As one of the oldest schools in Chicago, Morgan Park Academy is steeped in history, including a unique distinction as the first high school to participate in a basketball game.
Now, the Academy celebrates the 125th anniversary of that historic first game, played on February 24, 1893, just fourteen months after James Naismith debuted the sport at Springfield (Mass.) College.
Morgan Park Academy’s basketball tradition continues to this day, with both the boys and girls varsity teams reaching the IHSA Class 1A regional finals this season.
But 125 years ago, the Academy came to own a piece of basketball history because of its role as a laboratory school for the University of Chicago. The schools’ connection lasted only 15 years, but it was during that time that Amos Alonzo Stagg, a dual faculty member, brought to Chicago the sport invented by Naismith, a former YMCA colleague.
A team from Morgan Park Academy played a team from the West Side YMCA on February 24, 1893, earning an 11-8 win.
The Academy received a statehouse proclamation as the first high school to play basketball in Illinois, and exhaustive research by school historians has been unable to uncover any evidence of an earlier game anywhere in the nation. Officials at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame confirmed that they do not have a record of any high school playing a basketball game before the Academy’s first game.
“This new game is becoming very popular with Western football teams, because it can be played indoors and lacks some of the rougher features of the rugby games,” the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper wrote in an article about a game played the following month between teams from Morgan Park Academy and the University of Chicago.