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The Breaks of the Game Paperback – February 17, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books (February 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401309720
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401309725
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
This is really at least three books. On the cover it says it is a year with the Blazers, it is also a story telling the history of the NBA, and the first half is The Bill Walton Story.

The book tells the story of the 1979-80 season, at the beginning of the book a timeline is given of the Blazers, their coaches and first round picks from their start in 1970 to 1980.

The team won the Championship for 1976-77 so much of the telling of the '79-'80 season is compared to the Championship season. Bill Walton was the star of that team. The years that followed he injuried his foot and eventually left the team under a not good situation so that is hashed and rehashed. Any character that is mentioned is then explained what impact he had on Walton or Walton had on them. Almost each character that is introduced we get their life history, weather it matters or not. Just too many people, and, most are injured and cannot play anyway.

Coach Jack Ramsey has a game plan for the team but the team is not winning, oh, and players are injuried. The season could have been broken up into chapters by the months but it is not. Just one very long lumbering chapter. Some pages feature one paragraph for the whole page.

For me the most interesting part was how TV coverage and the TV contracts somewhat changed the league and brought in more $. Also black players entering the league changed it from a game played by slow white men stuck on the ground to something akin to what is seen on the playgrounds. Racism is mentioned often which suprised me that it was a problem even in 1980.

Kermit Washington is mentioned for having been involved in an on-court fight that involved Rudy Tomjanovich.
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