The odds are heavily against inventing, out of thin air, a sport equally interesting to players and spectators and able to rise in a comparatively short span of years to the front ranks. But the annual proof comes around next week that, whatever the odds, it can be done. For as December begins, basketball—which Dr. James Naismith conjured up in 1891—once more takes over courts across the country and vies again for the honor, sometimes claimed for it and a hard one to disprove, of out-drawing all other sports.
Next week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents its first Special Basketball Issue. Basketball Editor Jerry Tax and his colleagues have assembled a worthy counterpart of the special issues on baseball and football.
Roy Terrell puts the ball in play with an article on the qualities which make basketball popular; analyzes such factors as excessive fouls and the premium on excessive height which subject it to criticism; and cites the teams likely to be on top when the season is over.
As usual in special issues, Scouting Reports play a big role. They will cover the 17 major NCAA conferences and outstanding independents; describe conference characteristics; list last year's team records; and include pictures of the man to watch in each conference, and other leading players. Based on firsthand observation and contact with the coaches of each team, they are a season-long guide to 176 teams.
Basketball is, among other things, a theory of play. To clarify that, photographs illustrate classic elements—the jump shot, the set shot, the fast break, dribbling, screening and faking. It is also a state of mind and body, captured in paintings by Russell Hoban which reveal a complex pattern of action and rhythm as seen by a notably sensitive artist. Basketball is coaches, too. This brings up Frank McGuire, late of Brooklyn, now a hero of the South. Leader of last year's national champions, undefeated North Carolina, he is the subject of a word portrait by Gerald Holland. And, finally, basketball, like all sports, is color—represented by pictures of North Carolina at practice and of three of the lavish stadiums (Ohio State, Maryland and Kansas) which have been springing up like gold-plated mushrooms.
Altogether, next week's issue not only brings basketball as up-to-date as today but also points to where you may expect to find it after the opening whistle blows tomorrow.