Author: Ashley Strahm
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We know you’re heard of Panera and Jimmy Johns, but what about the distinctly Durham tastes you haven’t yet discovered?

We’ve got places you should try that are close to the all the action, unforgettably famous, and perfect for celebrating a track and field personal best.

Bull City Staples

Don’t you dare go home without tasting these culinary delights in Durham.

First Place: Dame’s Chicken & Waffles

Find your favorite comfort food pairing at the original Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, where crispy, Southern fried chicken meets fluffy and sweet European waffles. The golden waffles are served with their signature “shmears,” made of whipped sweet crème butters that are flavored with natural ingredients like Strawberry Crème, Maple Pecan, or Chocolate Hazelnut. Not a waffle fan? Dame’s also serves classic southern brunch dishes like shrimp and grits and blackened salmon.

In the press: Eater recognized Dame’s as one of Durham’s 10 indispensible restaurants.

Travel Tip: There is often a line out the door but it is worth the wait. Make sure your entire party is available so you’ll be seated.

Second Place: True Flavors Diner

It’s hard to snag a seat at the cozy True Flavors diner on the weekends (now with a new location in the Lakewood neighborhood!) but the inventive menu is truly worth the wait. You’re served a hot, buttermilk biscuit the second you sit down (try not to inhale it), and the menu is filled with delicious dishes like slow roasted duck hash with roasted red peppers, thyme, shallots, and eggs, or the creamy four-cheese shrimp and grits with peppers, onions, fresh corn, sausage, and eggs on the side.

In the press: The News & Observer is just as excited about another location for these delights.

Travel Tip: This is perfect for the entire family; but come early to leave happy. Take a slice of pound cake to go!

Third Place: Saltbox Seafood Joint

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Didn’t think it was possible to get fresh seafood this far from the coast? You haven’t visited Saltbox Seafood Joint. Classically trained Chef Ricky Moore has worked in restaurants in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, but in 2012 he gave it all up to open a walk-up seafood stand in downtown Durham. Diners now line the street for Moore’s nationally-acclaimed soft-shell crabs, oysters, and of course, fried fish.

In the press: USA Today recognized Saltbox as a seafood shack worth a stop, and Eater recognized Saltbox as one of 10 indispensable Durham restaurants.

Travel Tip: The menu varies daily. You can find the day’s specials posted on Facebook, written on a chalkboard outside the downtown location, and inside the recently opened second location in Lakewood, Saltbox Seafood II.

Barbecue for the win: Picnic Durham

We’re not even paying attention to the podium on this one… we’re just going to award a trophy. The local meats and produce featured on the plates at this family-friendly restaurant are exactly the kind to call home about. Are you wondering where to win on the barbecue front? Picnic is it, offering staple pulled pork and brisket over cheesy fries, as well as fried chicken sandwiches, baked beans, and warm sweet potato hash before serving delightful desserts.

In the press: Indy Weekly covered Picnic’s whole hog restaurant, praising the simple, unpretentious, hearty barbecue soaked in smoke and sauce folks keep coming back for.

Travel tip: Don’t even wear a belt — at the very least, be prepared to loosen it.

Prizes for Proximity

We know convenience is key when you’re spending a few days at a stadium competing to the best of your ability. Here are the top three places to visit that are within a short distance of Durham County Memorial Stadium.

First Place: Super Taqueria

North Durham’s Super Taqueria offers a mouth-watering selection of sopes, tacos, burritos, and gorditas, plus a loaded salsa bar. Pair your food with an agua fresca for a stellar meal.

Second Place: Pelican’s Snoballs

Post competition, take athletes and the whole family to Pelican’s, a short five-minute drive away from the stadium. You can order New Orleans-style sno-balls in flavors like tutti frutti and cherry cola. If you really want to go for gold, try all 100 flavors and win a free t-shirt!

Third Place: Golden Crust Caribbean Bakery and Grill

Oxtail? Check. Jerk Chicken? Check. You won’t find Caribbean fare in more savory condition than here.

Celebrate here when you win your #majormoment

Go on, splurge, you deserve it! You’ve worked hard, and so have your family and friends while getting you to optimal performance shape. Here are a few places to cap off a great competition week.

First Place: Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Restaurant

Sample German fare on the weekend brunch cafe menu at this European-meets-Southern eatery. Familiar brunch items like eggs benedict over Westphalian ham and nutella on grilled brioche bread mix with traditional German cuisine, such as schnitzel and house-made bratwurst. Don’t leave before popping into the attached bakery for an almond schnecke pastry.

