College basketball fans are acting like colorful arena floors are a modern invention, with a lineage traced directly from the painted foliage at Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena to the Life of Pi theme at Florida International. But eye-popping basketball courts were – and doesn’t it seem obvious in retrospect? – a product of the freewheeling 1970s.
Right around the corner from the Bicentennial, an artist named Robert Indiana was commissioned to create a new court design for the Milwaukee Bucks. He created what amounts to a massive pop-art painting for the Milwaukee Exposition and Convention Center and Arena, adorning the center of the court with the building’s acronymic nickname: MECCA.
What’s this have to do with college hoops? I hear you asking, once again.
Well, Marquette called the building home as well. From 1977 to 1988, when both teams moved to the Bradley Center, the then-Warriors dribbled, passed and dunked on a floor that resembled the national flag of a small island nation.
Fast Company magazine has the story of the resurrection of the MECCA floor:
At a time when sports were more aesthetically practical, Indiana painted the court bright yellow (“At first, I thought we had to wear sunglasses because it was so bright,” former Bucks coach Don Nelson once commented), and he featured the arena’s name, MECCA, large enough so that TV cameras couldn’t miss it. He signed the court, like a painting, on one of its baselines.
The MECCA floor will be reassembled and displayed as a work of art at U.S. Cellular Arena soon. As you watch the mountains closing in on the Colorado Buffs or try to locate players on UCF’s greyscale floor this season, take a moment to thank, or curse Robert Indiana and MECCA as befits your own aesthetic sense.
When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.
LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.
Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).
All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.
The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.
Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.
As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.