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The Basketball Hall of Fame still a must see on the WMass to do list

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — All week long we’ll be celebrating the City of Springfield’s 375th anniversary by taking you to noteworthy destinations on the local map.

We start with the place that has literally put Springfield on the modern day map.

We’re talking about the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

John Doleva is the President and CEO of the Hall, and said the Hall of Fame is stop number one for many of the tourists that visit our area annually.

“We’re the only Hall of Fame that’s definitively located in the place where the game was invented,” said John Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. We can go right now up to Mason Square and point to the exact spot where Dr. Naismith invented the game.  So that’s a real sense of pride.”

From its humble beginnings as a small museum on the campus of Springfield College, to the multi-million dollar shrine that sits on the banks of the Connecticut River, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is 303 members strong.

The names in the ring of honor read like a litany in tribute to the game of basketball. Names like Jim Calhoun, Michael Jordan, and even Karl Malone from the most recent Hall of Fame class, the Basketball Hall of Fame offers something for everyone.  And the Hall is visited by people from literally all over the globe.

“When I think back to 2002 when we first opened the new building, in just 17 days we had visitors from all 50 states,” said John Dloeva. “It’s not untypical to go through here and see a touring group from Japan, from Germany, from Italy.  All over the world. The game is such a popular sport.  It translates so well from Springfield, Massachusetts, to around the globe.
It’s definitely not unusual to see visitors from around the world here on any given day.  Especially in the summer time.”

“We also have contests every day to help keep people engaged in the Hall of Fame,” said Mike Desrosiers who handles media and marketing for the Hall of Fame. “You might even walk away with a prize at the end of the day too.”

Once inside the Basketball Hall of Fame it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about.

You’ll find a statue of Larry Bird standing next to Paul Pierce’s locker.

There’s Shaquille O’Neil’s size 22 shoes.  And there’s the jersey Wilt Chamberlin wore when he scored 100 points in Hershey, Pennsylvania back in 1962.

If the Hall is lacking for anything, it’s local patrons.

“What we try to do is entice people that live locally, said Doleva.  “People that assume that the Hall of fame is always going to be there, That someday I’ll get there. We want to give them that special impetus to get over the hump and come to the Basketball Hall of Fame. And if it has to be a special event so be it.”

“It’s a great place to visit, but clearly we want to add value, especially to those that live right around here.”

Gene Eggleston, the longtime Cathedral basketball coach is now a tour guide at the Hall of Fame.  He says the place never seems to get old. “I don’t think people realize how interesting this place is. I’ve been involved with basketball since I was a kid, and I still, if I get 10 minutes to go up and read, there is just so much information, so much neat stuff about basketball here.”

This weekend the City of Springfield will celebrate its 375th anniversary.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is one of the true jewels here in western Massachusetts.

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