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James Naismith, photograph of a 1941 oil painting by Lon Keller. Prints and Photographs Division.

This Spring, basketball celebrates a milestone—the 75th anniversary of “March Madness,” the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 basketball series. For both men’s and women’s basketball, these tournaments determine the national champions of college basketball. In 1938, Ohio State University coach Harold Olsen conceived the idea, and the following year the first tournament was staged, with Oregon defeating Ohio State, 46-33.

The history of basketball is well-documented in the Library’s collections. The game was invented in 1891 at the YMCA Training Center in Springfield, Mass., by Canadian-American sports coach James Naismith, who founded the University of Kansas basketball program. The game gained popularity as a college sport for men and women. The Library’s “Today in History”web page notes that on Jan. 16, 1896, the first unofficial college basketball game was played between the University of Iowa and the University of Chicago—with five players on each side. Chicago won by a score of 15 to 12.

Bill Russell of the San Francisco Dons sinks a basket in the 1956 NCAA semifinals. Prints and Photographs Division

The Library of Congress photographic collections contain various nods to the sport, dating to the turn of the last century. The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog includes many action shots such as an airborne Bill Russell, of the University of San Francisco Dons, sinking a basket against Southern Methodist University in the semi-finals of the 1956 NCAA tournament.

The holdings of the Library’s Recorded Sound Section include radio highlights from games of the late 1940s and 1950s and more extensive radio and television coverage from the 1960s, featuring future NBA greats such as Jerry Lucas, Gail Goodrich, Bob Lanier, Bill Bradley and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Two recent acquisitions—the John Miley Sports Broadcast Collection and the Sports Byline Collection—capture some rare moments in sports history.

“Hoosier Hysteria” is what they call the annual high school basketball tournament in Indiana—a state that has produced thousands of first-rate basketball players and boasts five NCAA championships. Hoosier Hysteria is documented in the Library’s American Folklife Center collections as part of the Local Legacies project that was launched in 2000 to recognize events and customs throughout the nation during the Library’s bicentennial celebration. The collection, which was submitted to the Library by Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar, chronicles the significant events, teams and moments in Indiana high school basketball history through videos, photographs, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia.

FACT: After attending a state basketball finals game in Indiana in 1925, the game’s inventor, James Naismith, said, “Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”

This article is featured in the March-April 2013 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM, now available for download here. You can also view the archives of the Library’s former publication from 1993 to 2011.

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