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Customer Review

81 of 102 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars. Would have been twice as good at half the length., November 11, 2009
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This review is from: The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy (Hardcover)
If you know who the Sports Guy is, then you know what this book is like. I enjoyed it well enough, but by the end it got a bit tiresome. I've got no problem with 700-page books, but I can do without a 700-page book that recycles the same gags over and over and over (and over) again.

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.)
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 12, 2010 6:31:54 AM PST
Yeah, I've noticed some editing inconsistencies too -- but really, as a nut about the NBA, I'm thrilled at how long it is. At halfway through, I'm disappointed ALREADY thinking "this is all there is?" And more, Simmons is pretty open about his discrepancies - he said pretty early that it was his book, and it wasn't meant to be a dry regurgitation of data. It's his book. Most of it is his opinion. He quotes his column to point out the historical relevance of what he said to what he is saying now - I don't think he says stuff like "people agreed, and here's proof: I said the same thing back in 2006."

What I find funny is how the numbers get jumbled. Player #63 is referred to as being player #62 -- and now I wonder what happened to move the numbers around in editing. But it's a giant book, and Simmons is such a refreshing writer that you kinda look for the screwups and know that he's self-aware enough to laugh about them himself.

Posted on Jun 11, 2014 2:23:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 11, 2014 2:26:19 PM PDT
I''ll add a few notes to the positives Hubcap cited:

1) Simmons is obsessively interested in the pro game. Lots of bloggers, sportswriters, and fan have "love of the game" - Simmons was born ca. 1970. To make up for his youth, he has done the homework, comprised of thousands of hours of game tape. His dad purchased Celtics season tickets in 1976, and Billy was there with him for decades. He does not say so, but I'll bet that Simmons has a comprehensive sports library - with due emphais on basketball.

2) His writing style is accessible and humorous - especially so when he earnestly makes a unverifiable claim about hoops, film, television, music, or popular-culture-in-general.

3) He makes frequent reference to his personal history. Of course this includes many Boston Garden stories, but also includes girls, beer, college life, and his footloose twenties.

I'll address your negatives in reverse order:

1) I'm sure Hubcap was aware, when he wrote this, that his criticisms amount to the very thing he accused of Simmons in his wrap up: "cherrypicking"!

(good one, Hubs)

2) The valid use of statistics can take (has taken) volumes by geeks who know far more about applied math than 999/1000 sports fans. The Iverson example, wherein he shifts his numbers by one year, is valid by way of citing the qualifier. I couldn't readily find the comparison (oddly, the index leaves it out under "Iverson") but I don't recall whether Simmons was referring to years 1 and 2 in a pro's career, or something else.

3) To cherrypick stats is to miss a recurring theme in TBB - that stats don't tell the whole story (see Simmons detailed Wilt/Russell analysis). His synthesis from all that game tape and a keen awareness of NBA history are where the true strength of the book lies.

4) A typo on "Whist" - really?? And a stylistic indulgence (using "sauntered" twice within 2000-words)*? This misses the point of one of the best five pages in the opus - which demonstrates why MJ will likely remain the GOAT for some time to come (it's not just about his play) and credibly characterizes Charles Oakley as the "real life Shaft".

4A) BTW, the MJ story touches on another theme - namely that the greats become forgotten even by old time sportswriters (and younger ones like himself) as their heads get turned by the great new thing. This bespeaks Simmons respect for the game and its history.

5) Opinion vs. Fact - I had no problem with Simmons' apparent grasp of the distinction. Hubcap cites no examples, so we are left with thinking that strongly-expressed opinion (often comically so) was mistakenly received.

Still, I'll second Hubcap's advice - this is a book to digest in chunks. Too much of a good thing is still too much.

I'll conclude by citing a fascinating epilog (post-mid-April-2008) - an interview with Bill Walton of some of the overarching themes in TBB and The Wine Cellar - a nice twist on "vintage" players and teams.

*A very rough estimate - the book is over a half-million words*
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