The Capital of Basketball

A History of DC Area High School Hoops

John McNamara, Andrea Chamblee, and David Elfin
Foreword by Gary Williams and Andrea Chamblee

"[This book] comes alive when it captures the culture of basketball, the social significance of the sport beyond the box scores."
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The celebration of Washington D.C. basketball is long overdue. The D.C. metro area stands second to none in its contributions to the game. Countless figures who have had a significant impact on the sport over the years have roots in the region, including E.B. Henderson, the first African-American certified to teach public school physical education, and Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to take the court in an actual NBA game. The city's Spingarn High School produced two players – Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing – recognized among the NBA’s 50 greatest at the League’s 50th anniversary celebration. No other high school in the country can make that claim.
These figures and many others are chronicled in this book, the first-ever comprehensive look at the great high school players, teams and coaches in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Based on more than 150 interviews, The Capital of Basketball is first and foremost a book about basketball. But in discussing the trends and evolution of the game, McNamara also uncovers the turmoil in the lives of the players and area residents as they dealt with prejudice, educational inequities, politics, and the ways the area has changed through the years.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Gary Williams


One: The Pioneers: 1900-1950

Two: The Fifties

Three: The Sixties

Four: The Seventies

Five: The Eighties

Six: The Nineties

Afterword by Andrea Chamblee


Appendix A: Map

Appendix B: All-High, All-Catholic, All-Met, and All-Prep Compilation

Photo Credits


About the Author


"The finished product is a great basketball book, filled with details of big games, powerful high school basketball programs and insightful stories about the top players and coaches who, at least at one time, called Washington home. The chronicle begins in 1900, when a local newspaper first mentioned a high school basketball game, and continues through the 1990s, when DeMatha High School was dominant."—New York Times

"The Capital of Basketball provides important details on players and coaches that made Washington DC famous...those of us at Duke and around the country know a trip to DC during basketball season is a chance to see some of the country’s best talent on the court."—Mike Krzyzewski, Men's Basketball Head Coach, Duke University

"[This book] comes alive when it captures the culture of basketball, the social significance of the sport beyond the box scores."—Washington Post

"In The Capital of Basketball, John McNamara has crafted fascinating and revealing insights into a pivotal time in the history of basketball and the city of Washington. John’s reporting was always first-rate. No one saw the game like he did...this is a must read for anyone who wants to know about the game of basketball."—Morgan Wootten, basketball coach, DeMatha Catholic High School

"It’s a story of civil rights heroes and NBA legends. It’s [more than 300] pages of history few others could have accomplished, but John, who was born in Washington and never left the area, dedicated his life to it."—Washington Post

"One of the things I genuinely looked forward to whenever I attended a Maryland basketball game was having a pre-game sit-down with John. We'd catch up on things and then start talking hoops. I always walked away from the conversation feeling smarter–or at least more knowledgeable than before. John knew everything and everyone on the subject of local hoops–high school, college and, probably schoolyard. What always came through was how much he loved it. Going to games at Maryland will never be the same for me without John. This book will let me carry some of those happy memories with me forever."—John Feinstein, author of 41 books, columnist for The Washington Post, Golf Digest and Golf World, and commentator for CBS Sports Radio

"It’s sadly rare to come across sportswriters who are both expert in their field and generous with their knowledge. It’s equally rare, amid the sporting world’s current fixation on point spreads and fantasy leagues, to find sportswriters who invest the time and care to understand and portray athletes as people rather than assets. John was that rare gem–an expert in DC-area sports, a generous colleague, and a caring human being. It was my privilege to have shared press boxes with John from 2011 on. Now, his expertise and insight are shared with all in The Capital of Basketball."—Liz Clarke, Washington Post

"The Capital of Basketball is a must read. What a great history lesson on the greatness of the DMV [DC Metro Area] and its impact on basketball."—Walt "the Wizard" Williams, men's basketball sideline reporter, University of Maryland Terrapins

"When it came to basketball, John blended the knowledge of a veteran coach with the passion of a loyal fan. He knew the game but he never forget what it is to be a fan, and it shows in The Capital of Basketball, which tells the story of this hotbed of high school hoops. He imparted his basketball stories with insider information and wit. He was a basketball writer’s basketball writer."—Jeff Barker , Baltimore Sun

"The Capital of Basketball highlights [the DC area's] impact on the area and many other key moments, players, games, and coaches in Washington, DC’s storied high school basketball history."—James Brown, host of "The NFL Today" on CBS

"[The book] is a meticulous history of the players and coaches that defined DC area basketball, broken down by the decade. Anecdotes and line scores are preserved for posterity, chronicled in painstaking detail, thanks to more than 150 interviews and countless hours of research. While the writing showcases the kind of granular attention to detail that would appeal to any sports fan, it’s also an impressive historical text that demonstrates how basketball’s influence stretched beyond the simple happenings on the hardwood, helping the city contextualize the broader societal changes taking place."—Noah Frank,

"McNamara gives light to well-known high school coaches such as Morgan Wootten (DeMatha), Joe Gallagher (St. John’s) and Bob Dwyer (Carroll), but also highlights coaches such as Cardozo High’s Frank Bolden, whose teams won back-to-back city titles in 1957 and 1958...There are dozens of other players and coaches and teams, some known, many not, who get their moment in the sun because McNamara was such an encyclopedic student of the game he loved."—David Aldridge, The Athletic

"The book hits all the boldface names that define hoops in Washington DC at every level—from Red Auerbach to ... Kevin Durant—but its passion is reserved for the hidden figures. The world beyond the district may not know ... how basketball played a crucial role in integrating DC thanks to E.B. Henderson, a trailblazer player and coach who wasn't allowed to coach white students at the turn of the century, yet his activism ultimately proved instrumental in the founding of the NAACP."—Gabe Lacques, USA Today

"I just finished reading The Capital of Basketball and thoroughly enjoyed it. It brought back such great memories.  It is a fine social history as well as an account of basketball in the DC area. I appreciate [it]."—Father Edward "Monk" Malloy, President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame, Archbishop Carroll High School class of 1959

"From the introduction of basketball in the city by lesser-known figures like E.B. Henderson to Morgan Wootten’s DeMatha dynasty to Montrose Christian’s Kevin Durant, this book has everything you need to know to consider yourself well-informed on DC-area high school basketball."—Matt Modderno

"John’s book is wonderfully reported and researched, as thorough a history of DC boys’ basketball as you’ll ever read."—Christine Brennan, Washington Independent Review of Books

"History is survival. And survival is politics—inequality persists in whose stories get told, get recorded, and get preserved. John McNamara did not survive a violent shooting in an all-too-often-violent country, but thanks to his work, a century’s worth of stories—of players and coaches, dynasties and underdogs, defeats and triumphs on and off the court—live on."—Washington Monthly

"[The Capital of Basketball] offers a welcome look at the shifting sands of race in Washington, and the social legacies that great local players and coaches have left behind."—Washington History


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

John McNamara (@CapitalofBBall) was a staff writer for the Annapolis Capital newspaper. He earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland and spent over 30 years covering local, college, and professional sports. He won several awards from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association for his writing. McNamara was one of five employees of the Annapolis Capital who were gunned down in a mass shooting at the newspaper on June 28, 2018. He was 56 years old. The University's Philip Merrill College of Journalism established an Award and a Scholarship in his name for sports journalism. He was inducted into the Maryland High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame; the Press Area at the City of Bowie is named in his honor; his name is included on the Newseum's Journalists Wall; and he was among Time Magazine's Persons of the Year for 2018.

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