I THOUGHT I was going to a museum, so I wore street shoes to the recently opened College Basketball Experience and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Mo. It was a rookie mistake. If I had worn my old Pro Keds, I could have practiced my sky hook or taken my Bob Pettit--style long-range jumper to the 3-on-3 challenge court. Instead I had to settle for a shuffle through a facility echoing with the thud of basketballs and the squeaking of sneakers. Expecting MoMA, I got basketball camp.
"You don't work up a sweat in a museum," said Dick Reinwald, a gray-haired contractor from Bonner Springs, Kans. Reinwald was perspiring because he'd just lost a center-court game of H-O-R-S-E to his 10-year-old grandson, Spencer Mustoe. Not far away, a teenage girl tried to shoot free throws against a video backdrop of howling, arm-waving Cameron Crazies. In another cage two car-salesman types took turns driving to randomly illuminated disks for buzzer-beater jump shots. (Knock down the shot and an unseen crowd roars.)
It's all part of the College Basketball Experience, a $20 million, 41,500-square-foot annex to the Sprint Center, Kansas City's new downtown arena. Unlike traditional sports shrines, where visitors silently tiptoe around glass cases containing faded jerseys, the Experience offers full sensory immersion. Bobby Knight screams at you; the floor shakes from the foot-stomping of thousands of Bruins fans; the cheerleaders from a dozen schools shake tambourines and do backflips. Push a button on a kiosk and a determined Mike Krzyzewski shouts, "We are three stops away from getting back in this game!"
The mood changes when you get to the actual Hall of Fame. A long dark room lined with glowing glass plaques, the Hall is space-age serene. The names of the inductees are etched on frosted glass: Wilton N. Chamberlain... Peter "Pistol Pete" Maravich... Willis F. Reed... Norman E. Stewart. It's as solemn as a war memorial.
The contrast may be jarring, but I'm guessing that the College Basketball Experience, which is run by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, will be a hit. I just hope the curators will follow the example of bowling alleys and offer shoe rentals.
I'm a 13.