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Thread: Books on basketball

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    Efes fan Levenspiel's Avatar
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    Default Books on basketball

    I'm mainly curious to see if anyone has read George Karl's book; "Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection". I'm about to buy it, I love the title, but I have a feeling it may be full of bogus stories given his infamy. Any ideas?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Levenspiel View Post
    but I have a feeling it may be full of bogus stories given his infamy. Any ideas?
    I have only read excerpts but your assessment is 100% spot on. Take all of it with a grain of salt considering he exited the league as an unwanted bitter man.
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    Quote Originally Posted by usagre View Post
    I have only read excerpts but your assessment is 100% spot on. Take all of it with a grain of salt considering he exited the league as an unwanted bitter man.
    Thank you, mate. That would kill the joy for me. I'll then postpone it.

    Any suggestions on similar books? or any books on basketball?

    I haven't really read much on basketball. The one book I enjoyed a lot was "When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball" - on Bird vs Magic rivalry, by Seth Davis.
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    My favorite basketball book of all time was The City game by Pete Axthelm. Being from NYC obviously I am biased but an absolute masterpiece. Contrasting the 1970 Knick championship team that invented team play and finding the open man and street basketball in Harlem and would be superstars that were sidetracked.
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    Great reviews on "the city game". I am checking it out if it would appeal to a non-American, too. There's another highly praised book of the same name, by Matthew Goodman.
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    Great thread! I've been meaning to start one like this for a while so am glad that Levenspiel did.

    One book I would definitely recommend is "When Nothing Else Matters" by Michael Leahy, about Michael Jordan's comeback with the Washington Wizards. It's a brilliant read, fascinating because at this point he's no longer "Air Jordan" as a player (even though coming back to the NBA after a three year absence at the age of 38 and playing as well as he did is remarkable). It's amazing seeing how the media deals with him, the games that go on so that they can maintain access to MJ. And his relationship with coaches and team-mates. It's an incredible portrait of a legend facing up to the end of his career and about the relationship between the American public and their sporting icons.

    Another basketball book which I would seriously recommend is "The Last Shot" by Darcy Frey. It's about a bunch of young basketball prospects from Coney Island in the early 1990s (one of which is Stephon Marbury, although names were changed for this book), the tough environment they live in and the possibility of the game to offer them a better life through college scholarships. You realise how much the system is stacked against them- one thing I remember is how these kids would struggle with certain tests because they hasn't been coached in how to read the questions like more affluent students. Also a fascinating portrait of I think what would now be called "AAU culture" how the players are looked at and treated almost like cattle.

    A book I would more cautiously suggest would be Paul Shirley's "Can I keep My Jersey?" He was a player who had a few brief spells in the NBA and also played for a few European teams like Joventut and UNICS Kazan. He makes some undeniably funny observations and has some great stories to tell about his travels. I remember his surreal description of a team dinner while in Kazan where their families were present... and no-one batted an eye when the strippers showed up!! The downside to the book is that the author comes across as incredibly cynical towards pretty much everyone and everything and often quite smug and judgemental.

    I enjoyed the Jack McCallum books I've read as well- "7 seconds or Less" about the Phoenix Suns and in particular his book on the "Dream Team" which I would highly recommend. That's a fascinating book both about those amazing players who were on that team and also as a book about the growth of basketball in the 80s and 90s.

    Quote Originally Posted by usagre View Post
    My favorite basketball book of all time was The City game by Pete Axthelm. Being from NYC obviously I am biased but an absolute masterpiece. Contrasting the 1970 Knick championship team that invented team play and finding the open man and street basketball in Harlem and would be superstars that were sidetracked.
    This book sounds really interesting. I'm definitely going to look it up.

    Quote Originally Posted by usagre View Post
    I have only read excerpts but your assessment is 100% spot on. Take all of it with a grain of salt considering he exited the league as an unwanted bitter man.
    To be fair, the rantings of a bitter man sound like something I might enjoy! Seriously though, I'd be interested to read about the time he spent coaching in Spain.
    Last edited by Jazz; 12-11-2019 at 11:06 AM.

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    Thank you, Jazz. Good recommendations.

    Once I had watched a documentary on Jim Valvano, and was truly overwhelmed. So, I checked his book, "They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead". it is a bit pricey. but I think I'll order it used somehow.

