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Ira Smolev: A Short History of AAU Basketball

April 9, 2013

During and immediately after his years studying engineering at City College of New York, Ira Smolev led a successful career in amateur basketball. He earned All City honors while playing in college, competed for three Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Championships, and won AAU All Star recognition three times.

This form of basketball got its start in the 19th century, after a group of amateur athletes founded the AAU. The organization’s first championship game occurred in 1897. Nearly 30 years later, the AAU held its first women’s championship. For much of the 20th century, AAU basketball rivaled professional and college basketball in popularity. Early on in its history, the group was even heavily involved with U.S. Olympic efforts.

Since the 1960s, interest in the AAU’s adult basketball programs has been less pronounced. After passage of the Amateur Sports Act in 1978, the organization successfully shifted its focus toward youth sports, where it still lies today.

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