Slight but inspiring book about four minutes and 19 seconds in basketball that touched millions of lives.
In the weeks following February 15, 2006, you couldn’t turn on SportsCenter or a random TV-news magazine without seeing video clips of blonde, slender, smiling high-schooler Jason “J-Mac” McElwain sinking one bucket after another. Basketball-obsessed teenager McElwain, the autistic manager of the Greece Athena Trojans, got his chance to play on the final day of his team’s season, with less than five minutes left in the game. Coach Jim Johnson led Jason to the scorer’s table, and the sympathetic crowd went nuts. Most everybody in the stands would have been happy if McElwain made even a free throw, but he had bigger goals. He kept hurling up a shot virtually every time he got the ball. And they kept going in—to the tune of 20 points, 18 of which came from three-pointers. Next thing you know, the affable, unflappable Jason is doing the talk-show circuit, charming everyone within viewing range. As an inspirational and family-aid tool, his memoir is pitch-perfect. McElwain lucidly explains how he survived and ultimately thrived with autism, and the interjections by friends and family are properly gushing and moving. As a piece of literature, it suffers from the problem inherent in books written by a subject who hasn’t lived a long or rich life: lots of filler.
For a more in-depth, gripping story of living with autism, check out John Elder Robison’s Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s (2007). But if you need a dose of positivity with a sprinkle of Rocky, you could do a lot worse than J-Mac.