    Btw, I eventually ordered Karl's book . it will arrive on Dec 23rd, I'm counting on it for a surreal Xmas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Levenspiel View Post
    Thank you, Jazz. Good recommendations.

    Once I had watched a documentary on Jim Valvano, and was truly overwhelmed. So, I checked his book, "They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead". it is a bit pricey. but I think I'll order it used somehow.

    Btw, I eventually ordered Karl's book . it will arrive on Dec 23rd, I'm counting on it for a surreal Xmas.
    Brilliant!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz
    To be fair, the rantings of a bitter man sound like something I might enjoy! Seriously though, I'd be interested to read about the time he spent coaching in Spain.
    I think it's an enjoyable book. I got it late due festive period, but read quickly in 3 days. it's not a long one any way.

    I felt Karl tried to be frank and retrospective, there are many places where he says "maybe I should not said/done that". but sometimes a bit oblivious to the effects of his words. There were some parts, such as one of his friend's eating habits, I thought should have stayed private. At the introduction chapter, he asks if his book, like many autobiographies, might be self-serving and be aimed to even old scores? He answers "hell yes, it is".

    Being a non-American, I am probably not nearly as sensitive as many people to some of Karl's controversial remarks. His opinions on why some players acted the way they did might be old-school, but I thought they were just his opinions; might have some truth in it, or might be completely off. Not as many rants as I thought there would be, given the controversy it created. His most heated rants are towards guys who drove Karl nuts with their lax attitude towards the game, practice, or winning: Mel Turpin, JB Carroll, even Ray Allen. And of course Carmelo, "the selfish AAU baby". I guess Kenyon Martin was furious because of the dad comment, and that making him insecure, which is a big deal, but there is nothing else. On Iverson, for example, he just re-iterates the often-mentioned point about his tiny body getting prematurely worn out, and he mentions Iverson had a drinking and gambling problem. but he does not really even complain. I was expecting more and longer juicy stories

    He speaks of his days in Spain in a favorable light, but shortly, in a few pages which are mostly about Fernando Martin Espina's sudden death and the untrustworthy GM. I found it amusing when he couldn't understand why the Real Madrid fans expected to win every game. and he says the more he spoke in Spanish, the less they liked him.
    Last edited by Levenspiel; 01-10-2020 at 10:11 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Levenspiel View Post
    I think it's an enjoyable book. I got it late due festive period, but read quickly in 3 days. it's not a long one any way.

    I felt Karl tried to be frank and retrospective, there are many places where he says "maybe I should not said/done that". but sometimes a bit oblivious to the effects of his words. There were some parts, such as one of his friend's eating habits, I thought should have stayed private. At the introduction chapter, he asks if his book, like many autobiographies, might be self-serving and be aimed to even old scores? He answers "hell yes, it is".

    Being a non-American, I am probably not nearly as sensitive as many people to some of Karl's controversial remarks. His opinions on why some players acted the way they did might be old-school, but I thought they were just his opinions; might have some truth in it, or might be completely off. Not as many rants as I thought there would be, given the controversy it created. His most heated rants are towards guys who drove Karl nuts with their lax attitude towards the game, practice, or winning: Mel Turpin, JB Carroll, even Ray Allen. And of course Carmelo, "the selfish AAU baby". I guess Kenyon Martin was furious because of the dad comment, and that making him insecure, which is a big deal, but there is nothing else. On Iverson, for example, he just re-iterates the often-mentioned point about his tiny body getting prematurely worn out, and he mentions Iverson had a drinking and gambling problem. but he does not really even complain. I was expecting more and longer juicy stories

    He speaks of his days in Spain in a favorable light, but shortly, in a few pages which are mostly about Fernando Martin Espina's sudden death and the untrustworthy GM. I found it amusing when he couldn't understand why the Real Madrid fans expected to win every game. and he says the more he spoke in Spanish, the less they liked him.
    Thanks for the review. I think I was expecting Karl to be much more bitter based on what I'd read online.
    I'm a bit surprised about Ray Allen's name on that list. I thought he'd be a bit of a "gymrat" given how good his shooting was.
    Ha, yes, I guess when he was arriving from the NBA and their 82 game season, the culture of a team like Real and the intensity around them would have been a bit of a shock. Strange that he feels they liked him less the more he spoke Spanish, usually fans are very impressed if a foreign coach makes an effort with the language. Does he mention how the opportunity to coach them came about? Even now there aren't many Americans coaching in the big European teams, especially not ones who moved from the NBA.

