Friday, October 08, 2010

2010-11 Basketball Books Preview

All told, 2009-10 was a fairly major year for basketball books, headlined by a New York Times no. 1 best seller - The Book of Basketball, by Bill Simmons (which comes out in a revised paperback edition in December) - and a Magic/Bird joint effort (When The Game Was Ours), plus other well-regarded tomes like Roland Lazenby's Jerry West and Chris Ballard's The Art of a Beautiful Game, not to mention the cause célèbre that was Tim Donaghy's Personal Foul.

2010-11's basketball-book lineup doesn't have quite as much star power as last year's roster, though there is a decent depth of notable titles. Taking the measure of the breadth of this list, the season in basketball books projects somewhere between "quirkily intriguing" and "bizarrely eclectic" as a whole. Let's take a look.

We've broken down this list of more than a couple dozen hoop books into sub-groups to help make it digestible. These leadoff books don't really fall cleanly into sub-categories, so we offer them under the pithy catch-all headline. Note that this does not mean we *don't* like anything else here. To the contrary. These are just some headliners we're looking forward to, to get us going.

Play Their Hearts Out, by George Dohrmann (Oct. 5)
Dohrmann, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his reporting on academic fraud in the men's basketball program at Minnesota, is now a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. Following in the tradition of Alex Wolff's Raw Recruits and Dan Wetzel's Sole Influence, Play Their Hearts Out delves into the often-unsavory world of elite AAU basketball. Dohrmann followed a group of kids from southern California for eight years to research the book.
Excerpt: A Meeting with The Godfather (Deadspin)

Gaming the Game, by Sean Patrick Griffin (Mar. 11)
Griffin has followed the Tim Donaghy affair on his blog, NBA Scandal. Gaming the Game is his in-depth take on the Donaghy scandal, done in conjunction with Donaghy's co-conspirator, Jimmy "Baba" Battista, who seemed to contradict Donaghy's claims that he never fixed games while betting on them in an interview with HBO's Real Sports last year.

Rise of a Dynasty: The '57 Celtics, The First Banner, and the Dawning of a New America,
by Bill Reynolds
(Nov. 2)
Venerable Providence Journal columnist Reynolds has authored several first-rate hoop books, such as Fall River Dreams and Cousy. Now he takes aim on the Celtics' first championship season, which not coincidentally was also Bill Russell's rookie year. Here's hoping that Basketball Junkie, a reported collaboration between Reynolds and Fall River Dreams protagonist Chris Herren is still a possibility at some point, as well.

Overheated [Tentative Title], by Ric Bucher (TBD)
It was reported in August that ESPN's Bucher would pen a book about the Great Free-Agent Chase and the crazy NBA summer of 2010. In Bucher's words: "This book isn't just about how [Miami] pulled it off, but all the forces unleashed as a result, forces that promise to change how the league looks and operates forever." No word yet on a release date for this book, or even if it will be out in the 2010-11 timeframe.

There are a couple of books coming out from members of the SSSBDA, an informal group of passionate pro basketball fans in Seattle (of which I am included) who doggedly maintain their love of the game despite a landscape which is understandably inhospitable to the NBA in a post-Sonics world. [Full disclosure: I gave a reasonable amount of feedback to both books while they were being written, and I'm happy to give you the biased opinion that both books are great.]

FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History (Oct. 26)
Following up on The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac from 2008, the cast of characters from FreeDarko offers its take on the evolution of pro basketball history in both style and substance. Gorgeously written and illustrated.
Excerpt: Only the Ball Was Orange [PDF]

Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-11, by Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle (Oct. 4)
"The Essential Guide to the 2010-11 Season" includes essays for every NBA team and comments (plus advanced stats) for every NBA player. The SCHOENE projection system provides forecasts for every team's W-L record, and every player's stats. The college basketball version is coming right around the corner as well.
Bulls team essay/Warriors player comments

To the champions go the spoils of the book deals (well, unless you're the Spurs...). There's a varied collection of new books related to the now 16-time champion Lakers franchise.

Untitled Autobiography, by Jerry West with Jonathan Coleman (TBD)
This one was on our list last year, and despite the fact that we still can't find an Amazon page, a title, or a release date, it really does seem like the release of a new Jerry West autobiography is finally imminent. Reports from both and the New York Times suggest that creating the book has been an intense, cathartic process for West, who delves into losing a brother in the Korean War and enduring physical abuse from his father, as part of baring his soul to Coleman, who was "practically living with West for four months", according to the NYT.

