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There is Something New Underneath the Oregon Duck’s Basketball Backboards

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In recent years, the University of Oregon has made a name for itself with its many variations of basketball uniforms and football uniforms.  Being the place of origin for Nike’s athletic apparel has indeed helped Oregon in what seems to be a quest for differentiation and unique style.  It all started when the late Bill Bowerman, a hall-of-fame coach for the University of Oregon Track and Field team, co-founded Blue Ribbon Sports which was later re-named Nike Inc. Nike’s amazing success brought the University of Oregon a lot of money in donations and the almost-unlimited freedom to dress its athletes as it pleased.  Recently, the university’s quest for singularity moved passed the athletes’ attire to the appearance of their basketball court.

Basketball courts have always had a very standard design.  The space under the basketball backboards (the ‘paint’) is usually a solid color; the logo of the division, conference or league is usually on the left side of the three-point line on each half of the court; and the team or school logo is placed at the center of the court.  Aside from the painted lines that define where free-throws are shot, from where three pointers are awarded line and others similar boundaries, basketball courts are nothing more than a hardwood floor.  The Oregon Ducks’ new basketball stadium, however, just might be the most decked-out, extravagant basketball court in all of college basketball.

Matthew Knight Arena, which is supposed to open its doors to Oregon’s basketball team on January 13, 2011, has more than just a great court to upstage the team’s unique basketball uniforms.  For starters, a lucky few will enjoy the game from the new bunker style suites that are available.  Then we have the massive new scoreboards and the wrap-around LED display which everybody inside the stadium will enjoy.  The stadium will also include two practice courts which will be enjoyed during pre-game warm-ups and team practices.  Yet, even with all the new additions, the spot light will most likely fall directly on the court itself.

When contemplating the purpose behind the upgraded design of the court some wonder if the basketball backboards are the next to be used as a painter’s canvass.  Some have even said that the court’s design is actually meant to distract opponents.  Images of very tall pine trees creeping from the sides of the court to the center will surely make the lines difficult to see.  You have to wonder, though, if it will have any effect on the players who call the court home.  After all, a distraction is a distraction, right?

Whether were talking about the almost gaudy style of their basketball uniforms or their investment in seemingly unnecessary style elements, it’s safe to say that The University of Oregon has some odd quirks. Even so, their athletic program is consistently competitive with the highest ranked teams; and that makes questioning the Oregon’s methods somewhat of a risk. The next and most important questions still remain.  Will colleges and universities begin to follow suit by turning playing fields into art shows? Will college athletes have to deal with more distractions than a booing crowd and midterms?  Only time will tell.