2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not great, tome by an entertaining columnist,
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This review is from: The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy (Hardcover)
I gave this 4 stars but, really, I'd go with 3.5 if Amazon allowed for half-star ratings. I like Bill Simmons and find his columns for ESPN interesting (although his pop culture references often lose me), and this is a pretty good book. Good, but not great.
First of all, the good: Even though this book is over 700 pages and DOES take a while to read, it doesn't drag. You'll certainly get his opinions on people, which is fine...he IS a columnist, not a historian. It helps if you're a Celtics fan. He's got a breezy style, you'll learn about a lot of past and present NBA players, and the early chapter dealing with Isiah Thomas and "The Secret" is probably the best in the book because it really explains how champions become champions...talent is only part of it. The section on Simmons' "Pyramid" of great players runs well over 300 pages long and you'll disagree with some of his assessments, but again, that's what columnists do. You're SUPPOSED to disagree sometimes.
Now the not-so-good: There are a number of factual errors along the way. They're fairly minor, but knowledgeable fans will spot them. Also, he all but ignores the NBA's first 10 seasons because there wasn't a shot clock before 1954 and no great black players before Bill Russell appeared in 1956. The pioneers definitely get the short shrift. Finally, although Simmons says early on that he doesn't intend to spend time speculating on how players would've fared outside their own respective eras, he ends up doing a lot of just that. It's a given that the level of athleticism in all sports has improved over the past 50-60 years, and that George Mikan wouldn't fare any better in the NBA today than Ralph Kiner would in modern MLB baseball for the same reason: They weren't good enough athletes. Even Jackie Robinson would struggle in 21st Century baseball to some extent.
If anyone is going to write a book centered around the top 96 players of all-time in a given sport, PLEASE judge players within the context of the era they played in. Fifty years from now, people might say, "That Michael Jordan was pretty good in his day, but he couldn't play in the NBA now." Sound crazy? It would sound crazy to people back when Bob Cousy and Bob Pettit were perennial All-NBAers.
In the end, I'd say go ahead and buy this book, but don't look upon it as an encyclopedia or concise history. It's an entertaining, 700-page op-ed piece.
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Initial post: Nov 11, 2009 10:22:44 AM PST
Damon Enola says:
You are right about the factual errors. He is usually off about the years of specific teams (one example: he confuses the 1988-89 Pistons with the 1989-90 Pistons) and I believe that most of the errors are in the "Keyser Soze" chapter if I'm not mistaken.
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