Very few sports can have a definitive “this was the first game in Little Rock” moment. But basketball does.
On April 7, 1893, the Arkansas Gazette ran stories about the final day of horse racing at Clinton Park racetrack (the park stretched roughly from what is today’s Clinton Presidential Park through the East Village to Clinton National Airport), the men who were soon to take office as aldermen met to plan for their upcoming City Council terms, and a preview of a new sport coming to Little Rock.
Less than two years earlier in Springfield, Massachusetts, a YMCA instructor named James Naismith had invented the new game of Basket Ball (then spelled with two words). The sport caught on in popularity and spread throughout the country through the network of YMCAs.
Now, on April 7, 1893, Little Rock residents would get their first glimpse of the game. Two hundred men and women gathered at the Little Rock YMCA (located at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main Streets) to see the game, which started at 8:30pm.
The Little Rock YMCA team (which had only formed the night before) took on the Pine Bluff YMCA team. The Pine Bluff young men had been practicing for six months. The results of the game reflected that. At the end, Pine Bluff had scored 70 points and Little Rock had scored 9 points.
Following the game, the Little Rock chapter hosted both teams for refreshments. Little Rock was scheduled to go to Pine Bluff to play again during the YMCA statewide convention at the end of April.
From those meager beginnings, Little Rock has seen its fair share of basketball triumphs.