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Called for traveling
by Marc Narducci / September 8, 2007

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts is taking its show on an extended road trip, one that is expected to last 18 months while visiting 30 cities.

Beginning Nov. 2, the Hall of Fame will go on tour for the first time in its history. The tour begins in Knoxville, Tennessee. Some of the sites and dates are still to be finalized.

“We’re proud we are in Springfield, Mass, the birthplace of basketball, but realistically, millions of fans around the country may not have the opportunity to come to Springfield for a number of years,” said Dean O’Keefe, vice president of marketing for the Hall of Fame. “If we can whet the appetite with this tour and get them to come here, that would be the ideal situation.”

According to O’Keefe, there is more than enough material to satisfy the fans who still attend the Hall of Fame in Springfield and those who see it on tour.

“Only about 10 percent of artifacts go on display at one time (in Springfield),” O’Keefe said. “Over 90 percent in storage and we are always rotating things in our museum.”

Dominique Wilkins, a nine-time NBA All-Star who was inducted in the Hall of Fame last year, is the spokesperson for the tour.

Wilkins will visit each city during the tour to interact with fans.

“I have teamed up partnership with great guys who understand the history of Hall of Fame and to take it on the road like this is amazing,” said Wilkins, who serves as vice president of basketball operations for the Atlanta Hawks. “The interaction we will have with the fans is something everybody will enjoy.”

One of the tour’s leading attractions is the floor of the Delta Center in Utah where Chicago’s Michael Jordan hit the winning shot during game six of the 1998 NBA finals. There will be the floor, the basket and entire glass backboard system.

Fans will be able to see and touch the place Jordan hit his most famous of game-winners.

Another major attraction is expected to be a non-basketball item Wilt Chamberlain’s custom built race car.

It was estimated that this car cost $1 million to build. Chamberlain’s estate has donated this to the Hall of Fame. It’s painted in Laker gold and the cockpit is designed to fit a 7-footer. As the story goes, Wilt actually drove this car briefly.

Other artifacts such as one of Jordan’s All-Star MVP basketball will be on display. (Jordan was MVP of the All-Star Game in 1988 and 1996).

There will be jerseys, sneakers and basketball from players such as Wilkins, Bill Russell, Pete Maravich, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Lisa Leslie, Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just to name a few.

A copy of the original 13 rules of basketball drafted by Dr. James Naismith, will also be part of the exhibit.

The net of the 1964 NCAA championship game, in which UCLA beat Duke, 98-83, will be on display. That was the first of 10 NCAA titles won by UCLA over a 12-year period.

There will also be several interactive activities, along with a film showing some of the greatest moments in basketball history. Another film shows some of the great bloopers of all-time.

Fans will have the chance to participate in “You Call the Game,”where they will put their broadcasting skills to a test. There will also be a trivia challenge.

And for the really ambitious people, there is a fullcourt “street playground” where they will get to work on fundamentals of the game. This is just a small sampling of what the traveling tour will include.

“It’s not just looking at pictures and the history, but there is a lot of interacting, “Wilkins said. “It will give fans fun things to do, whether it’s being on the court, broadcasting or other activities.”

In short, there is enough to satisfy any hoopaholic.

Marc Narducci covers the NBA for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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