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Second Place: Piedmont

Specializing in hyperlocal cuisine, brunch visitors to Piedmont will find menu items from some of their favorite nearby purveyors, like the Loaf Bakery brioche French toast served with poached apples, candied pecans, and bourbon-maple syrup, or the barbecue pork shoulder with root vegetable hash, a fried egg, and Pig Whistle BBQ Sauce.

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Third Place: M Tempura

The newest restaurant from Chef Michael Lee, M Tempura opened in the former Scratch Bakery location on Orange Street. This cozy, traditional omakase-style tempura restaurant offers a brand new dining experience where each piece is enjoyed as it comes out, served warm after being lightly battered and fried. Chef Lee’s sister restaurants, M Sushi and M Kokko, are just down the street, and while the concepts are all unique, they are equally delicious.

Bonus: Nourish your body and treat your taste buds

Don’t sacrifice flavor at the hands of your diet at Happy + Hale, Pokeworks, or Souly Vegan Cafe. Munch on scrumptious salads, good-for-you grain bowls, and more. For a protein packed post-workout smoothie, stop by Xpert Nutrition. Don’t forget to stock up on healthy snacks from the bulk bins at the Durham Co-op Market and Bulldega.

You can also treat yourself to the good stuff — locally grown produce, hormone-free meats, artisanal cheeses, and more at Durham’s three, year-round farmers’ markets. Hours are dependent on the season, so check their websites for details:

For more information on Durham travel, check out this map of Durham, or learn more about Durham attractions and events.

Author: Ashley Strahm
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The Bull City offers no shortage of places to experience the madness that is the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, from modern sports bars with televisions literally everywhere you look to more intimate local hangouts.

Durham joins Los Angeles (UCLA, Southern California) and Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Xavier) as the only cities with more than one team in the men’s 68-team field this year, so interest will be especially high.

The North Carolina Central Eagles, winners of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament, will take the court first on Wednesday night at TD Arena in Dayton, Ohio, against California-Davis. Tip-off is 6:40 p.m., and if they’re victorious they’ll take on Kansas at 6:50 p.m. in Tulsa, Okla., on Friday.

That would be 30 minutes before the Duke Blue Devils, winners of the Atlantic Coast Conference, take the court at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., against Troy. South Carolina or Marquette awaits on Sunday with a victory. All men’s tournament games can be found on the CBS family of stations (CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV).

The action continues on Saturday, when the Duke women host Hampton at 9 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium in a game televised by ESPN2. Temple or Oregon, also at Cameron, could be next on Monday if the Blue Devils advance.

Following is a rundown of some of the best places in Durham to catch the action:

Mavericks Smokehouse and Taproom

Located at 900 West Main Street downtown, features multi-state BBQ, a full bar, and numerous TVs. There’s also as an outdoor patio (equipped with a second bar) and a projector they put to use for the big games, weather permitting, complete with fire pits so you can enjoy the outdoors even if there’s still a chill in the air.

Bull Durham Bar

Located in the Washington Duke Inn at the Duke Golf Club, this is a favorite hangout for Duke fans, and the public is welcome to watch all the games.

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Carolina Ale House

Situated prominently on U.S. 15/501 on the way to Chapel Hill, Carolina Ale House draws its share of Tar Heel fans, and with more than 50 TVs you won’t miss anything during the frenetic opening rounds when multiple games are being played simultaneously.

Champps

Expect to find some NCCU fans at Champps in the Streets at Southpoint when the Eagles try for their first ever NCAA Tournament win at the D-I level.

Clouds Brewing

Most breweries are known more for their beer than their television selection, but Clouds’ spacious new location on Main Street is an exception as 33 HD screens line every wall as well as hanging from the ceiling. Throw in a full menu and craft brews and this is a great place to relax and catch some sports.

Dain’s Place

Ranked by Complex magazine as one of the 25 best bars near a college campus, Dain’s, located in the Ninth Street district, is an obvious choice for Duke fans who are looking to join in a cheer with their dark blue brethren. Every game will on one of four TVs, and on Friday Dain’s will throw a March Madness/St. Patrick’s Day co-party with live music in celebration of the Blue Devils’ battle with Troy. Did we mention more than 80 American microbrews are available?

Devine’s Grill and Sports Bar

Yet another Brightleaf area hangout, Devine’s has been a favorite for locals since 1978. Enjoy pub favorites like wings and burger while watching the tournament.

