interactive museum located in White River State Park in downtown Indy. Situated alongside the NCAA Headquarters, the museum features interactive exhibits and memorabilia on 24 NCAA sports, including a retro gymnasium where visitors can get up a few shots.
At the Indiana State Museum, the collection of 500,000+ artifacts includes a fair share of basketball memorabilia—from Bobby Plump’s backboard to Chuck Taylor sneakers. Some items are on display, while many others are tucked away in the museum's vast collection. View a list of some of the State Museum's coolest hoops memorabilia.
Choose Your Allegiance in the State's Biggest Rivalry
In the Hoosier State, college basketball is a big deal, and the arenas are historic because of it. Bloomington’s Assembly Hall has been called the “Carnegie Hall of college basketball.” The epicenter of Indiana University Basketball since 1971, the facility was the home of the 1975, 1981 and 1987 NCAA champions, all of which were coached by Bobby Knight. A perennial powerhouse, IU’s games are an amazing experience if you can find tickets. The adjacent Cook Hall is a practice facility for IU’s basketball programs and features a state-of-the-art museum and history center.
Few people personify Indiana basketball like Larry Bird. A native of French Lick, Bird played at Springs Valley High School, where there is an oversized bust of the famous alumnus outside of the school. Bird led Indiana State to the 1979 NCAA championship game and won three NBA titles and three NBA MVP awards for the Boston Celtics. Indiana State’s Hulman Center features a 17-foot statue of Bird called “Larry Legend.”
Located in French Lick is a restaurant that features the local basketball hero's personal memorabilia and a menu that is sure to please. 33 Brick Street provides a unique restaurant experience that includes a showcase of sports memorabilia and signed jerseys, including personal awards and trophies owned by Larry Bird. The menu features a wide range of beer chilled to 22 degrees, plus a large selection of local and craft beer on tap. Drop by for a pint or find an ideal match for a meal. Their menu features hand-cut steaks, burgers, and homemade soups.
Bird famously called himself “The Hick from French Lick.” Larry Legend nurtured his basketball skills as a boy in his hometown. That history and a chronicle of his All-Star career are on full display at the French Lick West Baden Museum. Several new items, never before displayed, have been put out for March. The museum gift shop also has a number of Larry Bird items for sale.
Another exhibit put up, especially for display in March, tells the amazing story of the Valley Boys. You have to know the back story to fully appreciate the end result. Despite sharing a border, the towns of French Lick and West Baden were fierce rivals. It was amidst great controversy that a decision was made to merge the two schools in the late 50s. But the going suddenly got much smoother when the newly christened Springs Valley Blackhawks basketball team started racking up wins, going undefeated all the way to the 1958 state finals! It’s a classic Indiana high school basketball story for the ages, chronicled at the French Lick West Baden Museum.
Basketball as Expressed Through Art
Several places around the state feature works of art that honor the game and its heroes in Indiana. Indianapolis has two that really stand out to passers-by. This includes multiple in Indianapolis! One photo op that basketball fans tend to pull over for is the Reggie Miller Mural by artist Pamela Bliss. Miller played his entire career for the Indiana Pacers en route to enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame as one of the best shooters to ever play the game.
Free Basket is a public artwork/playable court created by the Cuban artist group Los Carpinteros and is located in the 100 Acres: Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park in Indy. The park and work are part of the Newfields campus.
Martinsville, Indiana, is the hometown of basketball legend John Wooden. He starred for the Martinsville High School Artesians before becoming America's first three-time All-American at Purdue and then, of course, moving on to an unmatched coaching career, including ten national championships at UCLA. Wooden was the first person ever enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and as a coach. He is prominently featured on a mural in Martinsville that celebrates the city's heritage, and the Martinsville High School court is named after the school's most famous alumnus.
While he was a rival to the Pacers, Michael Jordan is without question at least one of the greatest to ever play the game, and there is a new mural honoring him (and one of his signature plays) in East Chicago. The Mural, by Felix Maldonado Jr., is on the side of OJ's Game Time. The mural depicts Jordan's game-winner against the Utah Jazz in game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. It has quickly become a great spot for photo ops among basketball fans!
However you decide to experience Indiana basketball, you are not likely to be disappointed. While many will see a basketball game as an athletic event, in Indiana, it is truly a part of Hoosier culture. With so much of the state’s history wrapped in the game, it is no wonder the game’s creator, James Naismith, said, “Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”