I spent the last week bouncing around on the East Coast, beginning with an early morning tour of the Sam Adams brewery in Boston and ending with Kentucky’s exciting win over South Carolina in Columbia on Saturday. Of the many, many things I did during the trip — one that had me in six different hotels in six nights — my afternoon at The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was one the best.
The Hall of Fame is located in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a short, two-hour drive from the Omni Parker House in downtown Boston. That drive would’ve been a few minutes shorter had my rental car not shut itself off while I was stopped inside a toll both at the entrance to the Massachusetts Turnpike. Let me tell you: there’s not a more uncomfortable situation than being stuck inside the only open toll booth on the Mass Pike. My Dodge Dart and I held up traffic for a couple of minutes and the people piling up behind me were not exactly patient or considerate of my struggle. Luckily I got her back up and running or I don’t know what the move would’ve been.
After about 90 miles on the Pike and two of the new Quesalupas from Taco Bell’s Ludlow location, I arrived at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, along the banks of the Connecticut River. The parking lot was completely empty — aside from a handful of folks dining at the Subway connected to the Hall — which meant I would have the place to myself. And I did.
A young man, likely in college and who looked like he’s never held a basketball in his life, guided me to an elevator once I forked over the 25 dollars at the ticket office. He smacked a button inside the elevator and stepped back out, sending me up to the top floor to begin my downward spiral through the Hall. When the doors opened, I was greeted by a very familiar face right in front of me:
Well hey there, Coach Cal.
And to Cal’s left, just down a little bit on the bottom row, a much younger, happier and less stressed Rick Pitino:
The top floor is where you’ll find photos (like the two above) and biography displays on the more than three hundred inductees in the Hall, circled around an open center in chronological order, high above the Hall’s basketball court below. It’s called “The Honors Ring.”
The action picks up on the second floor beneath The Honors Ring. The second floor is where you’ll find most of the Hall’s basketball history through memorabilia, artifacts and exhibits. There is way too much to take in in the hour I spent at the Hall, so I moved through it all quickly, on the hunt for Kentucky blue.
Unfortunately, this is the first thing I found with any relation to the Cats:
And then this:
I wasn’t off to a good start, and it would get worse before it got better.
I walked over to the “Media” area, the Hall’s tribute to television, radio and other forms of media in basketball. (No mention of Kentucky Sports Radio. Yet.) An elder employee encouraged me to sit down at one of the interactive booths to call my own TV broadcast of a popular game, which sounded kind of fun, so I did.
As luck would have it, of the five or six different screens to choose from, I picked the one with the Christian Laettner shot. There was no warning. No sign saying ‘CAUTION: Video of Christian Laettner shot here.’ Nope, I sat down and hit PLAY and there it was. Long story short: my play call was not family friendly and it would’ve gotten me fired from CBS if my version were the real one, not Verne Lundquist’s.
After the NSFW redub of the ’92 heartbreaker and my own taping of SportsCenter — with a security guard as my co-host because I didn’t have anyone to do it with me — I made my way back over to the seemingly endless exhibits of basketball greatness. It was there I found several Kentucky Wildcats on the Hoophall Classic’s Wall of Fame. There were 16 high school athletes profiled, and four of them are former Cats:
Not far from there, a young Keith Bogans made a small appearance in the DeMatha Catholic High School display:
While, I assume, most of the Hall’s visitors tend to flock toward the many Michael Jordan exhibits — and there are a lot of them — I found my own personal Holy Grail. I found Reggie Miller’s home Indiana Pacers jersey and a signed, game-worn shoe.
If there were ever a time for me to put a hammer to a piece of glass, this was it. I am (almost) willing to go to jail over the theft of a Reggie Miller jersey. He was my childhood hero.
I spent several minutes gazing at my idol’s jersey, then stood back up from the kneeling position and moved on.
Then, just around the corner and past a few more rows of glass cases, there it was:
The gigantic shrine to Kentucky basketball contained Anthony Davis’ game-worn jersey from the 2012 title game, Coach Cal’s suit, the ball, the NCAA trophy, a Dan Issel jersey, three more basketballs from memorable games and a video loop of several UK legends, including Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Issel, Kenny Walker, Antoine Walker, Davis and John Calipari.
There was nothing left to see after finding the Kentucky shrine. The long drive from Boston, the dead car in the toll booth, the 25 dollars, the after effects of two Quesalupas — it was all worth it to see the Cats’ rightful place in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
I placed my hand against the glass to pay my respects and then headed down to the court on the first floor to end my tour.
But not without getting one good shot off before I left…
Be legendary. pic.twitter.com/N76syWeXSy
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) February 10, 2016
Damn. So close.
You can see a little bit more in my SnapChat story from the Hall of Fame here.