From Publishers Weekly
Basketball was inaugurated in 1891 and soon developed into a game of teams rather than individuals, featuring dribbling, passing and carefully structured plays. New rules introduced in the 1930s facilitated a style of play that developed on street courts in major cities, especially New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, where playground athletes, many from working-class families, altered the basic nature of the game and laid the groundwork for the sport as it is played today. This significant contribution to the history of the game by a current (Anderson) and a former (Millman) writer for Sports Illustrated details the ways in which this evolution caused by the "city game" took place, emphasizing fast breaks and slam dunks and what the authors characterize as the "testosterone-charged, showtime style." Many of the greatest pickup artists are profiled, not a few of them derailed by drugs, and there is also mention of the top women players who lost out. The authors see the game now as primarily under the control of the largest sneaker manufacturers, with local tourneys so common that a potential talent even as young as seven may be spotted and assisted in his career.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
This first book by a pair of veterans of Sports Illustrated is a highly intelligent look at the colorful world of playground hoops and, with it, the ghettos that support the game. Basketball has changed more radically in the past half-century than any of our other major sports, and the influence of playground ball has been one of the major reasons. From its opening portrait of street legend James ``Speedy'' Williams, a 29-year-old black man from Brooklyn who supports himself by playing in games organized by drug dealers and hustling one-on-one contests with unsuspecting marks, Pickup Artists is an unusually well-written and astute picture of the ways that basketball has evolved in this country. The soil from which the game sprung to its current tremendous size can be found in the cracked blacktop of dozens of inner-city playgrounds where creative athletes challenge one another with reputation and sometimes money on the line, a way for disadvantaged youth to climb out of the economic trough. As Anderson and Millman amply show, that reality has begun to change subtly. Big corporate money has found the playground--big college money, tooand the playground has succumbed in ways that are leading to its demise as an arena for self-expression, turning instead into a showcase for talent that resembles a meat market. Along the way, the authors give telling glimpses of an array of near-mythical figures, from Nat Holman to Earl ``The Goat'' Manigault (who died shortly after the books completion). They mince no words in reporting on the ugly deaths and drug problems that have clung to the playground game. Indeed, after reading this volume, one realizes that playground ball has often been a fabulous jewel with a lethal curse; one wonders how something so beautiful can destroy so many. An exemplary piece of reporting and writing, transcending sports to give us a somber view of America's crumbling cities. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.