Thursday, November 06, 2008

Basketball Books '08-09

Let's take a look at some notable basketball books scheduled to be released in the '08-09 season and a little beyond, including a few which are already out. We'll note right from the top that our release information may not be comprehensive or foolproof. We're making our best estimates based on what we could unearth on Amazon, along with some intel we've gathered from published stories here or there.

More on basketball books:
New Golden Age: 26 Intriguing Basketball Books from 2004-07
David Halberstam's NBA Books
A Basketball Book-Buying Spree

The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today's Game, presented by FreeDarko (11/11/08)
We can't wait to get a look at what is sure to be a basketball book unlike any other, coming out on Tuesday. We tend to think our reaction will be somewhat similar to the thoughts that Henry posted on TrueHoop. If the book's web site is any indication, it should be absolutely gorgeous at the very least. Excerpts

The Best Basketball Book Ever Written, Bill Simmons (9/29/09)
Simmons indicated on a recent podcast that his book had been pushed back, and indeed, the Amazon page is now indicating a Sept. release date. No idea if the title is a placeholder or a display of characteristic Sports Guy humility. Also no idea exactly what the book is about - let's hope it's something closer to his recent Elgin Baylor tribute than to his evaluation of draft prospects. As maddening as the guy can be at times, he is still an NBA must-read, so it'll be interesting to see what his angle is.

When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball, Seth Davis (2/17/09)
Sure, Seth Davis of SI/CBS comes across as a little smug on the air, and we bet he's the type of college hoops worshiper who disdains the League, but still, we respect the work, and this is a can't-miss subject in such able hands: a look back at the 1979 NCAA Championship game between Magic Johnson's Michigan State Spartans and Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores - a game which truly did transform basketball.

Untitled Magic/Bird Book, Jackie MacMullan (Fall 2009)
Man, we are confused by this one. There are indications all over the place, including Amazonand Jackie's Wikipedia page, that she wrote a book called Magic and Bird: Basketball's Awed Couple, which was published in 2003. I have never seen nor heard of this book, which would seem odd given the high profile of both the author and the subject matter.

Now, around the time of the Finals, there were stories in the USA Today and the Boston Globe which indicated that there was a Magic/Bird book by Jackie Mac forthcoming in '09, which sounds strikingly similar to the alleged '03 release.... Here's what the USA Today said:
    Last week, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Hall of Famers and rivals from the 1980s, signed on to do a book together. It will examine their rivalry and friendship, and be written with Boston Globe columnist Jackie MacMullan. The book, slated to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, will land in bookstores in the fall of 2009.
We're so confused, but certainly looking forward to the '09 release, in any event.

Jimmy V: The Life and Death of Jim Valvano, Adrian Wojnarowski (2009)
Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski is one of the indisputable must-reads of NBA writers. Woj's columns invariably break new ground and offer fresh and thorough takes on their subject matter. He wrote the highly-regarded The Miracle of St. Anthony(2005) about Coach Bob Hurley, which is currently being made into a movie.

Now he's writing a bio on one of college basketball's most interesting personalities of the '80s and '90s, Jimmy V. As Gary Smith proved in classic 1993 Sports Illustrated feature, As Time Runs Out, Valvano makes a compelling subject. In Woj's hands, this should be one of the sports books of the year.

The Bald Truth: Secrets of Success from the Locker Room to the Boardroom, David Falk (2/3/09)
There is undoubtedly potential in a book by the man who helped usher in the sports-marketing revolution as Michael Jordan's agent, who was the most powerful NBA agent of the '90s, and who showed this summer that he still had some power-brokering left in him as he engineered Elton Brand's move to Philly.

Darren Rovell describes The Bald Truth as "a business book that relates his experiences in the sports business world into general business lessons," which disappoints us, as we'd rather see something closer to a memoir from Falk.

The Dandy Dons: Bill Russell, K. C. Jones, Phil Woolpert, and One of College Basketball's Greatest and Most Innovative Teams, James W. Johnson (6/1/09)
OK, this is a bit of a quirky choice: it's the story of the University of San Francisco's back-to-back NCAA champions from the '50s. Anchored by Bill Russell, the Dons were dominant - winning 55 straight at one point - and also played a key role in furthering the integration of basketball, as pretty much the first NCAA Championship team to be led by black players.

Johnson, a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, also wrote The Wow Boys- about Stanford's surprise 1940 Rose Bowl team, which was notable for introducing the T formation to football under coach Clark Shaughnessy.

Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph, Alonzo Mourning with Dan Wetzel (9/30/08)
The autobiography of the one of the true basketball warriors of the modern NBA, done in tandem with Yahoo!'s Wetzel, covering Zo's journey both on-court and off-court. Ira Winderman captured some highlights in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, while Yahoo! Sports offered an extended excerpt of Chapter 1.

Score Like Agent Zero, Gilbert Arenas with D.J. Gallo (5/19/08)
What more can Gilbert possibly share that he hasn't already on his blog? Well, according to him:
    I'm writing a book.

    It ain't going to be the T.O. 'I Need My Ball' or whatever that book was called. It ain't going to be the Phil Jackson book. Mine is going to be more like Chicken Soup for the Soul. Mine is going to be like that with more funny stuff. It's going to be hilarious.

    Stuff like, 'If you're a No. 1 or No. 2 pick, why do you need an agent?' Reality stuff like that. You might as well just give your money to Vegas because that's all you're doing with the agent, you're just giving it to him. Because you're the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, point blank, you don't need an agent. It's a slotted system now. It's not like you're Glenn Robinson coming out saying 'Give me $100 million.' You can't do that anymore.

