Two of my favorite non-fiction books are The Ball Is Round and How Soccer Explains the World. Both are about how sport (specifically, soccer) has tracked the dramatic changes over the 20th & 21st centuries. And how soccer is really a microcosm of world events.
Winter is basketball season, and I’d hoped that the Book of Basketball would be sort of in the same line – entertaining, educational, with a unique lens on the world. It sort of is in that line…but it’s really just a book for basketball nerds.
What I Liked
The tone & writing is conversational and different. The author is known as a world-class media talking head, and it comes through in the writing.
The author is second to none in his research. I had no idea that someone could be this into basketball. It shows.
The book is thorough and interesting. It made me more interested in basketball than I used to be.
What I Did Not Like
The book is a doorstop. The book desperately needs an editor for structure. But the author (in the book) openly disdains editors – and is famous for his rambling soliloquoy’s anyway. I can see why the book is the way it is…but I think some structure would have given the book some longevity.
The book has seriously aged. It was published in the early 2010s. It’s not so much that basketball has radically changed…but the context of sports & culture has. There are way too many cultural references to the mid- and -early 2000s.
The book is deeply America-centric, and I think it’s a hugely missed opportunity, especially compared to other sports books. The book is less the Book of Basketball and more the book of the NBA (and yes, that is the subtitle, but still). Yes, the NBA is the driving force of the sport. But basketball has always been the most international of American-invented sports, both in player diversity and global adoption. Skipping over stories from Europe, Asia, South America was a major missed opportunity.
The book is also author-centric. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it helped provide the book’s initial sales. However, it means the book is less of a classic than books that rely more on the topic than the author for their longevity.
Not a whole lot honestly. The book is entertaining if you’re interested in NBA culture, but not so much otherwise.