Austin American-Statesman energy and environment reporter Price seeks to overcome his "genetic foibles" in pursuit of a singular and profound experience: dunking an NBA basketball.
Before he began his yearlong exploration of whether dunking was "literally and metaphorically” unattainable for those with his specific genetics or increasing age (34), he was humbled when tests performed by doctors at a fitness lab diagnosed him as being in “completely average” condition. Through his efforts to increase his body's upward kinetic force to enable him to dunk, Price examines the larger issue of whether humans can outwit their physical limits and asks if it is actually possible to "dream up a task” and force your body to follow. On his journey, the author consulted a variety of experts, including geneticists and other scientists (including a Cambridge professor who specializes in the nervous system of locusts), as well as brick-chopping karate black belts and children at basketball camps. By not dragging readers through the weeds of mathematical formulas—an appendix includes tips for “how to jump higher” and a microlesson in the physics of dunking—Price comes across as a nonintimidating science teacher with a dry, sometimes self-deprecating wit. In easy-to-understand language, he explains such concepts as neuromuscular composition and the biomechanics of propulsion in humans and animals. During the course of his pursuit, Price faced down numerous psychological and physical obstacles, as well as dramatic setbacks off the hardwood, but his optimism, perseverance, and development are at the heart of this good-natured chronicle of his efforts. “I was like a lot of people: athletic enough, with a thin desire to win, but never the best and never desperate to be the best,” he writes.
In this briskly paced book, readers will recognize the courage and tenacity of everyday competitors and the power and awe-inspiring achievements of elite athletes.