The sport of basketball was invented in 1891 in a Massachusetts YMCA, and has gone on to become a quintessentially American institution, yet the sport’s oldest court can be found in a Paris basement.
The popular sport was first created by a YMCA instructor as a rainy day diversion for his young charges, but the game’s popularity was explosive. When one of the YMCA sports teachers transferred to the Paris location of the rec center, he brought with him a football (the well-known orange ball we know today was not invented until much later), and a pair of fruit baskets which he hung in the basement gymnasium, creating the first European b-ball court. The gym had actually been modeled on the Springfield location, so the new makeshift playing field essentially became a carbon copy, although the pair of thick poles in the center of the court belie its broader origins. It was in 1893, just two years after the game was invented that the first Parisian basketball game took place.
While today the YMCA in Springfield is now part of a college campus, the Paris YMCA’s court is still in use. The boards may be showing their age, and the pair of massive support poles in the middle of the court have undoubtedly led to some broken noses, but the baskets themselves have been replaced by actual hoops and backboards, and the game lives on. Basketball doesn’t have very many historic landmarks so this court might be one of the sport’s most important, even if it’s in France.
Update as of May 2023: The YMCA is closed indefinitely.