Where did the name “jai alai” come from and What does jai alai mean in Basque?

The unusual name of jai alai comes from Basque, it means “joyous festival.”

Cuban Basques brought it to the United States in 1924.

It is popular today in Florida and Connecticut, where betting on the game is legal. Also called pelota (Spanish for “ball”), the game is played with a hard rubber ball and wicker baskets attached to the players’ arms.

Jai alai players have specially shaped baskets used to catch and fling the pelota, or ball.

They wear helmets because the rubber pelota can reach dangerous speeds as it rockets around the small enclosed court where jai alai is played.