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Rainbow Basketball Classic

Many Classic Moments

Basketball, basketball, basketball rock
Christmastime brings those basketball dreams
Slammin’ and jammin’ with spirit and flair
In the tropic air…

(To the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock”)

For basketball fans in Hawaii, a “Merry Christmas” means getting tickets to the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, one of the premier holiday tournaments in college basketball. Since its inception in 1964, this major sports event has brought together some of the biggest names in the history of the game to Honolulu for four days and nights of exciting hoops action.

Rainbow Basketball Classic
Northern Colorado: 81-75 victory against Hawai’i in the title game of the 2009 Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic

The Rainbow Classic all-time player roster includes some of the game’s greatest legends, including Michael Jordan, Pete Maravich, Elvin Hayes, Isiah Thomas, Darrell Griffith, Quinn Buckner, Danny Ainge, Sam Perkins, Byron Scott, Wayman Tisdale, Danny Manning, and Bobby Hurley. Current NBA players who have participated in the tournament include Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Christian Laettner, Allen Houston, Latrell Sprewell, Paul Pierce, and Marcus Camby.

The tournament has also brought in some of the game’s finest coaches, including Dean Smith (North Carolina), Bob Knight (Indiana), Mike (Duke), Larry Brown and Roy Williams (Kansas), Denny Crum (Louisville), Jim Valvano (North Carolina State), Rollie Massimino (Villanova) and Pete Caril (Princeton).


Longtime Rainbow Classic followers may remember “Pistol” Pete Maravich scoring 53 points against St. John’s in a 1969 game (still a single-game tournament record). They might recall Indiana’s mid-1970s juggernaut, led by Quinn Buckner, Scott May and Steve Green, taking the 1974 title. Or Michael Jordan leading North Carolina to the 1982 championship.

Stan Sheriff Center
All games are held at the 10,000-seat Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawaii campus in Manoa

The 1992 field, led by the “Fab Five” of Michigan, was perhaps the tournament’s greatest. Of that season’s NCAA Final Four schools, three participated in the Rainbow Classic just months earlier: North Carolina, Kansas, and the Wolverines.

And Hawaii fans won’t soon forget the 1997 tournament when the University of Hawaii upset second-ranked Kansas in the nationally televised championship game.

NCAA scheduling restrictions have weakened the event in recent years, but the Rainbow Classic remains one of the few remaining eight-team holiday tournaments in the nation. In all, 140 schools have participated in the tournament.

The 2005 field includes Colorado State, Iowa State, Loyola Marymount, Northwestern State, Oregon State, South Florida, Western Michigan University and Hawaii. All games are held at the 10,000-seat Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawaii campus in Manoa.