Watching the pros in action can teach you a lot about each sport and its current strategies, but sports museums are a great way to learn about the unseen aspects of sporting institutions. Some popular sports like basketball did not even exist two hundred years ago. Others, like tennis, are almost old enough to be considered ancient. There are a huge number of great museums dedicated to various sports, but these five are some of the best out there.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame stands in Springfield today. The museum has three stories with a full-size basketball court on the ground floor where visitors can shoot some hoops. On display in the main hall are plaques commemorating the Hall of Fame inductees. The museum traces the history of the game, from the development of its rules and strategies to the evolution of professional basketball jerseys and gear. Exhibits also include a pair of Shaquille O’Neal’s sneakers and interactive challenges for kids, such as jumping contests against the pros.
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
A visit to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, the world’s largest tennis museum, is a must for tennis fans. This sports museum opened on the Wimbledon grounds in 1977, marking one century of the Championships. Visitors can take a guided tour of the grounds, including an up-close view of the holy grass. The museum’s collection includes thousands of artifacts from the past three centuries, documenting the evolution of tennis fashion, gear, and awards. The game has been around for nearly a thousand years, and the museum even has a 16th-century tennis book.
Baseball Hall of Fame
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is a special case for Americans because the game is so tightly ingrained in the cultural history of the nation. This sports museum chronicles the history of baseball, from its beginnings in the mid 19th century up until the present day major league. In the hall of fame, plaques for the inductees are on display. The museum also includes exhibits on the history of women, Latin Americans, and African Americans in the world of American baseball. The Hall of Fame has a massive collection of artifacts: visitors can see the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit his 60th home run, and the museum is home to over one hundred thousand baseball cards.
Hockey Hall of Fame
The Hockey Hall of Fame was originally established in Kingston, Ontario, the supposed birthplace of the game. It has since moved to downtown Toronto, and it is one of the world’s most popular sports museums. Its collection includes pucks from various tournaments, jerseys and sticks from the greatest teams and players in NHL history, and the Stanley Cup itself. Visitors can also shoot against virtual goalies or attempt to defend the goal against virtual simulations of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland has a sense of grandeur about it that suits its purpose. The museum has three sections. The first, Olympic World, walks visitors through the history of the games. It begins with the ancient Olympic Games, which last took place in Greece nearly two thousand years ago, and it tells the story of the modern Olympics, which Baron Pierre de Coubertin first envisioned in 1894. In the second section, Olympic Games, visitors can peruse an archive of footage documenting iconic moments from the Games. The third section, Olympic Spirit, captures the experience of a modern Olympic village. Visitors can try their abilities against virtual athletes such as Usain Bolt.
These museums are a must-see for fans who are fortunate enough to live nearby. But even those who live too far away for an easy visit to any of these five should check to see what their areas have to offer. There are excellent museums for just about every sport all over the world.
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