It was only a question of time, once Judge Roy Hofheinz opened his Houston pleasure dome, before basketball would be the attraction and the place would be packed. Now (page 16) we know how many people—even in the football country of the Southwest—will pay to see the game, given a match-up of the nation's two top teams. In the Midwest, it probably would require an arena twice the size of the Astrodome to hold the crowd.
If Texans would like to think that last Saturday's audience was the largest ever to watch a basketball game, however, they'd be wrong. No less than 75,052 saw the Harlem Globetrotters put on their show in Berlin 16½ years ago. That was an outdoor exhibition in the Olympic Stadium and, admittedly, the Trotters were just an added attraction in an anti-Communist rally. Still, Texas will have to settle for the U.S. record.
For the addicted, basketball need not be played in caverns measureless to man. Indeed, as designers of the newest college arenas have grasped, the game is best appreciated from close-up seats, unlike, say, baseball and football where one's view is enhanced by remaining a reasonable distance from the playing field. Basketball fans like to be close to the action; there they become emotionally involved, part of the fun of spectating.
For this reason, the game is an artistic success in church basements, backyards and playgrounds as well as in Madison Square Garden, and over the years our writers have covered (and uncovered) first-rate talent and spirited play in some unusual places. From Panguitch, Utah, Writer John Underwood and Photographer Rich Clarkson sent us a memorable report on the heartbreak and heroics of the local high school team for our March 4, 1963 issue. We still get letters about that one. Just three weeks ago Curry Kirkpatrick flew into Halifax, N.S. between blizzards to cover the Bluenose Classic and discovered that the determination that drives players in a land where hockey is king also inspires them to pretty good basketball. Joe Jares will go on from the Astrodome to explore the rapidly burgeoning world of junior college basketball for a forthcoming issue. (Did you know that the JCs will now have an all-star team in the Olympic trials?)
And about the time that all those thousands were buying tickets for the Dome and millions were preparing to watch on TV, a few hundred devoted fans of the St. Thomas the Apostle Grammar School packed a gym in Rochester, N.Y. (left) to watch their team go against Holy Rosary School. St. Thomas won 35-11, making its record 137 victories and 13 losses over the past eight years, and how about that, John Wooden? The thing about basketball is that all you need is a ball, a little room and a couple of rims and, inevitably, something good will come of it. Like maybe another Oscar, and a lot of fun. Or perhaps even a crowd of 100,000.