Basketball Book Notes
It's a big month for basketball book coverage on The Painted Area, as we've already previewed David Falk's new book The Bald Truth and reviewed Seth Davis's new book When March Went Mad, on the Bird-Magic 1979 NCAA Championship game.
Last fall, we offered a preview of basketball books for '08-09 in general, and we've picked up a few odds & ends that we wanted to add to that list. Here we go:
New Ric Bucher Book
On a recent podcast with Bill Simmons, ESPN's Ric Bucher noted that he was working on a book that offered "an inside look at various jobs around the league," and said that he had spent time with a GM right at the trade deadline.
I think this book has the promise to be pretty good, as it sounds like Bucher might have gotten the access to really see the details of how the sausage is made in terms of how trades are made, or how they fall apart, among other things. I would also say that I think this type of longform reporting/storytelling is a strength of Bucher's, as I also thought he did a nice job of building the narrative of Yao Ming's life as the center's ghostwriter in Yao: A Life in Two Worlds. Bucher said his new book should be out in late 2009.
Red and Me, Bill Russell
I'm not sure how we missed this one last fall, but Bill Russell is writing a book about his friendship with his longtime Celtics coach, the late Red Auerbach, which is due out in May.
In a statement, Russell said:
- "Arnold Jacob Auerbach passed on Oct. 28, 2006 - almost 50 years from when I joined his Boston Celtics. I felt a tremendous sense of loss, a huge void in my life. There was an empty space in my psyche where a special person had been. I thought about that at Red's funeral. And the fact that there was no logical reason why we ever should've become friends, because we came from such diverse places. I thought about how much I missed his friendship."
We're going to give Russ the benefit of the doubt for now, since he penned two of the most interesting basketball autobiographies ever in Go Up For Glory and Second Wind, and also, 20 Second Timeout really liked the TV show of the same name which airs on NBA TV from time to time.
Logo: The Life and Legend of Jerry West, Roland Lazenby
The prolific Mr. Lazenby, he of The Show, the Lakers oral history, and Blood on the Horns, about the "Last Dance" Bulls of 1997-98, among many others, is now working on a biography of Jerry West which is scheduled to be released in late '09.
I found Lazenby's Twitter feed somehow, and this was the most notable entry related to the book:
- # Still writing furiously on the Jerry West book. Writing about cutting the heads off chickens with an ax and eating Sunday dinner.12:28 PM Jan 14th from web
Lazenby will be in competition with West himself, who is writing an autobiography which is scheduled to be published in 2010.
Ball Don't Lie, Matt de la Pena
Back in 2007, we posted an entry suggesting that we may be in a new golden age of basketball books, and listed about 30 intriguing basketball books released in the 2004-07 timeframe.
The reader comments made it clear to me that the key books on which I screwed up in omitting were Rus Bradburd's Paddy on the Hardwood and Matt de la Pena's Ball Don't Lie - both of which enjoyed fairly rhapsodic reader reviews on their respective Amazon pages.
Well, I just finished with Ball Don't Lie, and it really was outstanding. It's a novel about a foster kid in L.A. named Sticky with an intense love of the game. Sticky is trying to make his way in the world, and even though he's white, the main place he finds family is among the African-American ballers with whom he plays pick-up hoops. Those pick-up scenes are a core element in the book, and the dialogue and action really couldn't be more pitch-perfect. As Antawn Jamison was quoted in a book blurb, "I have never before seen blacktop ball depicted so well. In this novel, you will find its flash, its power, and its elegance without chains. This is powerful stuff."
Reader Spencer commented on our original post that "BDL is quite possibly one of the more authentic basketball reads of the millennium. The story goes much deeper than hoops. It focuses on ascribed status and the challenge of constructing meaning out of a difficult life." After reading ourselves, we can say that all that is accurate. Ball Don't Lie is technically classified as a "Young Adult" novel, but it really is readable for adults as well.
The story has some grounding in the life of de la Pena, who played point guard for Pacific and did a lot of pick-up balling at a gym in Balboa Park in San Diego. Dime had a nice interview with de la Pena back in 2005 which can be found here.
There is a movie version of Ball Don't Lie, starring Grayson "The Professor" Boucher of And 1 fame in the lead role, plus Ludacris, Nick Cannon and Rosanna Arquette and, according to IMDb, appearances by Al Jefferson and Delonte West.
De la Pena's own web site says that, "Ball Don't Lie the movie set to be released in limited theaters June 5th. The film has also teamed with Amazon and IMDB as first VOD release."
An early review of the movie from the film-festival circuit is lukewarm. I'd definitely recommend reading the book first.