Fullsteam Brewery

Fullsteam’s big screen will be tuned to March Madness all week, including the NCCU game on Wednesday and Duke on Friday, while you enjoy a homegrown Durham brew. The Humidity Pale Ale, the Rocket Science IPA, and the PayCheck Pilsner are always on tap in addition to seasonal specials made with local ingredients.

Mattie B’s Public House

This southern Durham neighborhood pub will show the biggest games on one of Durham’s biggest TVs, a 120-inch projection screen. There is also a rotating, eclectic mix of 11 beers on tap.

Rookie’s

If you don’t want to venture to downtown, Rookie’s is the only sports bar in Research Triangle Park. Rookie’s has 26 televisions, 12 beers on tap, and both indoor and outdoor viewing areas.

The House

On March 15, join NCCU staff and fans at The House for the Eagles’ game against California-Davis. A full-service restaurant, The House is also an ideal spot for sports fans, with 11 TVs and two big screens with projectors.

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Tobacco Road Sports Café

Tobacco Road serves fresh, local food surrounded by a wall of TVs – all in a location overlooking the Durham Bulls Athletic Park across from the American Tobacco Campus.

Tyler’s Restaurant & Taproom

Located in the historic American Tobacco Campus, Tyler’s serves 60 beers on tap alongside American comfort food. There are also pool tables and more TVs in the Speakeasy as well as six additional drafts and two more televisions in the outdoor biergarten.

Author: Ashley Strahm
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Even if you live far outside of the boundaries of Durham/Orange County, you’d better figure out which blue you bleed, and quick.

The rivalry between the Duke University Blue Devils and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels has permeated all types of playing fields, courts, pitches, and stadiums for decades. It’s why students huddle together for warmth in makeshift tents outside Cameron Indoor Stadium, taking shifts to take showers. It’s only during the sweet winter months, however, that we get to see it all play out on the unforgiving hardwood.

Even if you live far outside of the boundaries of Durham/Orange County, you’d better figure out which blue you bleed, and quick.

The rivalry between the Duke University Blue Devils and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels has permeated all types of playing fields, courts, pitches, and stadiums for decades. It’s why students huddle together for warmth in makeshift tents outside Cameron Indoor Stadium, taking shifts to take showers. It’s only during the sweet winter months, however, that we get to see it all play out on the unforgiving hardwood.

 

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People try to joke about it to relieve the inescapable, palpable tension — but it’s real. We’re not the only ones who acknowledge these tales as far more than those of lore. This history has been told, retold, dissected, and argued for quite some time, and will continue to be for seasons to come.

Relive the rivalry’s storied history, and then pick your side. Every year, every game is sure to be a wild ride; you may as well experience it first hand in the Bull City.

 

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They call this the Tobacco Road nemeses. Duke University and UNC sit just eight miles apart and have been playing each other for almost 100 years. At the start of last season, UNC was No. 3 on the all-time wins list. Duke was No. 4. The two schools have combined for 38 of the 65 ACC tournament titles and 50 regular season crowns, made it to 36 Final Fours and claimed 11 national championships. All this after the series between the two began in the 1919-20 season.

Both schools have supported and cultivated renowned talent. Michael Jordan (a member of the NCAA championship team in 1982) and other Carolina greats like Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, and Rick Fox donned the lighter color blue. But Kyrie Irving, J.J. Redick, Jay Bilas, Shane Battier, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, and Christian Laettner played for the Blue Devils with pride. The list continues, with extraordinary freshman talent adorning Duke’s roster this season, and Carolina contending with remarkable players to call their own.

The culture of the schools are different, of course, but the passion of their fans is remarkably similar: it’s unquenchable. Southern Living named it “The Most Famous Basketball Rivalry in the South.”

What to wear

If you need something in a royal blue, you can find everything you might need at Duke University Stores.

When and where the action will happen

The Duke men’s basketball team will take on Carolina on March 7 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

We all wish we had a crystal ball. Check out this matchup predictor to dissect the odds.

Don your best Duke or Carolina hue and pack your venue of choice with the best places in Durham to catch the action.

Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom

Located at 900 West Main Street downtown, Maverick’s features multi-state BBQ, a full bar, and numerous TVs. There’s also is an outdoor patio (equipped with a second bar) and a projector they put to use for the big games, weather permitting, complete with fire pits so you can enjoy the outdoors even if there’s still a chill in the air.

