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The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy Hardcover – October 27, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 445 customer reviews

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Amazon Best of the Month, October 2009: The Book of Basketball is a 700-page work of hoops genius that would make Dr. James Naismith beam proudly – and probably blush. Author Bill Simmons, best known as ESPN.com's "The Sports Guy," explores the NBA with hilarious insight, brilliant analysis, and a bevy of irreverent footnotes. Simmons is a fan first – a fact best explained in an entertaining foreword by Malcolm Gladwell – and writes from the stands, not the press room. His knowledge and passion for the game provide him with few peers, yet his voice represents those who stick by their teams through thick and thin. As a result, The Book of Basketball is not just a tribute to hardwood heroes, but also a celebration of yelling at TV sets, revering lucky jerseys, and holding our breath until the final buzzer sounds. Throw in pages of nearly-insane statistical breakdowns (including a projected boxscore from the movie Teen Wolf), and it's easy to see why fans of all levels should clear shelf space for this instant classic.  --Dave Callanan

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*Starred Review* Simmons, aka “the Sports Guy,” is a regular columnist on ESPN.com. He writes about all sports, with a particular affection for his hometown Boston teams. Stylistically, there’s no one quite like him writing about sports. Sardonic, both irreverent and reverent, silly, self-deprecating, and melancholy are all adjectives that can be used to describe his work. The NBA seems to bring out his best stuff, perhaps because of its unique mix of personalities and cultures and the mysteries of its team dynamics. This monster of a book (more than 700 pages) is equal parts history and analysis. Simmons summarizes the history of the league, discusses his personal fandom, includes a great “what if?” chapter (what if Michael Jordan had been drafted second by Portland instead of third by Chicago?), analyzes Most Valuable Player choices through the years, and dissects the careers of the league’s all-time best players. The true NBA fan will dive into this hefty volume and won’t resurface for about a week, emerging from the man cave unshaven, smelling of beer and pizza, grinning, and armed with NBA history, insight, anecdotes, statistics, and a dozen new examples of Simmons’ Unintentional Comedy Scale. This is just plain fun. Expect significant demand from hoops junkies. --Wes Lukowsky

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: ESPN; First Edition edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034551176X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345511768
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (445 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Charbel Eid on October 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I need to preface this by saying that I've been reading Bill Simmons for over 8 years now, before the fame, before the podcasts and almost frightening fan following.I've seen him mature from the old Boston Sports Guy to this all-media presence now, and in the process, his writing has greatly improved. The culmination of such an improvement is this wonderful book, "The Book of Basketball".

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
(10/28) Still working my way through it, but here are my impressions so far:

(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 ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been reading Bill Simmons work since his Sports Guy website (about 9 years now) and have always been a huge fan. I've seen a decline in his writing in recent years, but I always assumed that was because ESPN was "holding him back", however I think this book pretty much solidifies his writing for me.

This book could have been something different. He could have written from his perspective as a viewer watching all those Celtics game as a young kid or focus on an era. Instead, he tried to write about everything about basketball. He could write a 10 part series and still wouldn't be enough.

Bill also references a lot of books that influenced him. You figure he would have at least attempted to write a book instead of just a 700-page ESPN column. This was probably my biggest gripe. There was no attempt whatsoever and along with those endless footnotes, it completely ruins the flow of reading a book. Part of me believes Bill wrote it this way because that is how he got to this point in the first place. Why try to write like someone else? I feel like Bill is smart enough to make some attempt and put a good piece of literature together.

The way I see this book is like Hollywood adapting a novel into a movie. They'll have to strip a lot of details and parts in a book and cram it into a 2 hour film. This works brilliantly sometimes, but many times, it doesn't work. This book to me is the Hollywood version of a book.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to see him grow from a self-made website to #1 on NYTimes best seller and I will continue to read his columns, listen to his podcasts, and read his tweets. He's entertaining and I think that is part of the problem with this book. I am just trying to give my unbiased opinion on the book. I've learned a lot about the history of basketball from this book and I've learned a lot from Bill, not just in sports, but as a thinker - I just wish he could have written it better.
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