Laker Girl: From Pickfair to Playboy to the Purple and Gold, by Jeanie Buss with Steve Springer (Nov. 15)
She is one of the most powerful women in sports, head of business operations for the Lakers, daughter of the greatest owner in NBA history, girlfriend of the greatest coach in NBA history, and has posed in Playboy. Think there's enough potential material here? The Chicago Tribune says that Buss used a diary of the 2009-10 season as a vehicle for telling her story.

Journey to the Ring, by Phil Jackson (with photography by Andrew D. Bernstein) (Oct. 31)
How about his-and-her's Lakers books recapping the 2009-10 championship season? Jackson provides the text to complement the images from Bernstein, the dean of NBA photographers, who had plenty of behind-the-scenes Lakers access, as usual. Jackson told ESPN Los Angeles that writing the book "really brought me back and helped me embrace the season."

Los Angeles Lakers: 50 Amazing Years in the City of Angels, by LA Times staff (with photography by Getty Images) (Nov. 1)
2009 release has been revised and expanded to cover the 2009-10 season.

A couple more commemorative editions for a pair of rabid fan bases while we're here:

Blazermania: This is Our Story, by Wayne Thompson (Nov. 1)
The official team history, as written by the original Blazers beat writer from The Oregonian newspaper.

Carolina Basketball: A Century of Excellence, by Adam Lucas (Sept. 29)
Lucas has written five other books on North Carolina hoops, covering national-championship teams from 1957 to 2009.

This year's re-issues promise to be auspicious and delicious.

Rockin' Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool, by Walt Frazier and Ira Berkow (Oct. 30)
There aren't too many hoop books we're looking forward to more than this re-release of Clyde's singular 1974 concoction, which has an Amazon product description reading: "A New York Knick talks about basketball, his life, and being cool." There's a delightful recap of some book highlights from this 2008 TPM Cafe Book Club post, including Clyde's illustrated guide to catching a fly in mid-air with one's bare hands. Been looking for this forever - very excited for the re-release.

Manute: The Center of Two Worlds, by Leigh Montville (Oct. 1)
Following the untimely June death of Manute Bol, the widely admired rail-thin 7-7 Sudanese humanitarian who was one of the most peculiar characters to ever pass through NBA circles, Montville's lyrical 1993 biography has been re-released.

The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game, by Oscar Robertson (Oct. 1)
Seven years after the hardcover release, the autobiography of one of basketball's all-time greats finally comes out in paperback. We're betting that Oscar is cranky about the delay.

Reflecting upon then-newly-integrated prep basketball teams from the '70s and '80s is a popular topic.

The Hustle: One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White, by Doug Merlino (Dec. 21)
Journalist Merlino tells the story of his Seattle AAU basketball team from the '80s, which won a state championship with a mix of white kids from Seattle's most exclusive private school and black kids from the Central District.
Excerpt: Chapter 11: The System
TrueHoop: Uniting the team

Thornridge: The Perfect Season in Black and White, by Scott Lynn (released Nov. 2009)
Released last year, Portland radio man Lynn tells the story of the 1971-72 Thornridge High School basketball team, which was led by Quinn Buckner to an Illinois state championship amidst the upheaval of a school being integrated by busing. TrueHoop called it "an amazing tale of hoops, race and more."
Denver Post: A terrific sports/history book

My Los Angeles in Black and (Almost) White, by Andrew Furman (Nov. 15)
Furman uses his San Fernando Valley high-school basketball team from the '70s/'80s, also integrated by busing, as a vehicle to explore the desegregation of the L.A. public-school system as a whole.

The Butler Bulldogs are the engine driving a spate of new books.

One Beautiful Season: Inside College Basketball's Mid-Majority, by Kyle Whelliston (Oct. 16)
Whelliston is an excellent writer who has chronicled the NCAA's mid-major conferences for several years, currently at The Mid-Majority. One Beautiful Season is much broader than just Butler, spanning college basketball history and Whelliston's 15,000-mile journey around the country during the 2009-10 season, though the Bulldogs' near-miracle is certainly a key storyline.
Excerpt robot

Underdawgs, by David Woods (Oct. 16)
Woods has a decade of experience covering Butler basketball for the Indianapolis Star. In Underdawgs, he chronicles Butler's Cinderella run to within a shot of a hometown national championship.

Butler's Big Dance: The Team, The Tournament and Basketball Fever, by Susan Neville (Nov. 16)
According to the publisher, Butler professor Neville "intertwines her recollections of the events with interviews, anecdotes, and photographs to bring readers a taste of the on-campus and courtside excitement of the Bulldogs’ David-and-Goliath bid for the national title."

