For fans like me, the amazing basketball events of last week — beautifully staged by Nike and the Basketball Hall of Fame, from Harlem to Springfield and back — might as well have been called the “World Basketball Orgy.”

First, let’s redefine ourselves.

orgy |ˈôrjē|
noun ( pl. -gies)
a wild party, esp. one involving excessive drinking goodwill and unrestrained sexual basketball activity : he had a reputation for drunken dunking orgies.
• excessive indulgence in a specified activity : an orgy of buying hooping.
• (usu. orgies) historical secret rites used in the worship of Bacchus, Baskus, Dionysus Dunkonus, and other Greek and Roman deities, celebrated with dancing passing, drunkenness dribbling, and singing shooting.

Scottie Pippen's Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech

Scottie Pippen's Hall of Fame acceptance speech, after being introduced by Michael Jordan.

Of course “World Basketball Orgy” is a play on words, inspired by the inaugural World Basketball Festival staged by Nike at the Holcombe Rucker Playground in Harlem, with additional activities held at Madison Square Garden and in other spots as far away as Springfield, Massachusetts.

But for fans, that’s pretty much what it was, a world-class basketball orgy — as defined above, of course.

Speaking of the birthplace of basketball, did the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame realize it was participating in an orgy?  My sense is that they must have known.

The performances of Nike and the Hall were spectacular. But while you expect this from Nike, this hasn’t been so automatic for the Hall of Fame — and it’s no secret that I’ve been quite critical of them in the past.

But basketball orgies don’t lie — so the quality, scope, and thoughtfulness of the Hall of Fame activities in Springfield last week began to turn me around.

Let’s back up a second.  My past criticism has been about their selection process, or rather, who in particular was being systematically overlooked — namely, certain pioneers of the Black Fives Era of basketball who played or made contributions before 1950.

However, more recently — even before “orgy week” — I had begun to receive some indications that the Hall of Fame might be open to considering new ideas for how to address this inescapably important part of basketball history.

In fact, I’ve been personally involved in some genuine and favorable discussions with people closely related to the situation.  So, that’s the backdrop.

Meanwhile, did anyone notice that the Hall of Fame changed the Enshrinement date to mid-August.  A common-sense move, designed to bring more visitors, more current Hall of Famers, and more media.  The old date, in September, tended to compete for attention with too many other events and topics — school, football pre-season, political elections, and so on.

But rather than only merely changing the date, the Hall of Fame played to its strength — the position it holds as a community leader within the City of Springfield.

This year, the Hall of Fame’s enshrinement activities spanned a whole week, anchored during the opening weekend by its unveiling of a special glass and bronze sculpture and memorial park in Mason Square to commemorate the site of the very first basketball game in 1891.

Mason Square Basketball Memorial

The bronze and glass basketball memorial sculpture and park at Mason Square, Springfield, Mass., commemorating the original spot of the first basketball game on Dec. 21, 1891.

Glass Commemorative Panel, Mason Square Basketball Memorial

One of the etched glass panels at the Mason Square Basketball Memorial in Springfield, Mass.

Particularly meaningful is that the site is located in the middle of an economically-challenged neighborhood, one of the most impoverished in greater Springfield. The community has one of the lowest per-capita income levels in Massachusetts — 56% less than the statewide average.  Furthermore, unemployment exceeds 25%, and high school graduation rates are less than 50%.

So, folks there needed a boost, and they got one with this very cool new tourist destination that is sure to become the symbol of the community.  It also happens to be across the street from a McDonald’s.

The Hall of Fame played a primary role in organizing and mobilizing the design, construction, fund raising, and dedication of the memorial, which also included some beautification of the surrounding area and the construction of a new basketball playground nearby.

That’s what I call a “Hall of Fame move.”  In terms of goodwill, it’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you do.

Fitting too, that the Hall would instigate this project — Naismith’s own words are inscribed on a portion of the memorial, and read, “I want to leave the world a little bit better than I found it.”

Mason Square Basketball Memorial

With the newly unveiled Mason Square Basketball Memorial, the Hall of Fame has put Naismith's words into action.

Basketball Court by Mason Square, Springfield, Mass.

A new basketball playground is down the block from the Mason Square Basketball Memorial.

But that was just the beginning. Actually, the Hall of Fame had so much scheduled during the week that one couldn’t do it all.

I took my kids up to Springfield (a 2-hour drive) on Thursday to show them around, before standing in line for a Dennis Rodman autograph session. It was fun.  I’ve always liked Rodman and his style of play.  He epitomized hustle and hard work.  Seems to me that it’s going to be only a matter of time before he is inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Dennis Rodman Autograph Session

My boys getting Dennis Rodman's autograph at the Basketball Hall of Fame. They knew of Rodman from that famous horizontal diving rebound photo.