    Are there any basketball books you're tempted to read next? Once again I'd very much recommend "When Nothing Else Matters" about Michael Jordan, although it might not be the easiest book to find.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    Thanks for the review. I think I was expecting Karl to be much more bitter based on what I'd read online.
    Yeah, I was expecting more bitterness, too. There are even a few truly funny/witty bits, which may have been written/edited by his co-author, I don't know.

    Quote Originally Posted by jazz
    I'm a bit surprised about Ray Allen's name on that list. I thought he'd be a bit of a "gymrat" given how good his shooting was.
    Same here. he doesn't explain it much in detail, but hints that Ray was not a passionate guy on court and did not heed his sermons in the locker room. he says "it was a relief to see Ray gone", and "he was nothing but trouble". after they traded him to Seattle. that was a terrible trade of course, for 34 or 35 year old Gary Payton plus Desmond Mason (He loves Payton by the way). There are a few other trades & signings he explains his thought process and how they totally failed, such as forcing his GM to sign Anthony Mason (also an ex-Efes player) for a massive sum only for him to screw up the entire team immediately.

    Quote Originally Posted by jazz
    Ha, yes, I guess when he was arriving from the NBA and their 82 game season, the culture of a team like Real and the intensity around them would have been a bit of a shock. Strange that he feels they liked him less the more he spoke Spanish, usually fans are very impressed if a foreign coach makes an effort with the language. Does he mention how the opportunity to coach them came about? Even now there aren't many Americans coaching in the big European teams, especially not ones who moved from the NBA.
    This one is a strange segway in the book. He says there was both a recreational drug (including cocaine) and a performance-enhancing drug problem in the NBA, with players going overseas to Germany in the offseason for some sauerkraut . Then in the next sentence, "I also ended up in Europe soon after". He does not explain how but he lists his salaries and you can see the massive jump from his CBA coaching job at the time to his Real Madrid salary (I think it was around 4 times).

    Spanish speaking part is I think him trying to say he became unbearable for locals with his remarks and bitching in Spanish, too. You can feel he enjoyed his first time in Spain but the second stint, not much.

    Quote Originally Posted by jazz
    Are there any basketball books you're tempted to read next? Once again I'd very much recommend "When Nothing Else Matters" about Michael Jordan, although it might not be the easiest book to find.
    Yes, definitely. "When Nothing Else Matters" is available on amazon for a decent price and it's in my cart already, i'll get it in the next batch. Jimmy V's book is however difficult to find, and I really want to get it, too. I somehow ended up with "The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy" by Bill Simmons in my bookshelf, but I'm a bit reluctant to read it right now. I started a Michael Crichton book instead (I need to relax my mind a bit these days).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Levenspiel View Post
    Yeah, I was expecting more bitterness, too. There are even a few truly funny/witty bits, which may have been written/edited by his co-author, I don't know.


    Same here. he doesn't explain it much in detail, but hints that Ray was not a passionate guy on court and did not heed his sermons in the locker room. he says "it was a relief to see Ray gone", and "he was nothing but trouble". after they traded him to Seattle. that was a terrible trade of course, for 34 or 35 year old Gary Payton plus Desmond Mason (He loves Payton by the way). There are a few other trades & signings he explains his thought process and how they totally failed, such as forcing his GM to sign Anthony Mason (also an ex-Efes player) for a massive sum only for him to screw up the entire team immediately.


    This one is a strange segway in the book. He says there was both a recreational drug (including cocaine) and a performance-enhancing drug problem in the NBA, with players going overseas to Germany in the offseason for some sauerkraut . Then in the next sentence, "I also ended up in Europe soon after". He does not explain how but he lists his salaries and you can see the massive jump from his CBA coaching job at the time to his Real Madrid salary (I think it was around 4 times).

    Spanish speaking part is I think him trying to say he became unbearable for locals with his remarks and bitching in Spanish, too. You can feel he enjoyed his first time in Spain but the second stint, not much.


