Lawrence holds a special place in basketball history, and it only makes sense to capitalize on that history as both a source of community pride and tourism.
With that in mind, it’s welcome news that the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau has received a $15,000 state grant to help promote the city’s basketball heritage. The main focus of the grant from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is to create a film documenting Lawrence’s basketball history and to create a logo promoting Lawrence as “the cradle of basketball.”
It isn’t the birthplace of basketball — that happened in Springfield, Mass. — but the game’s inventor, James Naismith made Lawrence his home during the early development of the sport and served as Kansas University’s first basketball coach. That mantle was picked up by Phog Allen, often credited with being the father of basketball coaching. Basketball has been an important part of Lawrence’s social and athletic history.
Allen Fieldhouse has become something of a basketball mecca, drawing various celebrity visitors, including a number who say they are crossing an item off their “bucket list” by attending a Jayhawk game. In addition to the games, visitors can enjoy the Booth Family Hall of Athletics in the lobby of Allen Fieldhouse and — thanks to David Booth and his wife, Suzanne — soon will be able to view the original rules of basketball, written in Naismith’s own hand, on display at a new structure adjacent to the fieldhouse.
It’s clear that basketball is a draw for many visitors to Lawrence. A film that could be shown at the Lawrence Visitors Center and perhaps other local sites could help share the basketball story and point people to significant events and locations connected to that story. Promoting the city as the “cradle of basketball” also helps spread that message.
There’s no question that Lawrence loves basketball. We aren’t the only ones, and it is great that efforts are being made to share our basketball legacy with others.