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The City Game: Basketball from the Garden to the Playgrounds Paperback – February 1, 1999
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I read The City Game for the first time when I was 13. I had basketball fever bad, and I would pore over Slam magazine every month. They ran a lot of streetball stories at that time, and I developed a real interest in guys like Earl Manigault and Herman Knowings. And like any Knick fan, I knew about Bradley and Frazier and the rest of the championship teams. When my dad gave me his copy of The City Game, I couldn't believe what I was reading. Someone else had seen the connection between streetball and pro ball? I thought I was the only one, in a way that only a 13-year-old can.
I'm more than twice as old now as I was when I read the book for the first time, and I was curious to see whether it was as good as I remembered. It was better. Axthelm was a talented writer, and the cast of characters in the NBA made things easy for him. Kareem was still Lew, Wes Unseld, Earl Monroe, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, not to mention "Clyde" and Dave DeBusschere and Dick Barnett and Willis Reed were all battling up and down the NBA. Every match-up the Knicks face is compelling, every game a war.
Axthelm got deep into Harlem and he profiled those who made it out of the neighborhood and those who didn't. His words about Manigault were written before "The Goat" turned his life around, making his story especially sad. There are positive stories too, Harlem playground heroes who made successful middle class lives for themselves as hard working city servants, men who supported their families and were true role models.
I could never resist a book with a paragraph like this:
"The politics of hate and polarization had thrust deep into New York's guts, and few people on either side could relish the sight of open war between Nixon's new Silent Majority and the young, the poor and the black. Countless people groped for sanity in the wounded city, and wondered if it would be sundered irreparably. Some of the spectators who came to watch the Knicks that night may have wondered just how much they could still care about a game. Then the Knicks showed them. They didn't solve the world's problems, any more than playground games can cure the ills of the ghetto. But, like a ghetto game, the Knicks and the Lakers did offer a moment of high drama, a brief or necessary escape from reality- a transcendent experience, which in the end, is all anyone can ask of a sporting event."
OK, and how about this about Dave DeBusschere:
"In the off-season, DeBusschere is a stockbroker. He is also an author, having kept a tape-recorded diary of last season for publication. But if those occupations changed his social status, the boys in his neighborhood bar back home haven't noticed. A prodigious beer drinker who easily guzzles two six packs after every game, DeBusschere still drinks in the same taverns, drinks with the same working-class friends, and plays softball in the same Thursday-night league. He met Geri, a petite, attractive brunette in a bowling alley. When they go out to dinner, it is for steak and beer. In every phase of life, his pleasures remain the same. "Relationships don't change," he said simply. "When you're through playing, you go back to your friends. You do the things you've always enjoyed."
I could transcribe another dozen paragraphs. A smooth 210-page read, The City Game is a true classic. It combines sociology, urban history and basketball masterfully and is a must read for any New Yorker who loves basketball. And if you're a Knick fan on top of that? Forget it.
sports. He says he learned alot about the development of basketball by reading this book. He gives it a "thumbs up" rating.
The book is divided into two main categories: the 1969-70 New York Knicks championship season in the NBA and the playground legends around New York City. I found the book far more interesting and memorable when author Pete Axthelm wrote about the playground guys, particularly Earl "The Goat" Manigault, a name I have always remembered.
I used to see Axthelm interviewed on TV, or doing football and other sports commentary, and used to enjoy listening to him. He was a very good writer and speaker. Sadly, he died in 1991 at the age of 47.
Great books like this will keep Pete's name alive.
Pete Axthelm superbly goes with you page after page in a marvellous jorney in the city of basketball, "the city that knows and love it best".
It's not only a sport book, it's a free entry for Basketball City of New York.
of Earl "The Goat" Manigualt and throughly enjoyed it.
I grew up in Brooklyn where basketball was the game.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Goat, Earl Manigault. It didn't let me down. I saw the movie rebound and was eager to buy this.