Basketball is famously an all-American sport (invented by a Canadian). But thanks to an odd twist of fate and the YMCA, the world's oldest surviving basketball court is actually in France. Tucked away in a neighbourhood of Paris, the handsome facility has parquet floors and iron pillars running down the middle of it. It looks dangerous as hell.
Indeed, basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891 at Springfield College, a YMCA training school in Massachusetts. A year later, the organisation asked one of Nasmith's colleagues, Melvin Rideout, to help set up the first YMCA facility in Paris and train the staff. With a ball and a couple of fruit baskets, Rideout taught the French how to play the new game, and the court remains in use today, though the baskets have been updated.
The court is historic for more than a couple of reasons. The first recorded basketball match on European soil, for instance, took place here on December 27, 1893. There's even a plaque to commemorate it.
The gymnasium at the YMCA in the city's 9th arrondisement was also modelled after the gym at the Springfield YMCA. That means that the court pretty much ended up being a carbon copy of the original which was later lost in a fire. Some of the details feel pretty Parisian, though. The Hungarian point parquet floors, for instance, are apparently very springy thanks to a sandy foundation. And the ample use of iron is even linked to Gustave Eiffel. The building's architect, Emile Bénard, was supposedly one of Eiffel's students, though details of that relationship remain vague.
Bonus fact: Bénard also designed the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. So the French-American exchange goes full circle.
Pictures: YMCA Paris