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King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution Hardcover – May 1, 2010

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Hardcover, May 1, 2010
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Editorial Reviews


“All students of the game will feast on King of the Court. “
(Library Journal 2010-04-02)

“If you don’t know much about Russell, this is a good place to start. If you do, it will help place him in context.”
(Providence Journal 2010-05-30)

“Goudsouzian captures the complexities of the man behind the fame, both his strengths and his foibles.”
(Choice 2010-09-01)

“A provocative, informative, detailed, critical, and balanced work.”
(Harry Reed The Sixties)

“"King of the Court" [is] probably the best one-stop of account of the life of one of sport's true individuals.”
(Sports Book Review Center 2011-02-25)

“It is all here for the reader to savor in this fine new addition to the history of sport.”
(Journal Of American History 2011-04-20)

“A full, authoritative, incredibly well-researched biography of Russell's life and career, just dense with information on every page.”
(ESPN 2010-12-31)

From the Inside Flap

"King of the Court provides a highly nuanced and sophisticated analysis of the great African American basketball player from his earliest days up to the present time. With great skill and much insight, Goudsouzian makes clear that Russell was a very complicated man who was full of contradictions in his own private life and in relationship to his business associates, teammates, opponents, the media, and the larger sporting public."—David K.Wiggins, George Mason University

"Not only is King of the Court one of the most impressive and important sports biographies to come along in many a season, easily in the same class as David Maraniss's When Pride Still Mattered (on Vince Lombardi) and Wil Haygood's Sweet Thunder (on Sugar Ray Robinson), it is also one of the truly incisive books on the intersection of race, civil rights, and popular culture that have appeared in some time. Having grown up in Philadelphia, I was always a Wilt Chamberlain man and always will be, but King of the Court convinced me that Bill Russell defined his age in ways that Chamberlain never did. Russell was a man for all seasons. This is a biography befitting Russell's stature."—Gerald Early, author of One Nation Under a Groove: Motown and American Culture

"Before there were crossover dribbles or slam dunk competitions, before they even kept statistics for blocked shots, Bill Russell dominated the game we call basketball. The respect he demanded as a black man during America's turbulent Civil Rights era made him the personification of a winner in life. King of the Court, like Russell's defense, locks it down, and puts it all in its proper context. Long live the King!"—Dr. Todd Boyd, author of Young, Black, Rich, and Famous: The Rise of the NBA, the Hip Hop Invasion, and the Transformation of American Culture

"Bill Russell's life story is only incidentally about basketball. For him the sport was not a life; it was his vehicle for social change, a platform that showcased his vision for America as much as his athletic talent. In his magnificent biography, Aram Goudsouzian captures the nuance and meaning of Russell's career. After reading the book, one will never look at Russell or sports in quite the same way."—Randy Roberts, Purdue University

"Brings back the excitement of the great days of the NBA and its legendary players, led by the king of them all, Bill Russell. Best book I've read on basketball in 40 years."—Bill McSweeny, co-author, with Bill Russell, of Go Up for Glory

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520258878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520258877
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aram Goudsouzian is Chair of the Department of History at the University of Memphis. He grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts. He earned his B.A. from Colby College and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He is the author of "Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear," "King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution," "The Hurricane of 1938," and "Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon."

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John M. Smith on June 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
No basketball player defined the sixties the way that Bill Russell did. From 1959 to 1969, Russell led the Boston Celtics to ten NBA championships, including eight straight.* During this period, Russell was the central force of the greatest dynasty in the history of the sport. The Celtics helped transform the NBA from an obscure professional basketball league into a prominent sport that has become an important part of American popular culture and entertainment.

Russell's Celtics revolutionized the NBA. Before he joined the Celtics in 1956, professional basketball was essentially a lily-white, slow, earthbound sport. But Russell helped change all of that. He infused a black aesthetic into basketball and altered the patterns of the game. The changes could be seen in the way Russell rebounded the ball: he flew into the air, snatched the ball off the rim, and in one motion whipped an outlet pass to Bob Cousy or K.C. Jones, igniting a fast-break. Traditionally, basketball coaches taught their players never to leave their feet on defense. Russell ignored this rule. He leaped off the parquet floor and blocked shots, frustrating and intimidating shooters. Sometimes he simply jumped and caught a player's errant shot in midair. Russell's defense stretched the possibilities of the game. He cultivated a faster and more athletic sport.

In Aram Goudsouzian's King of the Court, we learn that Russell challenged racial boundaries on and off the court. When he arrived in Boston in December 1956, Russell was the only black player on the Celtics and only 15 African Americans held roster spots in the NBA. Russell was not the first black player in the league, but he was the NBA's first black superstar.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pomegranate Queen on June 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Goudsouzian's work since I came across his seminal biography of Poitier a few years ago. I admired that book as a successful effort at chronicling Poitier's career and personal relationships without descending to the cheap but all-too-common trick of sensationalizing his romantic life and Hollywood connections in order to move books. In King of the Court, Goudsouzian maintains the same even, academic tone to his work. His account of Russell's basketball career is thoroughly researched but not overlong at 280 pages. The author's writing style is succint yet engaging. In terms of content, I particularly liked how Goudsouzian intertwined accounts of Russell's successes in sport with commentary on the racial and political climate of the times. In this way he paints a balanced portrait of Bill Russell as both athlete and cultural symbol. Overall an excellent read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey H. Jackson on July 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm not really a sports person, but I could not stop reading this book.

I found myself drawn into the stories that Goudsouzian tells. One is the story of Bill Russell himself, an amazing athlete and quirky personality who rose to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time and a founder of the Celtics mystique.

But this is not simply a biography of one man. Goudsouzian also narrates the civil rights movement and the "rise of the black athlete" through the story of Russell's life. Like all good books about a single person, Goudsouzian puts Russell the man into his times to show how each shaped the other. Russell became a crusader for racial equality and black pride both in his on-the-court play and his off-the-court life. This is also the tale of the evolution of modern sports and how basketball went from being a small-time enterprise to an enormous cultural influence in America, thanks in large part to men like Russell.

Goudsouzian is a master historian who has done an amazing amount of research, but he's also a fabulous writer. The book sizzles with a "you-are-there" style of sports writing that puts the reader into the heat of the action. At the same time, Goudsouzian is able to step back with the historian's breadth of vision to show us what it all means and why the life of this one man -- impressive on its own terms -- points to larger themes in American history.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in recent US history, especially African-American history, as well as the history of sports in America.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Garry Flora on November 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With all due respect to Michael Jordan, this book in a profile of, if not the greatest player, certainly the greatest winner in NBA history. If scoring all the points with all the fanciest moves is the criteria for determining greatness, then Jordan is your guy. If winning the championship darn near every year of your career, both college and pro, then you have to go with Russell. The book goes into where Russell "decided to win in college" and did nothing but win the rest of his playing days. Mr. Russell was never particularly popular with fans nor with writers and ne never particularly cared. As long as he had the respect of his teammates and his team won the game, that was what was most important to Mr. Russell. An excellent book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Goudsouzian places Russell in his proper place as the preeminent place as the star who broke racial barriers in the NBA. Neither Jack Johnson nor Jackie Robinson, Russell would assert himself as not just a black athlete but a black man who claimed his place in the postwar era of the consumer republic and civil rights activism. Bouyed against his rival Wilt Chamberlain, Russell is able to emerge as the face of victory on and off the court. Goudsouzian's unique ability to craft Russell's identity through the narrative of Russell's career while place his activism into the heart of the historical movement makes this a valuable addition to the discourse on black athletes during this era.
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