Bull Durham Bar

Located in the Washington Duke Inn at the Duke Golf Club, this is a favorite hangout for Duke fans, and the public is welcome to watch all the games.

Carolina Ale House

Situated prominently on U.S. 15/501 on the way to Chapel Hill, Carolina Ale House draws its fair share of Tar Heel fans, and with more than 50 TVs you won’t miss anything during the frenetic opening rounds when multiple games are being played simultaneously.

Clouds Brewing

Most breweries are known more for their beer than their television selection, but Clouds’ spacious new location on Main Street is an exception as 33 HD screens line every wall and hang from the ceiling. Throw in a full menu and craft brews; this is a great place to relax and catch some sports.

Dain’s Place

Ranked by Complex magazine as one of the 25 best bars near a college campus, Dain’s, located in the Ninth Street district, is an obvious choice for Duke fans who are looking to join in a cheer with their dark blue brethren. Every game will play on one of four TVs — did we mention more than 80 American microbrews are available?

Devine’s Grill and Sports Bar

Another Brightleaf area hangout, Devine’s has been a favorite for locals since 1978. Enjoy pub favorites like wings and burgers while watching the tournament.

Fullsteam Brewery

Fullsteam’s big screen will be tuned to March Madness while our teams play and you enjoy a homegrown Durham brew. The Humidity Pale Ale, the Rocket Science IPA, and the Paycheck Pilsner are always on tap in addition to seasonal specials made with local ingredients.

Mattie B’s Public House

This southern Durham neighborhood pub will show the biggest games on one of Durham’s biggest TVs, a 120-inch projection screen. There is also a rotating, eclectic mix of 11 beers on tap.

Tobacco Road Sports Café

Tobacco Road serves fresh, local food surrounded by a wall of TVs – all in a location overlooking the Durham Bulls Athletic Park across from the American Tobacco Campus.

Author: Ashley Strahm
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Durham is a great place for sports – one of its names is City of Champions.

Durham is home to national championships, hall-of-fame coaches, the site of the first interracial basketball game, more state high school basketball titles than any other community in the state, and the backdrop for the best sports movie of all time according to many outlets.

The Duke University Blue Devils compete in 25 NCAA Division I sports in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), but the Duke men’s basketball team and its home arena, Cameron Indoor Stadium, are the most notable. That team’s resume includes four NCAA championships, 10 NCAA championship games, 15 Final Fours, 11 national players of the year, and 71 players selected in the NBA draft.

The Durham Bulls Baseball Club, founded in 1902, is the Triple-A baseball affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and is the most famous minor league baseball team in the country thanks to Bull Durham, the best sports movie of all time according to Sports Illustrated. The team plays 72 of 144 regular season home games at the 10,000 seat Durham Bulls Athletic Park. In 2009, the Bulls won their first Triple-A national championship and in 2011 earned their 6,000th win in franchise history.

The North Carolina Central University Eagles compete in 14 men’s and women’s NCAA sports as members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). In 2012, NCCU completed a five-year transition to the NCAA Division I (Football Subdivision), which will bring even more national recognition to the historically black university.

With so many great sports teams, it’s easy to cheer for a hometown favorite. Sports enthusiasts can get tickets to local or home games and view the action live and in person!

Author: Ashley Strahm
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On June 25-30, 2019,  the Durham Sports Commission hosted Durham’s first national championship at Durham County Memorial Stadium. The following is the press release for the event after the bid was secured and preparations began almost two years prior.

Durham to Host 2019 USATF National Youth Outdoor Championships

Event Expected to Draw as Many as 4,500 Athletes, Generate Upwards of $7 Million in Economic Impact

INDIANAPOLIS/DURHAM, NC (Monday, December 4, 2017) – USA Track & Field (USATF) today announced Durham, North Carolina, will host the 2019 USATF National Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Durham County Memorial Stadium on June 25-30, 2019. The Durham Sports Commission led the successful bid, and will captain the local organizing committee that includes participation from the North Carolina USATF Association, Durham County Memorial Stadium and Stadium Authority, Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, City of Durham, and Durham County. As many as 4,500 athletes, aged 7-18, are expected to travel to Durham and compete in the event, which would generate a forecasted economic impact of over $7 million.

“With the incredible track and field community we have in Durham and across the state, it was a part of DSC’s early goals – to set the foundation for a great, long-lasting relationship with USATF and bid on its national championships,” said Executive Director of the Durham Sports Commission, Ashleigh Bachert. “The event will showcase Durham to thousands of visitors, filling 18,000 room nights over six days, as well as support and engage our active amateur clubs.”

