INDIANAPOLIS — It is a big month for basketball here in Indianapolis. Venues all across central Indiana will host both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, and for some basketball is more than just a game, its history is an integral part of Indiana.
That’s why an Indianapolis man, Sampson Levingston, is working to highlight that basketball history through bike and trolley tours.
Levingston is a storyteller and history lover. He started hosting Black history walking tours on Indiana Avenue last year through his organization Through2Eyes. He said he’s excited to turn his passion into a March Madness experience for fans.
The tours will highlight iconic spots with a rich basketball history and share stories of the people who made them what they were.
“We play basketball here. It’s something that I’ve embraced as part of Indiana, and so as you learn about history you can’t look too long and not realize that basketball is so intertwined with every aspect of our history, so when Indiana Sports Corp. reached out to me about doing a [basketball] tour I was like that won’t be hard at all. Basketball is everywhere you look in Indiana,” Levingston said.
The tours will go by places like Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the NCAA Hall of Champions, but they will also show places where major arenas and buildings once stood.
“We will stop for a little bit at Market Square and we will see where Elvis performed his last concert in his career, in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena, and they see that ticket and that plaque… they're like wow, we are so intertwined,” Levingston said.
It will also focus on the role the Black community played in the growth of basketball here as well.
“The first stop on our tour is going to be in Lockfield Gardens where the first Dust Bowl was played. The Dust Bowl was a game or a tournament that would happen in Indianapolis in Lockfield Gardens, mainly with the Black community, for a long time,” Levingston said. “It is something that is cool to show what that area used to be.”
Levingston said he is excited to hear stories others may have about their connection to basketball in Indiana on these tours as well. He knows there will be plenty.
“The pride in communities and towns behind their teams, that was so real. That was so real, and people still are attached to that. I think when you start drawing on the history of not only high school basketball, then college basketball, then our professional basketball history, basketball is so much a part of Indiana,” Levingston said.