HENDERSON, Ky (WEHT) – If one lives in Indiana, it is probably no secret that basketball is the most popular sport in the Hoosier state, but basketball and Indiana history goes deeper than one might think.

Indiana got its “Hoosier State” nickname due to its basketball tradition. The first basketball game in the state was played in 1894 and many credit Dr. James Naismath for the creation of the sport. The Indiana High School Athletic Association was formed in 1903 to govern high school sports in the state. This eventually led to the creation of the “Hoosier Hysteria” high school basketball tournament in 1911 and many moments later with its most famous story happening in 1954 when Milan High School, a small school program won the state championship. That inspired the 1986 film “Hoosiers” that live in basketball lore.

According to American Eagle Goals, this has led to Indiana becoming the center of basketball.

In college, Indiana and Purdue Universities are only two of several college basketball powerhouses in the state. Indiana has won five NCAA championships in 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981 and 1987 with the first two under Branch McCracken and the last three under Bob Knight, and Purdue has made two Final Four appearances. Other well-known colleges that are known for their basketball programs in the state include Butler, Notre Dame (also football) and Ball State.

The state as a whole has produced a multitude of basketball stars that went on to play for the NBA. Below are just some of those names and who they played for.

  • Larry Bird (French Lick/West Baden Springs) – Boston Celtics
  • Oscar Robinson (raised in Indianapolis) – Cincinnati Royals (now Sacramento Kings), Milwaukee Bucks
  • Shawn Kemp (Elkhart) – Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers and Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • George McGinnis (Indianapolis) – Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets
  • Glenn Robinson (Gary) – Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks
  • Zach Randolph (Marion) – Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzles, Portland Trail Blazers
  • Mike Conley, Jr. (raised in Indianapolis) – Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Gordon Hayward (Indianapolis) – Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets
  • George Hill (Indianapolis) – San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Darius Garland (Gary) – Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Eric Gordon (Indianapolis) – Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns
  • Cody Zeller (Washington) – Charlotte Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans
  • Tyler Zeller (Washington) – Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies