There’s nothing like a great basketball venue. Does anything beat a great game, with a sellout crowd, at a special gym or arena? No, sir. Here are my personal favorites … my Basketball Mount Venue-More, if you will:
Hersheypark Arena (Hershey, PA): OK, so I have this phrase that is a verbal crutch, if you will. When starting to explain a point, I’ll start: “You don’t get it …” And then I continue my point. It’s a bad habit except when I talk about Hersheypark Arena.
So many people “just don’t get it.” Hersheypark Arena had history (see Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game), mystique and character. Hersheypark Arena would host high school double-headers in the 1970s that would draw more than 8,000. It was the mecca of Pennsylvania high school basketball. There was nothing like Reading High closing out a big game there with thousands of fans chanting/singing: “Right on RHS!”
Still will never forget seeing legendary Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, sitting courtside at Hershey, watching Sam Bowie, who was at Lebanon.
Martz Hall (Pottsville, PA): Martz Hall is, by far, the nicest high school gym I’ve ever stepped foot in. You could fit more than 4,000 in there when it was “Standing Room Only,” which was most of the time when I saw games there.
It was a gym where … when you entered, you found yourself atop the bleachers and seats. You walked in, then you walked down. When I went to games there, it was almost brand new (built in 1970); now it is iconic. The two best things to come out of Pottsville, PA: Yuengling beer and Martz Hall.
It was the site of the greatest shot in Reading High history — Cliff Durham’s half-court buzzer-beater in the Eastern (PA) quarterfinal to beat Upper Merion 34-33 in 1973. It was also the site where Sam Bowie scored 48 points and had 12 slam dunks against Williamsport in an inter-district game. At least, that’s what I remember, and if I’m wrong on a detail or two, I’ll gladly take a correction.
Oracle Arena (Oakland, CA): I’ve never witnessed a more intense, more passionate, more magical arena in the NBA than Oracle Arena — during the Warriors’ 2006-07 “We Believe” year. The Warriors had been terrible, as usual, the first half of the season. But they caught lightning in a bottle, won 16 of their last 21 regular-season games, including nine of their last 10, then knocked off the 67-win Dallas Mavericks in the first-round of the NBA playoffs.
The Warriors had missed the playoffs in their previous 12 seasons. But as they started to get warm late in the year, the passion of a loyal fan-base grew with each win, and it evolved into something almost indescribable. The atmosphere at Oracle Arena — during the spring of 1997 — was one of the singular greatest basketball environments I’ve ever been amid.
Geigle Complex (Reading, PA): If Martz Hall is the best high school gym I’ve ever been in, Geigle Complex is No. 2. But Geigle holds a special place in my heart because I played there. You know who else did? Kobe Bryant, Rasheed Wallace, Lonnie Walker IV, Bobby Sura, Donyell Marshall, Michael Brooks, Billy Owens, my guy Steve Rossignoli, and a host of other great players.
The legendary Princeton coach Pete Carril used to hold basketball camps there. It was opened in the early 1970s, and there wasn’t anything like it — with the possible exception of Martz Hall. Geigle Complex: Where basketball was beautiful.
The Palestra: streamers