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Elevating the Game: Black Men and Basketball Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 277 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803270852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803270855
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,008,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Black players have remade basketball, becoming the very soul of the game; such is the thesis of George ( The Michael Jackson Story ) in this notable history of the role of African Americans on the court. He shows that as early as the 1920s, Marques Haynes revolutionized dribbling, a skill advanced even further by Robert Davies in the 1940s. George also attributes the origin of what he characterizes as "urban ball" to the games played around the housing projects of New York City and Chicago, urban ball being a theatrical game that puts a premium on flash, guile and recklessness in contrast to the more conservative white version. The book bows in the direction of coach John McLendon of Tennessee A & I with his fast-break strategy; Elgin Baylor with his exceptional hang-time (carried to its zenith by Michael Jordan); Julius Erving with his dunking; and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his sky-hook. Yet the author adamantly urges young black males not to aspire to careers in professional sports, because, he cautions, jobs do not exist in any reasonable quantity. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

The role played by blacks in basketball has evolved, according to this resolute and profoundly perceptive history, from blacks' depiction ``as clowns, role models, and threats to its survival [to], ultimately, the game's very soul.'' George (The Death of Rhythm and Blues, 1988; Where Did Our Love Go?, 1985) traces the history of African-Americans in the sport from 1916, with the founding of the first black intercollegiate conference, through the renowned Harlem Rens of the 1920's and on to the schoolyards and projects of the inner cities and the modern era of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Over the years, George argues, the game sometimes ``buttressed the battle for educational access.'' School desegregation in Indiana and elsewhere in the late 1950's arose, he points out, at least in part as an attempt to break up basketball powerhouses like the all-black Crispus Attucks High School, which starred the great Oscar Robertson. The dichotomous situation for blacks is most evident, the author notes, in the origin and history of the Harlem Globetrotters. Based in Chicago, that team was founded by promoter Abe Saperstein, and playing for the Trotters from the 20's to the early 60's was the pinnacle for black cagers--but given ``the way the comedy was used to reinforce prejudice, the Trotters were a definitive example of white paternalism and Black male submission.'' By examining the careers of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Connie Hawkins, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and others, George develops what he calls the ``Black athletic aesthetic,'' embodied in the in-your-face ``intimidation through improvisation'' style of play. Drawing frequently on music--particularly jazz and blues--as metaphor, he remembers Earl ``The Pearl'' Monroe as a stylist who ``employed tempo changes only Thelonius Monk would understand.'' A sharp, bold, on-the-money appraisal of an underexamined phenomenon. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Nelson George is an author/filmmaker who specializes in documenting and celebrating African-American culture. As an author he's written several classic black music histories, including Where Did Our Love Go?: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound, The Death of Rhythm & Blues and Hip Hop America. He also edited The James Brown Reader, an anthology of articles about the late Godfather of Soul. His current novel, The Plot Against Hip Hop, has a musical theme. He contributed major articles on the films The Help and Pariah to The New York Times Arts & Leisure section in 2011. As a filmmaker George has directed the HBO film Life Support, and has two documentaries debuting in 2012: Brooklyn Boheme on Showtime and The Announcement: Magic Johnson on ESPN. George's web site is www.nelsondgeorge.net.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter C. Bjarkman, Mark Rucker and Todd Radom on December 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
On the one hand, this book is an important one, given the scarcity of serious discussions of the role of race in basketball history. On the other, the renown and talented critic of jazz music and insightful commentator on black culture does not here comfortably wear the cloak of a sports historian. This book is full of dozens upon dozens of errors and infelicities (uncorrected from the first edition) of both a typographical (excusable if bothersome) and historical (inexcusable) nature. For an opening taste I note only the following: Jabbar was not traded to the Lakers in 1977 (it was 1975), Bernard King did not play for the Lakers (though he did for just about everyone else), Harold Seymour wrote a classic baseball (not basketball) history, Phog Allen did not coach at Kansas for only one decade, Cincinnati did not finally win the NCAA crown in 1962 (it was 1961), it was the NBA Chicago Packers (not Zephyrs) in 1961, Jordan played (not missed) only 18 games in 1985-86, it was Miss State and not Ole Miss that broke racial ground against Loyola in the 1963 NCAAs, UK's Baron Rupp won 3 not 2 NCAA crowns, Jackie Robinson was a baseball and not basketball hall-of-famer, Hank Luisetti pioneered one-handed shooting and not jump shooting, Frank McGuire is not Al McGuire's uncle, the NY Rens joined the NBL and not the ABL as the Dayton Rens, Guy Rodgers starred for Temple and not Villanova, and James Thurber certainly did not write his poem "The Big O" about Oscar Robertson. And this is just for starters. George's social conclusions are sometimes open to serious question, given the sloppiness of his historical research.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Adam Herman on April 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Nelson George is a brilliant, articulate, sardonic, insightful author and a wonderful man. Anyone who has a profound appreciation of minority history and/or the game of basketball will thoroughly enjoy this well-written, well-researched masterpiece. Amen.
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Format: Paperback
An insightful overview of the African-American in basketball and how the game has thus changed forever. The information on the old teams like The Harlem Renaissance was fascinating. They were a black-owned pioneering team from the 1920's, known as the Rens that paved the way for the superstars of today. The history of the Harlem Globetrotters is chronicled as well and the influence on basketball and the players who made the jump to the NBA like Nate "Sweetwater" Clifton. There are sections that detail the inroads African-American players made, such as Chuck Cooper who was the first black Boston Celtic. All the great old players are discussed , including Bill Russsell, Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Dr. J, Elvin Hayes, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and "Magic" Johnson amongst others. The role of others in basketballs development includes such b-ball dignitaries as Larry Bird, Bill Walton, Red Auerbach and John Wooden are also mentioned. The history of the NBA is not very detailed but suffices for the novice to the sport and includes the merger of the ABA and the NBA and it's stars. The unique aesthetic of the black athelete and the relationship to music and entertainment is also discussed. Presented in a style that is very easy to read this book would be good for high school students of the game. This book is a good educational tool for students to learn the history of the game and how it has evolved.
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