    So it's going to be mostly funny stuff like that. Attacking people, attacking the system, attacking critics ' stuff like that.
We have nothing to add, other than to point out that, ironically, there actually is a basketball-specific version of Chicken Soup for the Soul coming out this season, too, co-authored by the prolific Pat Williams.

West by West (possible title), Jerry West (2009)
It's been 40 years since Jerry West wrote his first autobiography, Mr. Clutch, so it seems like it's well worth it to get a new book from The Logo. Here's how West's new book was described in the Sacramento Bee (hat tip: Hooped Up):
    A must read: West also revealed that he has begun writing an autobiography that is scheduled to be completed within 12 months. "It's about my life," he said, adding with a chuckle, "and it's going to include the things that made me borderline insane at times. It will be honest. I'm a complex person. Nothing has ever satisfied me. That's just who I am. It (the book) is going to be truthful, and it's going to be serious."

    A significant portion of the book, West said, will deal with his relationship with his former African-American teammates and colleagues during the 1950s and turbulent 60s. "My closest friends were black players," said West, a native of Cabin Creek (or Chelyan) West Virginia, a rural riverside community not far from Charleston. "Maybe it was our (common) backgrounds." He plans to detail his intense, almost sibling relationship with [Elgin] Baylor, who is four years his senior. West absolutely loves the guy. As he talked about Baylor's demise with the Clippers early Wednesday evening, the notoriously emotional West had to pause and collect his thoughts. "I really don't know what's going on," he said, "but it doesn't matter. Elgin and I talk every few weeks. He's a friend of mine. He will always be a friend of mine."

    Yep. The guy is complex. And fascinating. And among the game's compelling, enduring characters. I am too young to remember The Logo as as the Lakers shooting guard with the sweet stroke and impeccable timing, but I know him as the NBA exec whose opinion mattered more than anyone else's.
Rebound!: Basketball, Busing, Larry Bird, and the Rebirth of Boston, Michael Connelly (12/12/08)
As Boston Sports Media Watch notes in a capsule summary of Rebound!:
    Written by Boston Herald writer Michael Connelly (who also writes the daily Connelly’s Top Ten blog for the Herald website) the book parallels the struggles of a city in crisis during the tumultuous 1970’s with a once-great sports franchise in decline. Drawing upon his own experiences as a youth during that decade, Connelly presents a compelling social history of Boston.
Top of the World: The Inside Story of the Boston Celtics' Amazing One-Year Turnaround to Become NBA Champions, Peter May (10/27/08)
Seems to fall more under the category of "slapped together to capitalize on a championship" than "Jack McCallum-style embedded reporting." As Henry noted in TrueHoop: "As you can expect from a book by a beat writer that plainly must have been rushed into production, much of this book chronicles without shedding all that much light." We have to admit that we're not really the biggest fans of May, who has always seemed to resent the modern-day NBA to us, and the excerpt run on HoopsHype didn't do a lot for us, either.
HoopsHype: Excerpt

Madmen's Ball: The Continuing Saga of Kobe, Phil and the Los Angeles Lakers, Mark Heisler (11/1/08)
This is the longtime L.A. Times reporter's followup to his 2004 book Madmen's Ball: The Inside Story of the Lakers' Dysfunctional Dynasties, which garnered a middle-of-the-road 3-star average in the user reviews on Amazon.

An excerpt which ran in the L.A. Times on Sunday focused on the exacerbation of the Shaq-Kobe rivalry at the beginning of the 2003-04 season. While Shaq v Kobe seems, I suppose, to have an endless supply of sensationalistic appeal, the excerpt seems to mainly be a rehashing of public comments, and feels like ground which has been well-trodden.
L.A. Times: Excerpt

College Basketball Prospectus, Ken Pomeroy and John Gassway (11/28/08)
We're a little jealous because we wish there were still an annual book devoted to the major leagues of hoops rather than the minors. But just to show you we're bigger than that, we're still showing some NCAA love to a book that was spotlighted in the N.Y. Times' PLAY magazine.

The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team, Mike Krzyzewski and Jamie Spatola (4/6/09)
Just wanted to end with a quick warning that Coach K is coming out with his 478th book in the spring. As described in the N.Y. Post:
    US Men's Olympic basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is teaming up with his daughter Jamie K. Spatola for his latest book, which is tentatively slated to be published next spring.

    The book will be a firsthand account of how he worked with NBA superstars Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony to buy into his concept of teamwork that carried them back to Olympic gold after the US team was humiliated four years earlier.

    [Rick Wolff, the executive editor who signed the deal] said he expects the book will be a case study in fundamental management techniques.
We can deal with Coach K's take on the Olympic experience, but please spare us on the "fundamental management techniques" b.s.

More on basketball books:
New Golden Age: 26 Intriguing Basketball Books from 2004-07
David Halberstam's NBA Books
A Basketball Book-Buying Spree


At 1:17 PM, Blogger JF Arnett said...

so i'm a recent convert to the nba, moving to a town (DC) with an interesting ball club and out of texas where i was forced to worship at the altar of tim duncan and mark cuban.

i'd like to find a book that explains to me the fundamentals of the game, in a way a guy like me could understand. for example, i know basically what the princeton offense does as well as the triangle, i understand zone defense. but what are the advantages/disadvantages to certain sets? etc. etc.

any suggestions you can offer would be great. thanks and i love the blog!

At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of these books sound boring, it's all just the same old stuff we've been seeing for years. Autobios, Falk's sports biz applied to gen biz - wow what a surprise - rehashed Kobe and Bird nonsense.

What we need is a good basketball novel. They've done it in baseball many times but we don't have good novels in a basketball setting that aren't cliche win at the end nonsense.

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