The USATF National Youth Outdoor Championships are open to all youth athletes. The meet has performance guidelines but no strict qualifying standards, making the event attractive to those who can register without having to attend other qualification events. Durham County Memorial Stadium will also be a draw, as the venue is conveniently located near host hotels, Raleigh-Durham International Airport, major interstates, and Durham’s other all-star amenities. The multi-use facility has a rich history of hosting events at all levels, including other high-caliber track and field events like the Powerade State Games, NC USATF Senior Games Championship, USATF Regionals, and the annual Russell E. Blunt East Coast Invitational Track and Field Meet.

“We’re thrilled to welcome USATF and thousands of our nation’s best athletes and their families to Durham,” said Shelly Green, President & CEO, DCVB. “The successful bid is a testament to the hard work of the DSC, as well as to those who worked behind the scenes for years with a vision to create such an organization to champion sports-based initiatives that benefit the community.”

DSC’s work to secure the 2019 USATF National Youth Outdoor Championships aligns with its mission to create economic, social, and community impact by leading Durham’s efforts to attract, support and promote sporting events. Since its inception in August 2016, DSC’s effect has been immediate, servicing Durham-based events as well as recruiting national associations and event owners to the area. The nonprofit organization has already been recognized by SportsEvents magazine, the nation’s leading industry publication, as a 2018 Readers’ Choice Award winner for its dedication to youth and amateur sports.

Other events DSC will host or support on a national stage prior to the 2019 USATF National Youth Outdoor Championships include the 2018 United States Women’s Curling Association National Meeting and Bonspiel, the first time the championship event will be hosted south of Virginia, as well as the ACC Baseball Championship’s Fan Fest, returning to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in 2018.

Author: Ashley Strahm
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All we do is win.

Home to beloved championship teams like the Durham Bulls Baseball Club, the Duke University Blue Devils, and the North Carolina Central University Eagles, Durham offers plenty of opportunities to take in high-level sporting events. Check out the listings below to find the teams that match your interests. You can also browse the event calendar to find upcoming events.

Author: Ashley Strahm
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National champions. Hall of fame coaches. The first-ever interracial basketball game. Durham sports history is rich and replete with competitors used to winning big; especially our nationally recognized sports and community champion, the Durham Sports Commission.

Whether baseball, basketball, track and field, fencing, curling, esports or futsal is your thing, Durham is your destination. There are sports to play, games to watch and history to take in every day of the year.

You likely know Durham from the blockbuster film “Bull Durham” — a career game-changer for Susan Sarandon, Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins — and (we’ll claim this unapologetically) the best sports movie of all time. However, do you know about Durham’s role in the creation of baseball cards? You can learn about it all at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in between innings during a Bulls’ game or any time of the year at the Museum of Durham History.

The athletic programs at Duke University and North Carolina Central University are storied and bring the best kind of competition to Durham. Before or after a game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor or Wallace Wade Stadiums, stop by the Duke Basketball Museum and Sports Hall of Fame. Or at NCCU, discover where the Secret Game was played or walk through the center named after Leroy T. Walker, a track and field coach and the first black president of the United States Olympic Committee.

Durham is also home to nontraditional sports: making waves in the e-sports community, hosting national curling bonspiels in the South and more. From America’s pastime to the new age of sports, Durham’s got sports fans covered.

EXPLORE. ENCOUNTER.

Get out! No … really. Get out — Durham is waiting.

Lakes. Rivers. Public parks. Rails to trails for biking and hiking. Durham’s outdoor spaces are as diverse as they are beautiful.

Durham’s covered in pathways, both urban and natural. Stroll through all 55 acres of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Bike the American Tobacco Trail from downtown to the Streets of Southpoint without competing with car traffic. Fish at Lake Michie or kayak at Little River.

Unwind, exercise and breathe in that fresh air. The Bull City’s offerings allow you to escape or push yourself as much as you wish; don’t resist the challenge of encountering life at it’s fullest while exploring Durham’s outdoor spaces.

Author: Ashley Strahm
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Learn about the first interracial basketball game in the Jim Crow South in this WUNC feature about North Carolina Central University’s John McLendon.

The following feature is by Anita Rao, Frank Stasio, and Jess Clark. It was published by WUNC on April 23, 2015. Head to their website to listen to the radio interview Stasio did about this story for WUNC’s The State of Things.

