NBA Methadone: Summer Reading

A comprehensive bibliography, perfect for throttling down your basketball jones
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Not included in this essay but clearly worth reading

Image kindly repurposed from goodreads.com

It’s finally over. No longer can Dan Gilbert keep his promise to his fans. No longer can we accuse LeBron of never winning the big one. King James has finally been given his championship crown. So ends the biggest basketball story of the last two years.

But now there is a void. As LeBron so eloquently reminded us around this time last year, we once again have to go back to our own lives and problems now. We don’t have him, nor the NBA playoffs, to obsess over anymore.

I am pleased to report the good news: despite the fact that it won’t be back for six months, the NBA has plenty more stories for us.

Let’s start with the champs. The not-5-not-6-not-7-time champion Heat are not just basketball dynamos but also have two published authors, LeBron James (author, with Buzz Bissinger, of the memoir Shooting Stars) and Dwyane Wade (author of the forthcoming A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger than Basketball). James and Wade are perhaps the NBA’s most dynamic duo, but equally impressive is their ability to complete the research and self-exploration required to write memoirs while also averaging 20+ ppg for an NBA season. Though LeBron’s accomplishment, typically, exceeds that of his teammate’s: LeBron wrote his book in 2009; Wade had November and December off due to the lockout.

The Thunder, for their part, employ only one published author, the highly character-driven washed-up point guard and labor negotiator Derek Fisher. (Their coach, Scott Brooks, is not an author; but there is a basketball-coaching author named Scott Brooks.) Let's score it Miami Heat 2, Oklahoma City Thunder 1.5--a small margin of victory, but a victory nonetheless. But that’s not enough to get us through the whole off-season. Are there other NBA players capable of the complex two-ball juggling act between literature and basketball? What are their areas of expertise?

In the interest of identifying the real time-management all-stars, and also to save you some web research, we have restricted this list exclusively to active NBA players and coaches. Here is the likely very incomplete list:

FATHERHOOD MEMOIRISTS

Dwyane Wade, A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball (William Morrow, September 2012)

As yet unpublished but earnest-sounding and inspirational memoir in which the explosive shooting guard recounts his journey to becoming a single father to two sons. It is not the first publication by Wade, who also maintains a non-snack-based parenting blog on the Pepperidge Farm website goldfishsmiles.com.

Wade added, in an ESPN.com article, that it was "therapeutic for me to do this" and that "it's not focused on basketball, but it all wraps together and tells a story."

Etan Thomas, Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge (NAL, May 2012)

The father, poet, and backup NBA center reflects on the ultimate challenge, fatherhood.

"Be there. Those seven letters encompass the tao of fatherhood."--Etan Thomas

"When Etan Thomas asks, “Who’s your daddy?” it is not a rhetorical question."--New York Daily News

Thomas is also the author of More Than an Athlete, a collection of poetry. He is technically not on an NBA roster but has not retired and probably has a few more rebounds left in his body and/or poetic soul.

TEACH THE BABIES

Carmelo Anthony, It's Just the Beginning (Positively for Kids, 2004)

According to Amazon, "in It’s Just The Beginning NBA Denver Nuggets star forward Carmelo Anthony opens the door to his inner and outer life journey." Currently out of print.

Amar'e Stoudemire, the STAT: Standing Tall and Talented series (Scholastic, 2012)

The two books in this series, Home Court and Double Team, recount the basketballic adventures of a lanky 11-year-old who is somewhat coincidentally also named Amar'e Stoudemire.

Observant readers will note that the Knicks are the only other NBA team with two published authors. We're giving the nod to the Heat in recognition of the fact that adult books are longer than children's.

Chris Paul, Long Shot: Never Too Small to Dream Big (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009)

"Confident with his hands, trying his utmost not to worry about what he cannot control (his height), Paul tells an inspiring story that does not fall into sentimentality."--School Library Journal

Long Shot is the current book club pick of parenting and literary blogger Dwyane Wade, discussed elsewhere.

BIOGRAPHOOPSIES

LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger, Shooting Stars (Penguin Press, 2009)

The iconic writer of Friday Night Lights gets second billing on the cover of LeBron’s writerly debut. A story of teamwork and one private high school’s ascent to the Ohio state championship. Perhaps the definitive biography of the team that collectively passed the ball to LeBron and cleared out of the way.

Complete with blurbs from Jay-Z, John Grisham, and Warren Buffett, among others.

*A recent ESPN segment notes that LeBron enjoys reading before games and has read The Tipping Point as well as the entire Hunger Games trilogy.

