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History Behind the Supreme Court's Basketball Court

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Did you know that there is literally a court above the Supreme Court?

Thanks to a recent feature in Sports Illustrated, the not-so-secret but rarely-talked-about court finally got some time in the limelight. Curiously, it's not a court of law, but rather a less-than-regulation-sized basketball court located above the actual High Court Courtroom. And what might surprise you even more is that there is a rich history of justices playing b-ball with staff and clerks.

History of the Court

The exact origin of the basketball court is a bit of mystery, at least for the time being.

Apparently, in the 1940s, Justice Hugo Black used what was once just the storage room above the High Court as a makeshift tennis court. However, as more and more Court staff and justices enjoyed the game of basketball, as reported by SI, the "house game" changed.

Notably, the court above the Court has claimed a few injuries. In the 90s, Justice Thomas severely injured his ankle while playing some ball with one of his clerks. That clerk now proudly displays a peculiar photo in his office of him and Justice Thomas wearing a cast. In the picture, Thomas insisted that the photographer take a full-length shot of the two of them to include Thomas's cast, and after the shot was taken, he whispered to his clerk: "I want you to remember for the rest of your life what you did to me."

In addition to Thomas, Justice Kagan was also, at one time, a victim of the b-ball court. Justice O'Connor, who used the court for aerobics in the morning, upon seeing the injured Kagan, explained to her that she wouldn't have gotten injured in aerobics.

The Highest Court in the Land, as it is referred to, has long been a bastion of stress-relief for the Court's members and staff. There is no shortage of anecdotes from former clerks about how they got the chance to shoot hoops with a SCOTUS justice or several.

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