The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball: The AAU Tournament, 1921-1968

The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball: The AAU Tournament, 1921-1968

The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball: The AAU Tournament, 1921-1968

The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball: The AAU Tournament, 1921-1968

Synopsis

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) has long symbolized the idealism of amateur athletic competition. For basketball especially, the AAU provided an opportunity for athletes to showcase their skills for the benefit of the team and the sport, not the bottom line. In The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball, Adolph H. Grundman recounts the history of the AAU National Tournament during its golden age, 1921 through 1968.Grundman analyzes the early tournaments, examining rule changes, key players, and dominant teams. He explores the rivalries between corporations for amateur dominance after 1935, the competition between the AAU and the National Collegiate Athletic Association for representation in Olympic basketball, the question of just how amateur "amateur" basketball really was, and the reasons for the demise of post-collegiate amateur basketball. The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball provides the first history of AAU basketball and identifies players and teams that made major contributions to basketball history.Adolph H. Grundman is a professor of history at Metropolitan State College of Denver. He is the editor of The Embattled Constitution: Convenient Symbol or Necessary Framework.

Excerpt

In the last thirty years there has been an explosion of academic interest in American sports. Colleges and universities offer courses in the history, philosophy, sociology, economics, and literature of sports. For twenty years I have taught a sports history class at Metropolitan State College of Denver. As I explored the scholarship of this burgeoning field and became familiar with Denver’s sports history, it struck me that scholars had neglected an important part of the American basketball experience. A quick glance at the shelves of any library devoted to sports will reveal that basketball’s literature is devoted primarily to the professional game, its greatest players, and some of the game’s most successful college coaches. Most basketball fans born after 1960 would have no inkling that for the first sixty years of the twentieth century amateur basketball once competed with professional and college basketball for the attention of basketball junkies of earlier generations.

By amateur basketball, I mean the game governed by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), organized in 1888 to conduct athletic competitions and to monitor the amateur code. The leaders of the AAU believed that a sport played for its own sake rather than for profit was the purest form of athletic activity. It was this philosophy of sport that inspired Pierre de Coubertin to revive the Olympic Games in 1896. Historians have shown that amateurism had its darker side as it attracted elite sportsmen who thought that excluding professionals would preserve sports for the upper classes. Amateurism, whatever . . .

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