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The Breaks of the Game Mass Market Paperback – February 12, 1983

69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Breaks of the Game is sports reporting at its finest--basketball's equivalent to Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer. Join David Halberstam on his yearlong journey with the 1979 Portland Trail Blazers and witness professional basketball from the inside, where front-office egos, big-money contracts, and the colorful personalities of coaches and players collide, and winners and losers emerge. This insightful account is evidence of how much basketball has--and hasn't--changed since 1979, before the money really started rolling in.

From the Inside Flap

"Among the best books ever written on professional basketball." The Philadelphia Inquirer

David Halberstam, best-selling author of THE FIFTIES and THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST, turns his keen reporter's eye on the sport of basketball -- the players and the coaches, the long road trips, what happens on court, in front of television cameras, and off-court, where no eyes have followed -- until now.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345296257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345296252
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has chronicled the social, political, and athletic life of America in such bestselling books as The Fifties, The Best and the Brightest, and The Amateurs. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By B. Heldt on May 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Breaks of the Game is a great sports book.

The difference between good books on sports and great books on sports is that the great books aren't really about sports. Ok, ok, that's not quite fair. The Breaks of the Game expertly chronicles the 79-80 Trailblazers and captures the ebbs and flows of an NBA season: the injuries, the mastery of the coach, the skill of the players, the relief of NBA victory and the very real (for Jack Ramsey, especially) pain of defeat. This is a book very much about sports and its heroes.

But, more than that, The Breaks of the Game is about the growing pains of the NBA as it entered its golden age--the age of Magic and Bird--and the way those pains were felt. What makes this book so incredible is the way that Halberstam blends objective observation with his keen knowledge of the game, its history, and his great capacity to see the humanity in everyone. When all of his considerable skills are dedicated to painting a portrait of Maurice Lucas, for instance, the player becomes the man, vibrantly portrayed and filled with conflicting instincts and emotions. Halberstam deftly works into his analysis of the players, the team, and the league as a whole the seminal aspects of money, respect, and race. The ideas and observations fueling the book are fantastic, and Halberstam's subtle, lyrical prose makes them all the more powerful. Ultimately, this is a book about people: who they are, why they play, what they need, how they interact.

In short, this is the best book on basketball--and one of the best books, period--that I've ever read. It is thorough, fiercely intelligent, and captures a moment in time when the NBA was in flux between the white, poor league it was and the black, rich league it has become.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By ND.NY on August 16, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
David Halberstam takes us here in to the life of a sports franchise, the lives of it's players and of the environment surrounding them in the late seventies world of sport, following the merger of the two basketball league. The exposion of television coverage and of a team in the aftermath of a championship.
Halberstam is more than fair in his depiction of all the personalities involved with and on the periphery of the team. His exhaustive research is in evidence. The players are not shown to be charming charismatic larger than life heroes but human beings with stories of their own, interesting ones at that. Mr. Halberstam successfully conveys how the personalities all combined to make up this team.
The thing about this book is that Mr. Halberstam always presents a new take even on well covered topics. He makes you consider what you may not have considered otherwise.
Interestingly this book covers the team in something of a decline not the championship year. That in itself gives a unique view at the end of this book you have an idea of not only why they won but of the difficulty of repeating as champions, of the tenuous relationships formed between players, the slights, the friendships, the business of sports and those behind.
Vivid and rich with color and power. This book doesn't disappoint. Everyone from the rather unique owner to the 12th man. From preseason to playoff. An excellent read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By K. Fenrich on September 29, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've been an NBA fan since I was a kid and I read this for the first time in summer of 2007. As someone who considers himself a knowledgeable NBA fan, I'm embarassed to say it took me so long to read this primer to the modern-day NBA.

Breaks of the Game is as well-written and thoroughly researched as any sports book you'll find. Halberstam presents fact after fact on why the NBA game has been shaped by big money and TV moreso than any player, coach, or team. He does a tremendous job exposing the conflict between the league's big money sponsors and its actual product--a game predominantly being played and dominated by black athletes.

Halberstam's excellence isn't limited to the politics and power struggles taking place in NBA front offices. His reporting on the actual game played between the lines is insightful and intriguing. Many of the complaints about today's NBA game--too much one-on-one play, ballyhooed rookies not paying their dues, primadonnas, lack of fundamentals, etc-- are covered in-depth by Mr. Halberstam. Keep in mind, this was written in 1978-79.

It's a great book that can easily be appreciated by anyone--hoops fan or not. And if you consider yourself an NBA fan, then you need to get on this ASAP. Although I wouldn't pay the prices here on Amazon. $59 for a paperback book? Strange. Like another reviewer said: Check your local library. Good luck and enjoy!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C.D. Usselman on November 28, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is really one of the best sports books of all time. Halberstam goes all over the map to show that basketball is "more than a sport." Sure, that's a cliche at this point, but everything is incorporated seamlessly: race, TV, finances, a fickly city, hippies, violence, free agency, college. You can't help but realize that all of the problems in the book still exist today in not just the NBA but all major sports (except for the hippies). What is most amazing about the book is that Halberstam constructed it around what can only be considered a run of the mill team. After reading the book, you get the sense that Halberstam could have written just as good a book had he followed any of the NBA teams.

If you can't get it used, then look at your local library. And if you are a book publisher, put it back in print, if for no other reason than the astounding quote by OJ that opens the book.
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