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Looking Back at Basketball and Hillyard

Welcome to our exploration of basketball's rich history, where every dribble and dunk has woven a tapestry of athleticism and innovation. From its humble beginnings in a Massachusetts YMCA to becoming a global phenomenon, basketball has captured the hearts of millions. As we delve into the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament annals, we uncover the legends, upsets, and moments defining this spectacle. Yet, amidst the crowd's roar and the swish of the net, there's a lesser-known but vital contributor to the game's essence: Hillyard, Incorporated.

Their groundbreaking advancements in gym floor finishes have elevated the playing surface and transformed the player's experience, ensuring every pivot and sprint is supported by excellence. Join us as we dribble down memory lane and shine a spotlight on the unsung heroes of basketball courts.

Basketball's Origin Story (1891)

Basketball's genesis can be traced back to a snowy December day in 1891 when James Naismith, a physical education instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts, sought a way to keep his students active indoors during the harsh winter months. Using a soccer ball and two peach baskets affixed to the gymnasium balcony, Naismith crafted a set of thirteen simple rules for a new game. What emerged was a fast-paced sport demanding agility, teamwork, and precision. As the game spread rapidly across YMCAs and college campuses, its appeal transcended boundaries, capturing the imagination of players and fans worldwide. From its modest beginnings, basketball has evolved into a global spectacle, captivating audiences with its electrifying athleticism and unwavering spirit.

Professional Basketball Origins and Growth into the NBA (1898)


Professional basketball's journey traces back to the late 19th century, establishing various leagues and teams across the United States. However, the formation of the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1946 marked a significant milestone in the sport's evolution. The BAA merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1949 to form the National Basketball Association (NBA), laying the foundation for the premier professional basketball league worldwide. Through the decades, the NBA has grown in stature and popularity, attracting top talent from around the globe and captivating audiences with its electrifying style of play. From the dominance of legends like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain to the global icon status of players like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, professional basketball has cemented its place as a cultural juggernaut, transcending borders and uniting fans in a shared love for the game.

Basketball Makes Its Olympic Debut (1936)

The history of basketball in the Olympics is a testament to the sport's global appeal and enduring legacy. Basketball made its Olympic debut as a demonstration sport at the 1904 St. Louis Games, but it wasn't until the 1936 Berlin Olympics that it became an official event. From that point forward, basketball has been a staple of the Olympic program, captivating audiences with its fast-paced action and skillful play. Over the years, the Olympic basketball tournament has witnessed memorable moments, from the dominance of the United States' "Dream Team" in 1992 to the underdog victories showcasing the sport's universal appeal. With each quadrennial gathering, the Olympic basketball competition continues to inspire athletes and fans alike, embodying the spirit of teamwork, competition, and unity on the world stage.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament Begins (1939)

The NCAA Basketball Tournament boasts a storied history steeped in tradition and excitement. In 1939, the inaugural tournament, featuring just eight teams, took place in Evanston, Illinois, marking the dawn of a cultural phenomenon. Over the decades, the tournament has grown exponentially, expanding its field to 68 teams and captivating millions of fans across the globe. From buzzer-beaters to Cinderella stories, the tournament has produced countless unforgettable moments etched into the annals of basketball lore. As the pinnacle of collegiate basketball, this tournament showcases the sport's raw talent and competitive spirit, uniting fans in a frenzy of brackets, upsets, and championship dreams.


Hillyard's Contribution to the Game

The foundation for Basketball was built on the efforts of many. At times, we tend to think the sport began with the players. It did. But many of the early players that gave basketball its start were talented individuals who did not play the sport on the court. They were gifted, dynamic people who nurtured the burgeoning sport with the vision, organization, and management skills that gave basketball the momentum to be propelled to its current leading position in indoor sports. One such person was Newton S. Hillyard, founder of the Hillyard Companies.

Making Basketball Safe for All

When Newton Hillyard's son, Marvin, approached him to sponsor a basketball team, in typical N. S. fashion, he poured all his efforts into it striving for success and looking for new challenges to expand, improve and promote the sport. N. S. was unhappy with the slippery oil dressings on early wood gym floors. He felt they were unsafe, dirty, and a source of players' injury. N. S. decided to develop wood gym floor coatings that were durable, easy-to-maintain, and offered his players a sure-footed surface for winning. During World War I, Marvin Hillyard passed away. His wish was for the company's team to be developed and nurtured to achieve national prominence. N. S. carried out his wish. Another of N. S. Hillyard's sons, Robert B. Hillyard, took over Marvin's daily team management responsibilities and started the long road to building a championship team. The Hillyard Shine-Alls realized their quest for greatness as they won the National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball championship in 1925 and again in 1926.

As basketball has evolved over the decades, so has the technology behind its playing surfaces, and at the forefront of this innovation stands Hillyard, a fifth-generation family company dedicated to advancing gym floor finishes. With a keen understanding of the sport's history and the importance of player safety, Hillyard has continuously pushed the boundaries of gym floor technology. Drawing upon their deep-rooted expertise and commitment to excellence, they have developed cutting-edge finishes that not only enhance performance but also prioritize safety. By leveraging modern advancements in materials and techniques, Hillyard ensures that basketball courts remain durable, resilient, and optimized for player comfort and injury prevention. Their unwavering dedication to quality and innovation underscores their pivotal role in shaping the future of basketball's playing surfaces, ensuring that athletes can continue to excel on the court with confidence and peace of mind.


Hillyard's Basketball Milestones

  • 1910's - N.S. Hillyard invents modern-day gym finish with the introduction of Diamond® Gym Finish. Super Shine-All®, a natural-based cleaner is introduced.
  • 1920 - Hillyard builds a new factory and office building, which includes a 90' x 140' wood floor gymnasium called the "Largest Gym Floor West of the Mississippi."
  • 1925-1926 - The Hillyard sponsored Super Shine-Alls win back-to-back AAU national championships.
  • 1927- The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) is founded with Hillyard as a founding sponsor. Sponsorship continues to this day.
  • 1959 - 1961 - Elliott C. Spratt, a Hillyard son-in-law, is the founding president of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The main lobby of the hall houses a permanent display of Hillyard's contributions to the game of Basketball.
  • 1988 - R. Haskell Hillyard, who served as a trustee to the hall of fame, is presented with the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award for his and his company's many contributions to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • 2013 - Hillyard becomes the official floor coatings and maintenance products of NCAA Basketball.
  • The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) presents the Newton S. Hillyard Memorial Award to its outgoing president.

Remembering the Past and Looking Forward

Our exploration of basketball's history and Hillyard's contributions underscores the enduring legacy and evolution of the sport. From its humble beginnings to its current global stature, basketball has captivated hearts and minds, uniting fans across generations. The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, with its thrilling moments and underdog triumphs, is a testament to the sport's unpredictability and excitement. Meanwhile, Hillyard's dedication to innovation and safety has left an indelible mark on the game, ensuring that basketball courts remain not only places of competition but also sanctuaries for athletes to showcase their skills without fear of injury. As we reflect on the past and look towards the future, let us continue celebrating the spirit of basketball and the individuals, like Newton S. Hillyard, who helped make it possible.

DISCLAIMER:  Specifications are subject to change without notice. Examples and recommendations in this article may not apply to every situation. This information is provided on an “as is” basis and does not supersede any other documentation. Always follow the instructions as written on the product label.

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