Over seven decades of breaking barriers in basketball

On a Sunday morning in March 1944, most of Durham, North Carolina was in church. That’s the way basketball coach John McLendon wanted it when his all-black college team from North Carolina Central University (then the North Carolina College for Negroes) faced off against an all-white team from Duke University’s medical school.

The game would be the first interracial college basketball game in the Jim Crow South, and it had to be kept a secret. McLendon even locked the doors behind the teams after they entered the gymnasium.

The story of McLendon and this historic game is the subject of historian Scott Ellsworth‘s book, “The Secret Game: A Basketball Story in Black and White” (Little, Brown and Company/ 2015). Ellsworth met Coach McLendon while researching for a book about the 1957 NCAA Final Four. Ellsworth told Frank Stasio of WUNC’s The State of Things that he was interviewing McLendon in his Ohio home when the elderly man pulled out a list of racial firsts he had accomplished, including first black basketball coach in the professional leagues, first assistant U.S. Olympic basketball coach and first coach to win a desegregated tournament at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

“McLendon is the most important person in basketball that no one has ever heard of,” Ellsworth said. When McLendon told Ellsworth about the “secret game,” Ellsworth knew that he had to change his research focus. He set off on a decades-long journey to document the history of basketball, and his research reveals that McLendon’s coaching revolutionized the game.

“John McLendon is this genius,” Ellsworth said. “College basketball teams in World War II would maybe score 50 points a game; his team is scoring 60, 70, 80. They beat St. Augustine’s 119-26.”

McLendon revved up the fast break, used a full-court press before anyone else and had his players run as part of their training before it was common practice, Ellsworth said. As a result, the North Carolina College Eagles became the highest scoring college basketball team in the world.

“He [McLendon] says, ‘I’m going to create a whole new, super-revved-up kind of basketball… and we’re going to play basketball like nobody’s ever seen before.’ And they did,” Ellsworth said.

But because they were black, they couldn’t play in many college tournaments, such as the NCAA tournament. That meant most of America didn’t know about what McLendon was doing on the court, Ellsworth said.

Players from both teams organized the “secret game” when they met at secret interracial prayer meetings at the Durham YMCA. Ellsworth said people who crossed the color lines had to be discreet in the 1940s to avoid becoming targets of violence. That same year in Durham, a black soldier was murdered just for refusing to move to the back of the bus, he said.

The Eagles won the game, but the significance of the game went beyond the final score.

NCCU, Duke Play Illegal, Racially-Integrated 'Secret Game' in 1944

“The word got out that there was a new kind of basketball being played at North Carolina College,” Ellsworth said. “All that summer of 1944, carloads of white basketball players for the Tar Heels from UNC drove over from Chapel Hill to try to get a pick-up game with McLendon’s black players, and they were blown away by what they saw.”

Ellsworth said those white players then took McLendon’s game with them when they returned to their hometowns of Boston, Philadelphia and New York. The secret game, Ellsworth concluded, was therefore an important moment in the evolution of basketball, and also in the evolution of civil rights.

“It was a part of this generation…that really started to lay the groundwork that the civil rights movement was going to thrive on,” Ellsworth said.

Read this New York Times article about the secret game by Scott Hillworth in its entirety.

Paving the way to present day

Incredibly, one game in 1944 completely changed the foundation of basketball in the country, especially in Durham. From elementary hoops to the unforgettable plays we see today in the National Basketball Association, we are witness to history in motion.

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The history of basketball in Durham also extends to close geographic neighbors. We’d be remiss if we didn’t address the Duke/UNC Tobacco Road nemeses; the two universities sit just eight miles apart, and have been playing each other for almost 100 years. The two schools have combined for 38 of the 65 ACC tournament titles and 50 regular season crowns, made it to 36 Final Fours and claimed 11 NCAA national championships.

Both schools have supported and cultivated renowned talent. Michael Jordan (a member of the NCAA championship team in 1982) and other Carolina greats like James Worthy, Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, and Rick Fox donned the lighter color blue. But Kyrie Irving, J.J. Redick, Jay Bilas, Shane Battier, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, and Christian Laettner played for the Blue Devils with pride. The list continues, with extraordinary freshman talent adorning Duke’s roster this season, and Carolina contending with remarkable players to call their own.

Want to relive history and celebrate talent in the here and now? Visit the Duke Basketball Museum and Sports Hall of Fame, or catch both teams in action this season during this year’s epic March madness matchups at bars and restaurants fit for the best spectator vibes in Durham.