    Yes, definitely. "When Nothing Else Matters" is available on amazon for a decent price and it's in my cart already, i'll get it in the next batch. Jimmy V's book is however difficult to find, and I really want to get it, too. I somehow ended up with "The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy" by Bill Simmons in my bookshelf, but I'm a bit reluctant to read it right now. I started a Michael Crichton book instead (I need to relax my mind a bit these days).
    Thanks for the explanations, sounds like a good read even if it was less bitter than we both hoped. You'll really enjoy the Jordan book.

    The Simmons book is huge i think? I can see why you'd be reluctant to start right away. I hope you like the Crichton novel as well.
    Last edited by Jazz; 01-11-2020 at 01:53 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    The Simmons book is huge i think? I can see why you'd be reluctant to start right away. I hope you like the Crichton novel as well.
    It is. 700-something pages. but the biggest obstacle is the generally poor reviews, which I'd normally ignore but I don't remember how I got this book, maybe in a hurry, so I'll read it later.

    Crichton almost never disappoints. These are my light readings when I need to just relax.
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    I finished a few basketball books over the past few months.

    The first was Return of the King from Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin. It gives quite a detailed account of LeBron's decision to return to Cleveland and the two seasons which followed until they won the NBA Championship against the Warriors in 2016. I think it's well known that Windhorst is considered to be "the LeBron whisperer" and while the tone of the book isn't completely adoring at all times, it is far from unbiased. The book seems particularly unfair on David Blatt and a lot of the criticisms of him are petty. For example, when asked about the Cavs playing in front of the American president, Blatt pointed out that he'd coached teams in front of leaders from all over the world. I can see possibly how that can be seen as him having a chip on his shoulder but perhaps it's just a coach talking to people who don't recognise the depth of his experiences in basketball outside the NBA. Another time he -shock horror- stood in the locker room in just a towel. It's true that he made some mistakes (almost calling a timeout in the playoffs when he had none left) and was probably too indecisive in his handling of LeBron. It's well known that Blatt signed up for the Cavs job on the understanding that he would be coaching a young team, only for expectations to change when LeBron returned. Kyrie Irving seemed to really respond to him, but LeBron clearly took against him almost immediately.

    The Cavs harshly sacked him while they were leading the Eastern conference standings. This book possibly lionises the then Cavs GM David Griffin almost as much as LeBron and it's a bit galling that this decision is given vindication by the Cavs eventually winning the NBA title. Ultimately the takeaway is that a player of LeBron's quality in the NBA is basically uncoachable and the coach's responsibility is just to hold him "accountable." It appears that LeBron viewed Blatt as an outsider because of his lack of NBA experience and was more comfortable with Tyronn Lue who could relate better to him despite his more limited coaching credentials. Certainly a sobering read for any of the top European coaches who have ideas about working in the NBA in future.

    As a book it's readable enough but not among the best I've read on the NBA, although it definitely contains some interesting anecdotes.

    The second book was Boys Among Men by Jonathan Abrams. This gives the history of the players who made the jump straight from high school to the NBA from the 1970s through to 2005. Mostly it focuses on the period from the drafting of Kevin Garnett in 1995 to the NBA banning players that age from being drafted a decade later. Like a lot of rules around professional sports in America, this ban can seem strangely Un-American. However, with the amount of cautionary tales mentioned in this book alongside the obvious success stories like KG and Kobe, the writer does a really good job of showing both sides of the argument. And it is fascinating and sad hearing some of these stories of unfulfilled talent.
    It's also interesting to note that 12 years on from Brandon Jennings signing for Roma (he does get mentioned in this book, as does Jeremy Tyler) instead of going to college for a year, that that alternative path to the NBA never really materialised.

    The third book is Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum, the story of the 1990-91 Boston Celtics. It's a captivating account of a great team trying to cling on to their relevancy and compete in such a tough league. By this stage it's four years since the Celtics won their last NBA title and they're a team in transition, trying to put younger players around their ageing stars- Bird, McHale and Parish. Even though I obviously went into this book knowing that the Celtics didn't win a championship this season (or for a long time afterwards) there was still a surprising amount of tension. You feel how much anxiety there is around the health of Larry Bird and particularly his back. The descriptions of the playoff games are gripping, even if the "what-ifs" are quickly answered when you realise that this is 1991 and the Bulls are in their ascendency.

