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The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA (Sports Illustrated) Hardcover – November 3, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The conventional wisdom among casual NBA fans holds that the game is an improvisational, formless shoot-a-thon played by undisciplined athletes whose abilities are the product of genetics rather than practice. To which Sports Illustrated reporter Ballard replies, “Ha!” He explores such topics as killer instinct in a chapter on Los Angeles Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant in which it’s revealed that his legendary competitiveness can be traced back to a summer league where, as a 12 year-old matched against NBAers and collegiates, he didn’t score a single point. Never again. He also explores the big man’s world by examining the games of Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming, and Hall-of-Famer David Robinson. There are chapters revolving around pure shooters ( Ray Allen), point guards (Steve Nash), and rebounders (Ben Wallace). In his examination of the free throw, he profiles Tom Amberry, a retired podiatrist who, in 1993 at 71, made 2,750 consecutive free throws over 10 hours in front of 10 paid witnesses. Amberry’s feat and the Steve Nash profile are worth the price of the book. Ballard’s previous foray into book-length basketball journalism was Hoops Nation, a 1999 Booklist Top 10 sports book. The titular thinking fans will find their admiration confirmed; casual fans will see the light and find themselves converted. Hallelujah! --Wes Lukowsky

Review

" Chris Ballard has written a ten-drum honor song to the intricate blue-collar poetry of NBA basketball. You should always be inspired by an amazing assist, three-pointer, dunk, free throw, or blocked shot, but after reading this book, you should be even more inspired by the years of hard work it took any player to get to that moment. I love this book." -- SHERMAN ALEXIE, NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER

" The game has needed a smart, witty, cool-eyed deconstruction for decades. Now it's here." -- S. L. PRICE, AUTHOR OF HEART OF THE GAME

" The perfect storm -- great athletes collide with great writing. Sets the literary standard for getting inside the head and heart of greatness." -- LARRY COLTON, AUTHOR OF COUNTING COUP

" Some chroniclers specialize in breaking down the technical finer points, while others are poets and soul-searchers, explorers of the inner game. Only a precious few do both well, and Chris is at the top of that list, as he shows in The Art of a Beautiful Game." -- JACK McCALLUM, WINNER OF THE CURT GOWDY MEDIA AWARD FROM THE NAISMITH BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME

" Much has been written about the strategies of great basketball coaches. Chris Ballard tells us about the strategies of great basketball players. After reading Ballard's book, you will watch an NBA game differently -- with a new kind of understanding." -- BILL BRADLEY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR

" People love to claim that pro athletes never have anything interesting to say, but that's because they're usually asked stupid, nonessential questions. Yet ask any talented man about the details of his craft and he will inevitably tell you everything you need to know, including who that man truly is. And that's what Chris Ballard has done. This is a basketball book for people who actually care about basketball." -- CHUCK KLOSTERMAN, AUTHOR OF EATING THE DINOSAUR
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Product Details

  • Series: Sports Illustrated
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439110212
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439110218
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,229,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter J. Mcentegart on November 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It's fashionable to say that pro athletes don't have anything interesting to say. Maybe that's because they're not being asked the right questions. Chris Ballard, who covers the NBA for Sports Illustrated, asks the right questions. Namely, he gets players to talk at length on what they're most passionate about -- the intricacies of the sport that is their life's work. These men are justifiably proud of their tricks of their trade, and they'd much rather describe how best to challenge a shooter without fouling him or block a shot from the weak side than answer the umpteenth question on where they might sign their next contract. It helps, too, that Ballard is a former college player and lifelong gym rat who can convince the players that he speaks their language, even if it turns out (SPOILER ALERT!) he may or may not be able to beat Steve Kerr in a 3-point shootout.

Perhaps best of all, Ballard relates all this insider scoop as if he was one of your buddies sharing a beer. That's presuming that one of your pals is able to get face time with Kobe, LeBron, Yao and company and report back not just with the hard facts but the juicy nuggets and gossip that make a night at the bar so sublime. That's what this book is: the ideal virtual drinking companion for the NBA fan. Bottoms up.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I chose Ballard's book over Bill Simmons' better-selling tome to serve a specific purpose: introduce my wife - who has developed an obsessive rooting interest in our local five (the 17-time champion Celtics) - to some of the finer points of the NBA game.

That, it turns out well for us, is a perfect use for Ballard's work. I don't say this to imply that it was beneath me (I am no basketball maven myself), or that it was great "for the little lady," but mean it as a recommendation of the book as a very smart, very accessible look at the finer points of the mechanical and strategic points of the game.

Ballard uses access to specific well-known NBA stars to explain the mechanics of things like the jump shot (Steve Kerr) and the box out (Dwight Howard), and he is able to fit in some anecdotes that never really feel too cutesy.

Between Ballard's book and the DVR rewind feature, my wife is now appreciating the games even more thoroughly, picking out pick and rolls but also beginning to really stretch her legs by doing things like watching action off the ball. That is the way to enjoy the NBA. Ballard's book will help you do it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think Chris Ballard has used this book to write from a very unique perspective. The author as fan. What I love about the
book is that he doesn't just dig into questions he assumes the fan-at-large might want to know. He asks questions he as a
hoop fan would want to know. And I think that makes him more connected to the reader. I found tips on bettering my game, stats
that'll sell my hoop talk with friends, and a sympatico soul -- someone who loves the game as much as I do.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a real insider's gem of reporting. Chris Ballard does for basketball what George Will did for baseball, in Men at Work. Ballard's tenacious reporting skills, and obvious passion for the NBA make this book a treat for NBA fans (like myself), who want to know how the best NBA players approach their craft. Additionally, Ballard has a gift for getting behind the stars' carefully groomed personas, to give us glimpses of the players' passions and fears (who knew that Eric Snow made a highlights dvd of him dunking in college, to silence the mockery of his younger teammates). I just loved how Ballard tracked down Kobe's benchwarmer hs teammate and nash's hs coach, to gain a sense of their character. This kind of shoe-leather-heavy effort makes it seem that most sports reporters are lazy. Maybe they aren't, but with this book Ballard stands out from the pack. If you like the NBA, buy this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I've always thought that NBA players rely pretty much on god-given athleticism to go out and score 20. But this book shows just how insanely dedicated the best ballplayers are about mastering skills like shot-blocking, boxing out or shooting a trey. I mean, they really study the stuff. Each of the profiles - Kobe, Yao Ming, Reggie Miller, etc. - could be titled, "Here's exactly what I'm thinking when I'm on the court. Glad you asked." Players actually love talking about the six different foot drills they do each day, the angle they hold their hands when they push off a screen, etc. And when they open up about that stuff, you start to get a sense about who they really are as people. Well, at least a far better sense than with most of the stuff I read or see about the NBA.

The author, who played college hoops, also engages players on and off the court for some pretty funny personal anecdotes - his story about meeting Shaq on his big, bad motorcycle is priceless. There's just tons of great details in the book about locker room rituals, player rivalries, etc, too. Call it a cliche, but I don't think I'll watch an NBA game the same way again.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a huge baseball fan and, among other things, I love reading books showing the artistic/beautiful side of the game. I'd never read a book expressing the artistic/beautiful side of basketball, until now.

The author goes in depth to analyze facet of the game and NBA players who excel in those areas--rebounding, free throws, blocked shots--showing both the art and science of basketball.

Even for a non-fan of the NBA, such as me, this is an interesting look at the game.
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