Scott Flansburg is the owner of the ABA basketball team called the Herkimer Originals. He is also known as ‘The Human Calculator.’

by Dave Warner

Suppose you don’t know who the Herkimer Originals are. In that case, they are a minor league basketball team playing in the Northeast division of the ABA (American Basketball Association), and owned by Scott Flansburg.

Flansburg is better known as ‘The Human Calculator’ and is the Guinness World Record Holder for the ‘fastest mental calculation’ after adding the same number to itself 36 times in 15 seconds. He is also an annual host and founder of The National Counting Bee, a fast-paced annual competition to find the fastest human counters.

The books

Flansburg said that when his foundation, the Herkimer 9 started researching the Frank J. Basloe book called ‘I Grew up with Basketball,’ he ran across an article by two brothers named George and Darril Fosty, who wrote a book called ‘Black Ice’ that rewrote the history of hockey.

He said the pair had been threatened in the early 2000s not to write a book about the origins of basketball, so it had been put on a shelf.

With the help of Flansburg, the pair published their book, ‘Nais-MYTH: Basketball’s Stolen Legacy.’

“From 1890 thru 1893, the game of basketball spread along a fixed route across the four states of New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. This ‘Basketball Road’ began in Herkimer and moved east to Little Falls, Amsterdam, Albany, Troy, Holyoke, and eventually Springfield. It also moved west to Mohawk, Ilion, Utica, Syracuse, Ithaca, and Rochester, ending at Cornell University and the University of Rochester,” the brothers said.

“Their book questioned the origin City of Springfield (Massachusetts) for basketball, instead stating that it had begun in the Village of Herkimer,” Flansburg stated and that “Lambert Will was the one that invented it.”

The writers said, “For many Herkimer and Lambert Will supporters, having basketball’s creation credited to Springfield and Dr. James Naismith is akin to a stolen legacy and a disservice to the historical record. These critics of the Springfield and ‘Nais-Myth’ narrative view the Herkimer-Springfield basketball debate as one that demands resolution, and this book is the historical analysis that demands a verdict, and the verdict is to correct the official record by proving that it was Lambert Will who invented Basketball, and the Village of Herkimer, with the support of surrounding communities that formed the game of Basketball.”

Flansburg said he traveled to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and not a thing is mentioned about Herkimer. “In 1956, Springfield and Herkimer battled in a room with representatives from everywhere to determine where the hall of fame should be.”

“In the end, Herkimer didn’t have enough money, even if we’d won it.”

He said, “There’s a picture that came out of a basketball team, a group of kids from the Herkimer YMCA with a basketball with 1891-92 on it. If Naismith didn’t introduce basketball until the beginning of 1892, what are these kids doing with a ball in 91?”

As they continued to investigate, they found holes in the Naismith story and physical evidence to support the claim that basketball started here first.

“For eighteen months, we did nothing but work on this. We have more evidence for our first game than Springfield does,” he said.

Starting a team

The Fosty brothers were in a meeting with Flansburg discussing the book and told him about the ABA and suggested he get a franchise to continue publicizing the story of basketball’s origins.

“I reached out to the owner of the ABA named Joe Newman. He’s been there for over twenty years, restarting it in 2000,” Flansburg said. “Now there are almost 200 teams in this league across the country.”

The name Herkimer Originals and its “hooped” logo were thought up by rock star and long-time friend of team owner Scott Flansburg, Alice Cooper, while they were playing golf. “He said you’ve got to call them the Originals. Then he hits his shot and walks over to the scorecard and writes Originals down and makes the O look like the rim of a net.”

Cooper said, “There’s your name and your logo. You’re welcome.”

Flansburg said that at first, he wasn’t sure about it, but it grew on him very quickly, and he brought it to the Herkimer 9 board, where they voted unanimously to adopt the name.

“Our nickname is the OGs, and it has really captured the essence of the story. The name and the logo say more than a picture that is worth 1,000 words,” he said.

The most exciting thing for Flansburg is to watch the players get involved in the community in the off-season. “They have basketball camps and are at different events promoting the team, the story, and just getting kids out there shooting baskets.”

“The ABA is all about entertainment, education, and the community, so we hope to put on some great games, but we know we’re having an effect on the community with the sport we love,” he stated.

Flansburg says that the Mohawk Valley has a ton of fantastic basketball athletes. “These guys are from local colleges and high schools. Almost the entire team is from the Mohawk Valley.”

Last year the team made it to the semi-finals, tied with two minutes to go, and lost to the team that almost went all the way. “It was a really great first year.”

This year

This year they’ve added several high-level ball players, so they have higher expectations for the team.

“Our goal with the Herkimer Originals as a team is to create a great product that the community celebrates. Celebrating local heroes in basketball. It’s tough to get much better than that. It brings out the families and friends and helps connect the whole community,” he said.

The November 5, 2022, game pits Springfield against Herkimer, and the historical significance of that is not lost on Flansburg. “This is the best rivalry that could exist,” he stated. “For the people who know what we’re trying to do, that’s as cool as it can get.”

The Springfield team will visit again on February 11, 2023, which is the week of the anniversary of the first game in Herkimer in 1891, a full year before Naismith.

“Springfield will be in Herkimer that week to help us celebrate the Lambert Will family and his invention. It will be quite historic,” stated Flansburg.

This year, the team is ranked within the top 25 in the country. For more information on the team, you can visit their website at https://herkimeroriginals.com/.