    McCallum brings the daily existence of an NBA team to life really well. And it's fascinating not only reading an account of an NBA team of this era but also because this was a period of increasing globalisation of the sport. Sasha Djordjevic is mentioned briefly before he gets cut at the end of training camp and Stojko Vrankovic appears throughout as he tries to adapt to America and the NBA. This was at a time where Europeans were only starting to go to the NBA but the book also features Brian Shaw, a player who spent the previous season in Italy because of a contract dispute with the Celtics. Danny Ferry made a similar move to Italy at the time because he didn't want to play for the Clippers.

    It does detail some of the racial tensions in Boston and the perceptions of the Celtics as a "white" organisation. I remembered a post on here from a couple of years ago where usagre talked about how reluctant superstar players were to sign there in free agency because of this issue so it was interesting that it was mentioned in this book. There's also an incident detailed before the start of the season where Dee Brown is harassed by police in a case of mistaken identity.

    I think most of all, the book is enjoyable because of Larry Bird. From his dry wit in his interactions with autograph hunters, team-mates, coaches and the media to the descriptions of his still incredible heroics on the court. It's really clear how much the Celtics were still relying on him at this stage, how much he elevated them just by being on the floor. But also of how much pain he was in at times just to step on the court and compete.

    A great read overall. It's an interesting record of a great team in their latter days and one which would be of interest to anyone who is intrigued by the NBA of the 1980s and 90s.

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    Thank you for the reviews, Jazz. You are a great reader!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    It does detail some of the racial tensions in Boston and the perceptions of the Celtics as a "white" organisation. I remembered a post on here from a couple of years ago where usagre talked about how reluctant superstar players were to sign there in free agency because of this issue so it was interesting that it was mentioned in this book. There's also an incident detailed before the start of the season where Dee Brown is harassed by police in a case of mistaken identity.
    Yeah. So many stories. This came up again very recently during the current playoffs.

    Quote Originally Posted by jazz
    Are there any basketball books you're tempted to read next? Once again I'd very much recommend "When Nothing Else Matters" about Michael Jordan, although it might not be the easiest book to find.
    hey, I finally have this book on my shelf. I even read the first chapter, but I'll complete it after I finish the current series I'm reading.

    In the meantime, last year, I read Bill Simmons's slightly controversial "The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy"

    first of all, the sub-title of this book should have been "the NBA according to a diehard Celtics fan, who tries somewhat to be objective".

    Simmons has his strong opinions on... everything. and in his typical crude fashion, he goes into strange places. There is a section where he makes an all-star selection of players according to their dick sizes. the book is full of sentences like "Manute Bol looked purple. This point might be considered racist. here's my defense: Manute Bol was fucking purple. i don't know what else to tell you", or "much like the Grand Canyon and the Sistine chapel, you really have to see Popeye Jones in person", " "Kenny Bannister... was the MJ of ugly." etc. this book certainly has the level spiciness that George Karl's book lacked :d

    Reading the book, which covers the NBA since from its very early days, I learnt a lot more about the pre-90s teams and players beyond what the media typically portrays; such as, how Bill Russell was a much better player than Wilt. Simmons convinced me. I got really curious about many names (esp., Havlicek, Bernard King, DJ, Frazer) and in the process, ended up watching tons of black-and-white games on youtube. '89 pistons, '84 lakers-celtics final, etc. That was fun. I also found out about the shocking degree of racism in those days. A superstar at the time, Elgin Baylor, was refused entry to a restaurant and to a hotel in a city they went to play. Oscar Robertson's many stories. I had no idea it was this bad.

    Simmons has a ranking system in the book, called pyramid. It may seem controversial (which are continuously being "fixed" in his podcast TBOB v2.0), but it's fine. on the other hand, I disagreed a lot with his "MVP" section. His bitching about Nowitzki's MVP was not justified, who proved Simmons wrong immediately, the following year, by winning the NBA title.

    There is a list 10 predictions in the book about the records that cannot be broken. Two of which are already proven false in the short time span since the book was written (e.g., 72-10 record, no superteams after 96 Bulls). Wilt's 100-points is not that safe either, imho.