When I got back home to Connecticut, I decided to wake up early the next morning so I could drive down to the Rucker Playground in Harlem with my 5-year-old son, Carnegie, to be there on time for the “Jordan Breakfast Club,” a youth basketball skills clinic.

The entire playground, from one end to the other, had been completely transformed by Nike into, well, a wild basketball party.  It included the installation of a beautiful, professional-quality basketball floor — on which where the youth clinic was held — as well as highest-standard seating and game clocks.

At Rucker Playground, Harlem

Nothing like the smell of a fresh new basketball floor. Early morning at Rucker Park in Harlem, New York City, before the start of the "Jordan Breakfast Club" youth skills clinic hosted by Nike as part of its World Basketball Festival.

The floor and set up was in revolutionary contrast to the usual summer league asphalt; the Rucker has never had such special treatment before, not even close.  As I walked into the playground, I wished that my everybody’s friend John Isaacs could have lived to see this, and I felt proud for Harlem.

I hope this event worked out well enough for all participants so that it might become a regular tradition.

Back to the clinic.  Who was there?  Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, and New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul.  They were joined by surprise guest Michael Jordan.

It was M.J.’s first time at Rucker, which made this a historic moment.  You may know that the early pioneers of the Black Fives Era got their start right across the street from this playground, at what was once the Manhattan Casino, during the 1910s.  Not to mention the resurgence of basketball on this spot during the 1960s with the Rucker Pro Tournament, and the more recent Entertainer’s Basketball Classic.  So to have Michael Jordan in the same vicinity was something special.

Michael Jordan at World Basketball Festival at Rucker Playground, Harlem

Michael Jordan makes a surprise appearance at the World Basketball Festival in Harlem, his first ever visit to Rucker Playground.

These superstars, assisted by the MC-ing of famed Nike point-man Howard White, discussed what it takes to succeed on the court and in life, before handing out $23,000 checks to the Harlem Urban League, the Harlem Boys and Girls Club, and the Harlem Y.M.C.A., each of which had kids participating in the clinic.

Michael Jordan at World Basketball Festival at Rucker Playground, Harlem

Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, Carmello Anthony, and Chris Paul (l. to r.) share comments about success in life and on the court at the "Jordan Breakfast Club."

Through I highly fortunate circumstance, Carnegie was able to meet M.J. and get his little pair of Air Jordans signed.  It was also his first time to Rucker Playground, so he and M.J. will always share something in common.  Carnegie also got to meet DWade, ‘Mello, and CP.  I know that this experience sunk in with him on some profound level, though he was trying to play it off as best as any 5-year-old could.

In the VIP Tent, World Basketball Festival, Harlem.

Michael Jordan with Carnegie's shoes inside the VIP tent at the World Basketball Festival.

In the VIP Tent, World Basketball Festival, Harlem.

Carnegie and MJ. This was the first time at Rucker Playground for either of them.

Leaving the VIP Tent

Leaving the VIP Tent. "Did you say thank you?"

Friday night I was back up in Springfield (!) for the Enshrinement Ceremony.

The Class of 2010 included the 1960 Olympic Team, the 1992 Olympic “Dream” Team, and several important individual honors, including my favorite of them: the late and great Dennis Johnson.

Oscar Robertson And The 1960 Olympic Team

Oscar Robertson speaks for his 1960 Olympic Basketball team.

Larry Bird With 1992 Olympic Basketball

Larry Bird had everyone cracking up with the last word, speaking after Magic Johnson on behalf of the entire 1992 Olympic Basketball team. It's amazing that every "Dream Team" player was able to show up for this reunion.

Inside Springfield's Symphony Hall

Inside the historic and intimate Springfield Symphony Hall, site of the 2010 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, where every seat is a good one.

With Charles Barkley At 2010 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony

At the post-event reception.

With Richard Lapchick at the Basketball Hall of Fame

With Richard Lapchick, author, activist, Director of the DeVos Sport Business Management program at the University of Central Florida, and son of Hall of Fame member Joe Lapchick.

A big tip of the hat goes to John Doleva president and C.E.O. of the Basketball Hall of Fame, for inviting me to attend the event.

Saturday night I was back in New York City at Madison Square Garden with my 11-year-old, for the Nike-produced basketball doubleheader featuring USA vs. France, and Puerto Rico vs. China.

Though these were tune-up matches for the Basketball World Championships that begin in Turkey on August 28, the action was exciting and entertaining.  What’s not to like when the Team U.S.A. lineup included Rajan Rondo, Derrick Rose, Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, and Lamar Odom?

And what’s not to like with friends and brothers like Houlie?

At USA vs France Basketball Game, Madison Square Garden

Enjoying the USA vs France basketball game with Cassius, who was thrilled for the chance to high-five several of the players on both teams.

Wow! This was unrestrained basketball at its finest.  I didn’t want our excessive indulgence to end.

Now do you see why I called the events of this week the “World Basketball Orgy?”

(All photos by Claude Johnson.)