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Find Out Why Western Massachusetts is the Unexpected Sports Capital of New England

by Aoife O'Riordan

Jan 24, 2024

© Susan Morris | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

Did you know Western Massachusetts is the birthplace of basketball? This region holds a rich and long association with sports and entertainment, and family travelers desiring a sports-centric trip should look no further than Western Massachusetts.


Basketball dates back to 1891, when James Naismith, a local YMCA instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts, nailed a peach fruit basket to a wall and began throwing balls into the makeshift hoop. Little did he know he would start a global sports phenomenon. Basketball is now integral to Western Massachusetts’ DNA.


Head to Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, home to more than 300 inductees with more than 40,000 square feet of basketball history. The Hall of Fame recently established The Ice Cube Impact Award for a unique blend of basketball and music, delving into the rapper/actor’s impact on both worlds, from his lyrical references to the game to his revitalization of inner-city courts. And, just last week, the Hall of Fame unveiled a new exhibit dedicated to Ice Cube. This May, the Hall of Fame will unveil a new, larger exhibit called The Vault, in celebration of the Celtics.


Beyond basketball, Western Massachusetts is rife with other sporting events. The Springfield Thunderbirds, part of the American Hockey League, play matches regularly, including one on Jan. 27 against the Charlotte Checkers and one on Feb. 10 against the Hershey Bears. And don’t miss watching Valley Blue Sox, the region’s favorite volleyball team.


On Feb. 2 and 3, hit the sidelines at Volleyball Hall of Fame’s Morgan Classic, where the top teams in the NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball compete in this international competition.


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