Crawfordsville's Main Link to Basketball HistoryThursday, February 16, 2012 By Sarah Storms
When most people think of Indiana, a few things come to mind. Maybe it’s racing, Peyton Manning, or possibly corn fields; but what will always come to mind first? Basketball. Many residents of Montgomery County have come to know basketball as the main event on Friday and Saturday nights, whether it be watching high school hoops or staying home to watch Purdue or IU play. But what many don’t know is the origins of the game and Crawfordsville’s main link to basketball history. James Naismith created the game in 1891 while he was a teacher at an all boys school in Massachusetts as a way to not only keep football players in shape during the off season, but to provide entertainment for his students in the winter months, when going outdoors was not an option. After getting it’s start in Massachusetts, basketball was mainly played on the east coast and then gradually made its way out to the Midwest. Teams were very rare to find in Indiana, so many of the schools that did have enough players had to travel far to find opponents. Crawfordsville was one of the first cities in Indiana to have a team. This team was created through the YMCA, not the high school. Most of the other teams in the state at that time were also YMCA. teams. The first official game was played on March 16, 1894, with the Crawfordsville YMCA beating the Lafayette YMCA 45-21. The building where this game took place was at the YMCA Armory in Crawfordsville. In addition to the first official game played between two towns, Crawfordsville also hosted the first collegiate basketball game on February 19, 1897, when Wabash College played Purdue University. After the first official games were played in Crawfordsville, basketball teams were being created at most of the high schools. Many of the players for Crawfordsville had started out on the Crawfordsville YMCA team that played in the first official game, so they had plenty of experience. This led to Crawfordsville becoming a basketball powerhouse in the early 1900’s, and claiming many Indiana Championships. This was before there was an official post-season tournament, so champions were usually decided on the best win-loss records. Many people ask why Indiana is known for basketball when it wasn’t even created here. When the game was first introduced on the east coast, it didn’t garner that much popularity. As it gradually made its way to the Midwest, it proved to be one of Indiana’s favorite games. Players here were competitive and anxious to master the new found game. In 1925, after James Naismith visited the Indiana High School basketball state finals and experienced a gym full of more than 15,000 people, he wrote that "basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport."