A Court Used for Playing Hoops Since 1893. Where? Paris.

Regardless, the court could use an expensive makeover.

“My dream is to find the money to see it as it was before,” Manac’h said.


Sylvie Manac’h, the director of the Y.M.C.A. in Paris, said the organization had considered some type of event to raise the money required for a renovation of the gym. It has considered inviting the Harlem Globetrotters to help publicize its needs.

Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times


Old photos of the gym in Paris. The French Basketball Federation has held promotional events and news conferences there. Givenchy photographed models in the space for its 2012 spring couture line.

Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

Unlike some other major sports, basketball has a neatly traceable origin story. The first game was played on Dec. 21, 1891, after Naismith, a Canadian physical education instructor working and studying in Springfield, devised a new activity to occupy his restless students in the winter months. The contest, which took place at a Y.M.C.A. gymnasium almost identical to the one in Paris, involved 18 people, two peach baskets and a soccer ball.

Naismith hung the baskets 10 feet above the ground simply because that was the height of the running platform overhead — the same setup still visible in Paris today.

Within a matter of years, Y.M.C.A. members had carried the rules of the game as far as China, according to Matt Zeysing, a historian and curator at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

“It was one of America’s great exports,” Zeysing said.


A plaque inside the gym indicates its historical significance. The building that houses it has been protected as a historical landmark since 1994.

Pete Kiehart for The New York Times

The quick and purposeful dissemination of basketball through the Y.M.C.A. system reflected the emergence in the late 19th century of “muscular Christianity,” a religious movement that linked physical health and manliness to spiritual well-being.

The Y.M.C.A. in Paris was the game’s very first landing spot in Europe — a slice of American life transplanted to France, according to Christelle Bertho, an architect in Paris who has studied the entire facility extensively. Bertho said multiuse buildings, which the Y.M.C.A. helped pioneer in the United States, were unheard-of in France at the time. The new building also featured the first American-style bowling alley and indoor swimming pool in France.

James Stokes, a millionaire philanthropist from New York with deep ties to the Y.M.C.A., financed and conceptualized the building project. The organization hired the French architect Émile Bénard, who traveled to America to study Y.M.C.A. buildings for guidance, and had all the building materials for the gym shipped from the United States.

When the building was completed, an American named Melvin B. Rideout became its first athletic director, bringing basketball with him to Paris and practicing in what was essentially a contemporary replica of the Springfield gym where the game was created.

“We really need American people to become interested in this building,” Bertho said. “It’s their history. It’s a mixed French and American building, but it’s mostly American, and Americans don’t know about it.”

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