Bread City Basketball


I. American troops play basketball in Saddam Hussein’s occupied Birthday Palace. Tikrit, Iraq, 2004.

Iraq Saddam's Palace Tikrit Basketball
original photo by Paolo Woods

II. The 1948 Summer Games in London was the first and only time that Iraq fielded an Olympic basketball team. They sustained five of the tournament’s worst defeats. Iraq lost to China, Korea, the Philippines, and Chile by an average of 86 points per game. The United States won gold.

Iraqi Olympic Basketball Team

III. “The next week, back in Baghdad, I had a whiskey one evening with the Time bureau manager and a pair of reporters and told them about the killings at the basketball game… The bureau manager lit another cigarette as we sat in silence for a moment. ‘And especially, basketball being a pro-Western sport was nonsense,’ he said. ‘Iraqis have been playing basketball for fifty years, since long before all this. They love it.'”
– From The End of Major Combat Operations, by Nick McDonnell

Richard Mosse's Iraq
photo by Richard Mosse


Madison Square Garden, aka The Garden, aka The Mecca, is on its fifth life.

Sixty years before Marbury’s MSG there was a crazy open-air Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, and before that one were the first two arenas actually on Madison Avenue in the late 1800s. But it was Madison Square Garden III, a behemoth built by a boxing promoter on 50th Street and 8th Avenue, that cemented its legend status as the World’s Most Famous Arena.

MSG III’s grand opening event was a six day indoor bicycle race in November of 1925, but boxing and ice hockey were the stadium’s real bread and butter, drawing massive crowds. It became such a huge deal for a boxer to appear at the Garden that even the big shots got stage fright in the locker room. The Knicks made their Garden debut in 1948, but college ball pulled in more at the III. Below, St. John’s faces U. of Frisco in some throwback NIT action.

Check how bad the old blue seats were. Cigarette/cigar smoking was allowed and arena ventilation was nonexistent. If you sat in those way-upper decks, by the second half it was like watching a basketball game from inside of a house fire.

MSG III was torn down in 1968 and remained a Hell’s Kitchen parking lot for twenty-one years. It’s now the site of One Worldwide Plaza, a 49-story skyscraper that is currently the 87th tallest building in the world.

The history of Madison Square Garden, the world's most famous arena(s), in New York City.
photo by the great Ralph Morse


When the Hornets made their NBA debut in November of 1988, the Charlotte Coliseum was the largest venue in the league, seating 24,086 fans. The Hornets were a competitive team throughout the 90s, but during that time team owner George Shinn became one of of the most hated men in Charlotte. Somewhere between trading Alonzo Mourning and being accused of rape, Shinn caused attendance to sag. This, combined with the Hive’s lack of luxury boxes, made the Hornets one of the NBA’s least profitable organizations. The team moved to New Orleans in 2002. On June 3rd, 2007, the Charlotte Coliseum was destroyed.


March 15, 2007, 12:39 am
Filed under: Architecture, Art, Bread City | Tags: ,