Steve Nash, the foreword to Steve Nash: The Making of an MVP (Puffin, 2007)

Not a memoir but a biography, to which Nash appears to have a contributed a disappointingly straightforward set of comments. One might hope for more from the NBA's best-known reader of Communist literature and YouTube auteur.

Currently out of print, meaning the only actively available Steve Nash title is The Animal Review: The Genius, Mediocrity, and Breathtaking Stupidity That is Nature, a book dedicated to giving nature letter grades for its work in producing animals ranging from Great White Shark to Capybara. It is by Jake Lentz and a different Steve Nash.

[In the interest of full disclosure, I edited The Animal Review and had extensive dealings with the different Steve Nash. Please also be advised that I have seen the point guard Steve Nash on the subway on at least one occasion and a second instance where I'm about 75 percent sure it was him. A guy in my office also claims to have seen a non-different Steve Nash with a skateboard getting his phone fixed at the Sprint Store downstairs.]

Derek Fisher, Character Driven (Touchstone, 2009)

Published three months after Fisher’s fourth of five NBA championships, a story of Fisher’s career as a locker room leader and father.

Foreword by Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Blurbs from Michael Wilbon and fellow Arkansan and moral paragon Bill Clinton.

Danilo Gallinari, Da Zero a Otto (con Flavio Tranquillo) (Libreria dello Sporte, 2010)

Translated title: From Zero to Eight, a reference to Gallinari’s jersey number. (He was born 8/8/88; writing that date in the European style, that’d be 8/8/88.) Published when the Knicks (and now Nuggets) swingman was just 22, it tells the story of Gallinari’s journey to the NBA.

An utterly fascinating excerpt translated for Ball Don’t Lie includes the observations that American males “do not have that many mustaches” and that Vin Diesel “mostly just scowls and blows things up (cars, airplanes, fellow humans, etc.) while loud rock music is played.”

As yet, no English edition is available.

COACHING WISDOM DELIVERERS

Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Those Who Love the Game (Holt, 1994)

Then-point guard and now-Celtics head coach Doc Rivers's treatise on the meanings, related and unrelated, of basketball and life. Written for a middle grade audience, it earned mostly positive reviews, though Booklist did complain about a hard-to-relate-to section comparing John Starks to jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, "whom most teens won't know from Sonny Bono." Currently out of print.

Avery "Not Doc" Johnson, Aspire Higher (Collins, 2008)

According to the subtitle, this book is about "Winning On and Off the Court with Determination, Discipline, and Decisions." A crucial resource for anyone who has been losing off the court without decisions.

Rick Adelman, The Long, Hot Winter (Simon & Schuster, 1992)

Adelman's account of his first year coaching the NBA Finals-making-it-to Portland Trail Blazers. It is very likely the second most famous account of a year in the life of the Trail Blazers. According to noted NBA observers Publishers Weekly, Adelman is a "brilliant" coach who ensured the success of his team by focusing on "the best shooters shooting, the good rebounders rebounding, and so on."

Scott Brooks, Black Men Can't Shoot (University of Chicago Press, 2009)

A provocatively titled sociological study intended to debunk the myth that African Americans are naturally gifted athletes and/or basketball players. It is not by Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks, who presides over one of the world's best shooters (Kevin Durant) who also happens to be black; as well as the 50% Swiss (the caucausian kind) Thabo Sefolosha, whose ability to jump is a matter of public record.

However the Scott Brooks who did write this valuable ethnography spent several years coaching youth basketball in Philadelphia. He also received blurbs from Jason Kidd and Lionel Simmons.

George Karl, This Game's the Best: So Why Don't They Quit Screwing With It (St. Martin's 1998)

In which the venerated Cavs/Warriors/Sonics/Team USA/Bucks/Nuggets coach decries the decline of team play and the rise of me-first basketball; played mostly by unnamed divas but also Dennis Rodman and Allen Iverson. Karl's prescriptions for the league include a call to allow zone defenses (which subsequently happened); extend the three-point line (which also happened, sort of: it was moved in in '94 but then moved back out for the '97-'98 season, some months after Karl's book came out); and shortening the season (which happened this past year, but only because of the lockout).

ARTFUL REPORTERS

Ben Wallace, The Billionaire’s Vinegar (Crown, 2008)

This New York Times bestselling account of the mysterious provenance of a very expensive bottle of wine from 18th century Europe comes as a surprise from the power forward best known for his physical defense and shot-blocking ability. Name-based confusion is a possibility.


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