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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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    Efes fan Levenspiel's Avatar
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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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    Efes fan Levenspiel's Avatar
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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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    Efes fan Levenspiel's Avatar
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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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    Senior Member Jazz's Avatar
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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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    Quote Originally Posted by Levenspiel View Post


    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 tip, I also want to order it on Amazon, as the price is very reasonable compared to other sources. Now I'm preparing a written work for the university and I wanted to take this book as a basis, because it's very inspiring and motivating to action. But since I didn’t study it well enough, I asked for help in my work. After reading the reviews Writing Judge I have chosen a suitable service and really hope for a great result. I'm very excited because this is my first experience and I would like to do everything properly.

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    Senior Member Jazz's Avatar
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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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