    I truly liked his suggestions for improving the NBA! At least two of which are actually implemented today; the play-in tournament and the all-star team selection. A few others I like are:
    - in the dunk competition, the height of the hoop should be increased at every round.
    - the Utah jazz and the NO Pelicans should swap their names.
    - the coach who won the latest NBA title should wear a belt, and hand it over to the new winner at the end of each year.
    - the first ranked team in the playoffs should be able to choose its opponent at the first round.

    One thing I missed in this tome of a 720-page book is that a few important events are assumed widely-known and no explanation is given, not even in the footnotes. I had to find out about "the Charles Smith game", "Willis Reed game", etc. myself. BTW, funny how Simmons turned the footnotes into a parallel book of its own. You had to read them all, otherwise you could end up believing all the fabricated stuff in the text, which are revealed to be so only in the footnotes.

    I finished the book much faster than I initially thought I would. As a non-American, I had to use Google a bit to be able to get some of the American sports and pop-culture references, which are abundant, but it was an enjoyable read overall.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    One book I would definitely recommend is "When Nothing Else Matters" by Michael Leahy, about Michael Jordan's comeback with the Washington Wizards. It's a brilliant read, fascinating because at this point he's no longer "Air Jordan" as a player (even though coming back to the NBA after a three year absence at the age of 38 and playing as well as he did is remarkable). It's amazing seeing how the media deals with him, the games that go on so that they can maintain access to MJ. And his relationship with coaches and team-mates. It's an incredible portrait of a legend facing up to the end of his career and about the relationship between the American public and their sporting icons.
    I finally got around to reading this book over the vacations. it is impressive, indeed. Usually described as a neutral, non-biased look at Jordan, it may come off as harsh at some parts, and it is, but to me, it gave more credence to all the stories about Jordan's incredible will to win. I was wondering if everything said about "the flu game" for example was true, and now I think it must be. The guy was trying to win at the age of 39 with two damaged knees by 40plus minutes, resisting all the doctors', trainers', coaches' advises to rest. Incredible. The book is a significant portrayal of Doug Collins, too.

    The prose of the book quite enjoyable, but its vocabulary a bit heavy for a sports book. I found myself looking up the words in the dictionary way too often.
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    Hey Levenspiel! Sorry for not replying to this thread earlier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Levenspiel View Post
    In the meantime, last year, I read Bill Simmons's slightly controversial "The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy"

    first of all, the sub-title of this book should have been "the NBA according to a diehard Celtics fan, who tries somewhat to be objective".

    Simmons has his strong opinions on... everything. and in his typical crude fashion, he goes into strange places. There is a section where he makes an all-star selection of players according to their dick sizes. the book is full of sentences like "Manute Bol looked purple. This point might be considered racist. here's my defense: Manute Bol was fucking purple. i don't know what else to tell you", or "much like the Grand Canyon and the Sistine chapel, you really have to see Popeye Jones in person", " "Kenny Bannister... was the MJ of ugly." etc. this book certainly has the level spiciness that George Karl's book lacked :d
    Haha, it certainly sounds like it. I actually have George Karl's book now but have been working through other titles first. The Simmons book is actually one I've considered for quite a while but was probably put off by what an intimidatingly long read it appeared to be.
    From your review it sounds very entertaining and I really like that it sparked you into watching old games on YouTube. I think that's a real bonus of reading books that are based on or mention eras we're not familiar with.
    I might have to add this Simmons book back onto my wishlist.

    I'm really glad that you read and enjoyed the Jordan book too. I see your point about Leahy's prose and I do agree that the tone was a bit too negative or cynical at times. The author also seemed to be under the impression that idolising sports stars is uniquely American, but we know that's not true. I also thought his criticism of Jordan for not "giving back" on the same level as Magic Johnson is a little harsh. But there was that criticism of him for many years of not being political enough etc and clearly it bothered him enough to address it in The Last Dance.

    Like you wrote, it is truly remarkable what MJ was doing in those two years with the Wizards. Yes he wasn't Air Jordan at this point but to perform so well after a three year break (where he had been pretty inactive) at the age of 38-40 is incredible. I did wince sometimes during the book at how he could have given himself more time to recover from injury and his desire to play so many minutes. But the reality is that is who he is. He is going to push himself beyond the limits most people could imagine. To return at that level to one of the toughest, most athletic sports leagues in the world where every opposition player will be desperate to attack him every night, is an incredible feat. I also think the book is more fascinating because it's capturing maybe the best athlete ever in his final years where he is much more "mortal" than he ever was before. I do remember laughing at how obsessed he had become with the art of pump faking.

