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The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy Hardcover – October 27, 2009
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I managed to get an early copy of this book, and spent the next 48 hours plowing through it as fast as I could. It's very clear that Simmons put everything he had into the book. There aren't a lot of loose words around. Even the genitalia jokes are well-constructed. Yes, it's pretty good.
The basis of this book is determining who mattered in the NBA. Which teams, players, coaches, etc. played the biggest role in getting us to where we are today, in shaping our perception of what it takes to win in the NBA, and how we remember different players and events. It's very interesting to see him go back into the 60s and 70s and try to write about Walton, Russell, and Chamberlain and how they were perceived then, and try to get to see what forces created and changed that perception. This is ultimately what the book is all about. It reads almost like a history of the NBA, in a very easy-to-read style.
My personal favorites are his ABA pieces. Not nearly enough has been written about this crazy league, and Simmons did a very good job looking at just how things broke down, at what could have been, and how the ABA led to many fundamental changes in the NBA itself.
Finally, this is definitely a book for the NBA junkie. It's comic style and easy-to-read writing style does make it accessible to those with only mild-to-intermediate interest in the NBA, but at its core, it's for the junkies who want to fill up with as much NBA knowledge as possible. It's a great book, and for its price (as of October 27, 2009), a great deal.
(1) Buy the dead tree version even if you have a Kindle. Simmons buries an absurd amount of information in the footnotes, a lot more than just citations. They're set up as endnotes at the end of each chapter, which is awkward for Kindle users. The footnotes are almost like one of those extra audio tracks in a DVD where the director provides running commentary on a film; for better or worse, you're missing out on a lot if you skip the footnotes. Why he thought this was a good way to write a book is beyond me. But you're going to want to read the footnotes.
(2) if you bet "under 1.5" as the first chapter in which an NBA moment is compared to a scene in Shawshank Redemption, you covered.
(3) if this book had an MPAA rating, it would be rated R. He says things that he could never get away with in his ESPN columns. For example, he refers to going off birth control as "pulling the goalie" and calls the Hawks' selection of Marvin Williams in the 2005 draft (instead of Chris Paul or Deron Williams) "an Aretha Franklin sized mistake."
(4) I've probably read half a dozen different "Wilt or Russell?" articles over the years, and Simmons' handling of the debate is probably the best one.
Will update in coming days.
Update (11/3): Man Reads Entire Book of Basketball -- And Lives!
If the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is the '86 Celtics of sports history books -- a timeless classic that could succeed in any era -- then TBOB is the '79 Sonics: a championship team but not one that will be remembered forever, and one that could probably only have won a championship in its own time. Why does TBOB fall short of the absolute pinnacle?Read more ›
The positive side is that it's a fun ride and an easy read; there's a ton of info about the NBA and players who should be remembered; and Simmons' love of the game leaps off of the page.
The negative side is that there's a lot of padding, a lot of opinion presented as fact, and a whole lot of pseudo-statistics that are less convincing the more you think about them.* Editors are your friends, Simmons. You don't use the verb "sauntered" twice in three pages. The game is Bid Whist, not Bid Wist. You can't use your own "Trade Value" columns as independent evidence to support your own opinions. And "infinitely better" does not mean the same thing as "a lot better."
If Simmons had taken his best 400 pages this would have been a really great book. But he didn't. But if you like Simmons you'll like this. Buy it and read it like he recommends: dip into it for 50 pages, then walk away for a while. Because it's kind of like eating Halloween candy - enjoyable at the moment, but if you do it for too long you get sick of it.
*(My favorite is the table comparing performances for two guards from ages 22 through 24. Except for Allen Iverson he makes the "executive decision" to show ages 23-25 because AI "spent five months in jail and missed his senior year in high school." Yeah...that's not really how stats work. You can't just toss the numbers you don't like and pick the ones that support your argument. Well, obviously you CAN, but that's cherry-picking, not statistics.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My son needed this for a Christmas gift: came fast, looks good.Published 2 days ago by Amazon Customer
I now know far more about the NBA than could possibly be helpful or useful in life, but it was good reading all the way through.Published 1 month ago by Jay Holland
A great read. Superb when Simmons doesn't let himself got lost in pop culture references. But for the life of me i cannot figure out why he ordered the chapters in the manner... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Zachary F.
Interesting and funny read. Very long book that is a great read on vacations, commuting, or trying not to kill time.Published 2 months ago by Joseph
An unbelievably detailed look at basketball written by an NBA obsessive. This book is the best book that Simmons will ever write as the NBA is his bailiwick. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Andrew
I found a few parts of the book to be highly inaccurate and borderline lies. His Boston Celtics bias is quite evident.Published 3 months ago by ALEXANDER L. VILLAGRAN