How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer, by Buster Olney (Nov. 9)
Well, this one is small-college rather than mid-major as Olney, who is normally a lead baseball writer for ESPN, tackles the story of Meyer, the all-time winningest coach in men's college basketball history, and his inspiring response to a near-fatal car accident and the subsequent discovery of cancer in his liver and intestines.

We can't resist including a couple books which are not currently available in English.

24, by Kobe Bryant with Doris Stockstill [Chinese-language] (released in June)
Kobe released this as a Chinese-language book only. Global Times says that 24 "illustrates his thoughts on the connections between martial arts and basketball, while offering Bryant's insight on and passion for the sport."

After Bryant's promotional tour of China this summer, Global Times also reported the following about 24:
    Bryant noted his approach to basketball has been shaped by Chinese influences. He first heard about the concept of Qi, often translated as "life force" or "energy flow," while in high school. He found later that Qi was a strong element in the martial arts of Bruce Lee, someone Bryant greatly admired while growing up as a kid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    "It seems Bruce Lee has nothing to do with basketball. To me it has everything to do with basketball. There are a lot of similarities," he told his fans. Besides Lee's close attention to detail and control over his emotions, it was his philosophical approach to martial arts that captured his interest.

    Bryant pointed out that Lee approached his opponents with no rigid set structure. While playing basketball, this "formlessness" is very difficult to guard and even more difficult to stop.

    "By doing so, no one knows what you are going to do next, therefore, they don't know how to fight back. I've been working hard to infuse his principles of utility, agility, speed and efficiency to my own training," Bryant says in his book.
Da Zero a Otto, by Danilo Gallinari with Flavio Tranquillo [Italian-language] (released Sept. 30)
With the Knicks opening their season in Milan, Danilo Gallinari took the opportunity to unveil an autobiography covering all 22 years of his life. The book's title translates to From Zero to Eight.
Excerpt - NY Post (in English)


A Perfect Fit, by Luther Wright with Karen Hunter (Nov. 23)
This is a memoir by Luther Wright, a seven-footer who went from a first-round pick of the Utah Jazz to bouts with drug addiction, mental-health problems and homelessness, before a rebound that he credits to renewed faith. Tim Povtak captured Wright's story for AOL FanHouse last year.

Blessed Footsteps: Memoirs of J.R. Holden, by J.R. Holden (Jan. 1)
Since we offer a fair amount of FIBA coverage, we thought we'd include this one, which we found randomly on Amazon. It's the autobiography of Holden, who grew up in Pittsburgh and played for Bucknell before establishing an excellent career in Europe, both for CSKA Moscow and the Russian national team, which he joined after Vladimir Putin made him a Russian citizen. Considered a strong clutch player, Holden did a mini-MJ impersonation down the stretch of the 2007 EuroBasket final to help Russia beat Spain for a stunning gold.
Excerpt - Chapter 1

We do our best to be as comprehensive as possible in our basketball books previews, but inevitably, a couple fall through the cracks. Here are a couple more notable books released earlier this year which did not make it into our 2009-10 preview, and deserve recognition.

Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball, by Rafe Bartholomew (released on June 1)
Bartholomew delivered what is widely considered to be a rollicking, entertaining read about the basketball-mad nation of the Philippines.
Excerpt - The Legend of Black Superman, Billy Ray Bates (Deadspin)

Heart of a Lion: The Life, Death And Legacy Of Hank Gathers, by Kyle Keiderling (released on Feb. 5)
The Paul Westhead Loyola Marymount teams rank among our favorites to watch ever, at any level of basketball. Keiderling offers a biography of Gathers, a compelling character who led the nation in scoring and rebounding in 1988-89 and then of course tragically collapsed and died on the court during an LMU game in 1990.

That's about it for our 2010-11 list. We're already looking forward to the 2012 list, considering that Sports Illustrated's longtime basketball writer, Jack McCallum - author of books like Seven Seconds or Less and Unfinished Business - will be coming out with a book on the 1992 Dream Team, which he covered during that magical summer run to Barcelona. Happy hoop reading.


At 7:53 AM, Anonymous mario said...

A great list there, as you say, not so much star quality as last year but still some really interesting titles available. I am actually really looking forward to the Sean Patrick Griffin book.

At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great compilation there. Check out Jashaun Agosto. He is a future #1 pick

At 6:34 AM, Blogger roland lazenby said...

The West autobiography is scheduled for release October 2011 by Little, Brown.

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The West autobiography is scheduled for release October 2011 by Little, Brown.

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