    Also, how funny were the sections where Leahy was describing how Jordan handled the media? A bunch of journalists gathered around him not asking the obvious question about why his knee was iced up and how Jordan responded to the rogue reporter who dared ask him about it. Some amazing bits also about how unimpressive a lot of his work as GM was, as well as on how well he maintained his many grudges.
    I think Leahy really captured how seriously Jordan took the game as well. There was a section where he wrote about his pre-game shootaround routine and it was just like a master craftsman getting ready for work. You could genunely feel his love and respect for the game just from those descriptions.

    IIRC Doug Collins was in a tough position because Jordan essentially got him hired. And that was partly because Collins let him play exactly how he wanted to when he had coached him with the Bulls. And it was the same with the Wizards, Collins was very reluctant to keep him to any minutes restrictions etc. Plus there would have been huge pressure from inside and outside the club to see Jordan on court as often as possible.

    Just reading your post and composing this response makes me want to read the book again, which is always a good sign. So glad you enjoyed it despite the nuisance of having to look certain words up etc. I know how that can disrupt the rhythm of reading a good book.

    The basketball books I've read most recently were both by Jeff Pearlman - Showtime, which is about the Lakers in the 80s and then Three Ring Circus which is about the Shaq-Kobe Lakers from 1996 through to 04. Both are really interesting reads.

    Showtime starts with a short prologue about Jack McKinney, who was the Lakers coach very briefly in 1979 before a bicycle accident ended his career with them. However, his philosophy for how the Lakers should play (which was markedly different from previous coach Jerry West's strategy of just chucking the ball into Kareem on every possession) basically set the blueprint for the up-tempo style the Lakers played in the 80s.

    The portraits in this book of the protagonists of the era- Pat Riley, Magic Johnson etc are really fascinating. Pearlman's portrayal of Kareem Abdul-Jabaar isn't particularly flattering at times, but imo it is pretty fair and compassionate to him overall.
    Pearlman really captures the excitement around the Showtime Lakers and certainly goes into how the players were making the most of the attention of being on the most glamorous team of that era. I think he also does a great job in both books of shining a light on some of the lesser known players / characters in those two eras. The description of their playoff encounters with the Celtics are really gripping too.

    This book was was also a real education for me as someone who didn't know as much about the NBA in the 80s and earlier. As well as being previously unaware of Jack McKinney, I don't think I really knew that Jerry West had actually coached the team etc. I knew about him being a legend as a player and a GM but not about the coaching.
    I think the book gives West his dues as GM while also highlighting that he was not infallible. Some of the draft picks just didn't work out. And one detail that really shocked me- in 1979 he wanted to draft Sidney Moncrief (who to be fair was an incredible player himself and became a legend in Milwaukee) ahead of Magic Johnson. When you think about not only what a uniquely gifted player Magic was and then the bonus of him having a personality which was tailor made for the spotlight of Los Angeles, Lakers fans must be extremely grateful he was overruled on that decision.

    A couple of other points which I think relate to the modern NBA- Magic basically got Paul Westhead sacked in 1981, which I try and remember every time someone insists player power in the NBA is a recent invention. And the book also mentions how people were annoyed when Magic and Isiah Thomas kissed each other on the cheek before an important game- again something to remember when people talk about players being too friendly with each other nowadays.

    Three Ring Circus is a great read as well. It's obviously a book dominated by Shaq and Kobe and their relationship (or lack of one) but guys like JR Rider and Glen Rice get their own spotlights at times as well.

    The young Kobe's relentless desire for self improvement to be the best and to be the leader of the Lakers and how that clashed with Shaq's own intentions, is amazing to read. It is really interesting how much Kobe seemed to struggle with interacting with his team-mates and in a way, how shockingly uncool he was behind the scenes. It was seemingly about more than just being younger than the other players, or merely not being "street" enough. This clearly leads to him over compensating by acting out towards the other players- the story of him being ridiculously over aggressive towards Paul Shirley (of all people!) at a training camp in 2001 is just one example of that. However, I think Pearlman does handle writing about Kobe in a very sensitive way, by making clear that this was a portrait of a young man thrust into the spotlight from the age of 17 through to his mid 20s. This isn't one of the 41 year old man who tragically passed away last year. At the same time, Pearlman doesn't shy away from detailing the very serious sexual assault allegations from 2003 and that's a very difficult section of the book to read and why I'd be more cautious in recommending this book to someone than Showtime.

