“The Book of Basketball”
The NBA according to the Sports Guy
For professional basketball fans with an appreciation of the sport’s history, “The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy,” by ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons, is an informative publication with entertaining insights.
Simmons, an unabashed Boston Celtics fan, takes readers through a fun, engaging and sometimes coarsely worded thesis on the evolution of the pro sport and the players who made the game great as well as those who brought into focus some of the sport’s negative elements.
“I needed to immerse myself in the history of the game,” Simmons explained. “Read as much as I could, and watch as much tape as I could. I cared about guys who puked before crucial games. I care that someone walked away from a guaranteed title (or more) because he selfishly wanted to win on his terms. I care about glowing quotes from yellowed magazines and passionate testimonials from dying teammates. I care about the things I witnessed and how they resonated with me,” the ESPN.com columnist said.
“The Book of Basketball” is Simmons’ homage to some of the key players and games that shaped the foundation of the National Basketball Association (NBA) today.
Simmons, who is White, also takes a very compassionate and sometimes comical look at the racial landscape of the NBA. He speaks of Celtics’ Hall of Fame center Bill Russell, who brought unprecedented athleticism to the sport with an emphasis on defense, rebounding, and an intuitive understanding of the subtleties of the game.
Simmons’ observations regarding the NBA’s scoring decline during the existence of American Basketball Association (ABA) from 1970 until the merger of the two leagues in the autumn of 1976 are summed up in his own blunt, humorous words: “Too many White guys! Okay? All right? I said it! The league needed more Black guys! The ABA stole too many of them! It was a freaking problem! Okay?”
Simmons also ranks the greatest players of all time and gives detailed insights into each, with humorous footnotes (“... Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ... that’s a great f---ing name!”), and enlightening revelations (the all-White St. Louis Hawks squad refusing to pass the ball to Cleo Hill, one of the first NBA players drafted from a historically Black college). The author examines how each individual impacted his teams and perhaps even the game itself. He examines players who were revolutionary, as well as those who changed the game and changed the rules. Simmons also spotlights those who impacted playoff history.
Additionally, “The Book of Basketball” examines players’ ability and inability to grasp “The Secret”—that knowledge of what it takes to win a championship. Furthermore, the ESPN.com columnist focuses on teams throughout the league’s history that embraced championship concepts which resulted in NBA titles (The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs).
According to the author, these teams rarely had disruptive forces that led to their disintegration come playoff time. If such an individual existed on these teams (e.g., Spencer Haywood, Bob McAdoo, Mark Aguirre, Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant), the inner circle of players was so committed and strong mentally that the given individual either fell in line, was isolated or was eliminated from the team altogether.
“The Book of Basketball” offers entertaining observations, acute insights, and a blend of history for readers. It examines a sport that went from a barnstorming eight-team league; to an emerging entity in the 1960s; to a struggling organization in the late 1970s; then transformed itself into a flourishing model league in the ‘80s; before finally becoming an internationally recognized phenomenon.