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The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy Paperback – December 7, 2010
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
*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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This would have been a 5 star with the below ordering and i would recommend a reader new to basketball (not aware of its history pre 2000) to read in the following order:
Prologue (A Four Dollar Ticket: Why Simmons loves basketball)
One (The Secret: the secret that makes a player great)
Three (How the Hell Did We Get Here?: a history of shifts in basketball rules, strategy, popularity and how it influenced the game)
Six to Eleven (The Pyramid)
Two (Russell, Then Wilt: why one was greater than the other. This comes right on the heels of the pyramid where they're fresh in your mind)
Five (Most Valuable Chapter: History of the most shady MVP awards)
Twelve (The Legend of Keyser Soze: The best single season by an NBA team)
Thirteen (The WIne Cellar: The best hypothetical NBA team)
For example, reduce by roughly 30% the praise he heaps upon any Celtics team or player, especially from his childhood in the mid-80s. Yes, these were great teams and athletes in many cases, but Simmons' adulation overcomes his objectivity here.
Increase by 20-25% his unenthused assessment of any star or team from an era before his time and for which he can find little video. (For example, being unable to view Julius Erving's astounding 5-year ABA career, during which Dr. J achieved heights (literal and figurative) of skill and creativity that no other hoopster has or will, leaves Simmons to assess Erving less generously (and less accurately) solely on his more restrained subsequent NBA work.)
Increase by 20% his assessment of any team that beat (or outdid) a Celtic team by playing better "Celtics basketball" (his assessments of the 69-70 and 72-73 NY Knicks championship teams are especially stingy).
And decrease by 15-20% his assessment of recent stars in the overall pantheon of NBA talent - again, he relies too heavily on the familiar.
Much here to pick nits and argue with, but also much to enjoy - and Simmons does communicate convincingly his love for the sport and the league. He could also be a bit more skeptical of the ways that marketing has weakened the sport and fan experience, but there are some hands that feed him that he might be best served not to bite.
Overall a very enjoyable read.
Personally my favorite section was Bill's idea on how the Basketball Hall of Fame should be, which leads to his list of greatest players ever. You may disagree but remember this is a book written by a FAN first, a Boston fan. If you're someone who has zero sense of humor, easily offended, extremely subjective and lacking in empathy, then maybe this book isn't for you. Otherwise you'll have a wonderful time hearing another friend talk basketball with you. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you disagree, sometimes he brings your image of your favorite players back down to earth by pointing out flaws, and sometimes he makes you realize how truly GREAT some players are with facts and analysis you didn't even know.
I still can't believe I actually read a 700 page book cover to cover.