    I was much more familiar with this more recent era of the NBA than I was with the Showtime Lakers, but there was still a lot in this book that was new to me and it was a very good read.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    Haha, it certainly sounds like it. I actually have George Karl's book now but have been working through other titles first. The Simmons book is actually one I've considered for quite a while but was probably put off by what an intimidatingly long read it appeared to be.
    From your review it sounds very entertaining and I really like that it sparked you into watching old games on YouTube. I think that's a real bonus of reading books that are based on or mention eras we're not familiar with.
    I might have to add this Simmons book back onto my wishlist.
    yeah, I certainly learnt a lot about the old NBA, but probably missed some of the cultural references Simmons abundantly makes. from 80s TV-shows, baseball/golf etc. The parts where he counts the pyramid guys and lists all their stats and all may get boring, but otherwise it was a lot more entertaining book than I expected.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    I'm really glad that you read and enjoyed the Jordan book too. I see your point about Leahy's prose and I do agree that the tone was a bit too negative or cynical at times. The author also seemed to be under the impression that idolising sports stars is uniquely American, but we know that's not true. I also thought his criticism of Jordan for not "giving back" on the same level as Magic Johnson is a little harsh. But there was that criticism of him for many years of not being political enough etc and clearly it bothered him enough to address it in The Last Dance.

    Like you wrote, it is truly remarkable what MJ was doing in those two years with the Wizards. Yes he wasn't Air Jordan at this point but to perform so well after a three year break (where he had been pretty inactive) at the age of 38-40 is incredible. I did wince sometimes during the book at how he could have given himself more time to recover from injury and his desire to play so many minutes. But the reality is that is who he is. He is going to push himself beyond the limits most people could imagine. To return at that level to one of the toughest, most athletic sports leagues in the world where every opposition player will be desperate to attack him every night, is an incredible feat. I also think the book is more fascinating because it's capturing maybe the best athlete ever in his final years where he is much more "mortal" than he ever was before. I do remember laughing at how obsessed he had become with the art of pump faking.
    Leahy's reasoning as to why Jordan came-back at the age 39 I think has parallels to his overall criticism on public deifying the sportsmen. I also felt he reflected a bit too much of this on Jordan. He's right that public and media ignores all the vices and mistakes of a God as long as he's winning, then the idol may loose the sense of reality, but what Jordan did with an overworked and aging body against fresh and ambitions pretenders in a changing game (yeah the pump fakes ) was incredible. I'm personally happy he did return, and we have this story now. As I said earlier, despite his legendary status, I had not realized how intense, or incredible, the drive was in him until I read this book. be it at the casino table, in practice, or in a real game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    Also, how funny were the sections where Leahy was describing how Jordan handled the media? A bunch of journalists gathered around him not asking the obvious question about why his knee was iced up and how Jordan responded to the rogue reporter who dared ask him about it. Some amazing bits also about how unimpressive a lot of his work as GM was, as well as on how well he maintained his many grudges.
    I think Leahy really captured how seriously Jordan took the game as well. There was a section where he wrote about his pre-game shootaround routine and it was just like a master craftsman getting ready for work. You could genunely feel his love and respect for the game just from those descriptions.
    indeed. Also new to me was his mastery of handling the media, his way of orchestrating any interview session. I mean it's one thing be an extraordinary sportsman, but it's whole another rare skill to exert absolute control over an audience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    Just reading your post and composing this response makes me want to read the book again, which is always a good sign. So glad you enjoyed it despite the nuisance of having to look certain words up etc. I know how that can disrupt the rhythm of reading a good book.
    This was a great book, thanks again for recommending it. I read it on kindle, so it was easy to look the words up. it was more like I was humbled with realization of my inferior vocabulary. now I know a few fancy words .

    Since I cannot find a better person to recommend me bball books, I'll check your other books, too!

    Moved to Scotland btw, so there are a lot more opportunities here to read books than... let's say having a stroll on a sunny day
    5 out 6 scientists say Russian roulette is safe.

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