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Do the Supreme Court Justices Play Any Sports?

The look of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. sets the tone -- serious business is done here, as reflected in the neoclassical design, with Roman columns guarding the entrance. But up on the fifth floor there is a spot where a Supreme Court justice can shed the iconic robe and slip into some sweats and sneakers. Known as “the highest court in the land,” the top floor of the Supreme Court Building, a National Historic Landmark, houses a small basketball gym.

The basketball court is one of the perks for justices, law clerks and anyone with game who might know somebody who knows somebody. Pick-up games are common at lunchtime, mostly among the many young law hopefuls who clerk at the Supreme Court.

Three points about the SCOTUS gym:

  • The late Justice Byron “Whizzer” White, a college football star at the University of Colorado, shot hoops in the “high court” into his 70's, sometimes going one-on-one with Justice Clarence Thomas.
  • Justice Thomas tore his Achilles tendon during a game in the gym; the injury ended his playing days.
  • A new floor was installed in 1984 and wooden backboards were replaced with Plexiglas in 1997. There aren't any benches, and the court is smaller than regulation size.
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