Cycling fans will probably get more out of the book than a general audience, but diligent readers will be rewarded with an...

TOUR DE LANCE

THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF LANCE ARMSTRONG’S FIGHT TO RECLAIM THE TOUR DE FRANCE

Bicycling magazine editor Strickland (co-author: We Might As Well Win: On the Road to Success with the Mastermind Behind Eight Tour de France Victories, 2009, etc.) examines Lance Armstrong’s remarkable comeback at the 2009 Tour de France.

When Armstrong announced his intentions to return to the sport’s most celebrated stage, the author was torn. While he understood the (mostly positive) passions Armstrong evoked among cycling followers and cancer patients and their families, he worried that a failed attempt at a comeback would damage his reputation for pulling miracles out of thin air. Was Armstrong trying to prove something to critics, like rival Greg LeMond, whose accusations of drug use clouded Armstrong’s otherwise sterling reputation? Or was it something deeper? Was Armstrong, whom some considered the greatest champion in any sport, trying to teach himself a lesson in humility? In the spring and summer of 2009, Strickland pursued these possibilities, chasing Armstrong and his Astana team around the world as they trained for the ultimate cycling test. It was not a smooth journey. During the Vuelta a Castilla y León in March, Armstrong suffered his first ever collar-bone break. Just a month later, however, he was back on the bike for the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico. Though most cycling enthusiasts already know that Armstrong did not win the 2009 Tour de France, Strickland’s progress report manages to sustain suspense throughout. The author is a gifted writer and supremely knowledgeable about the sport.

Cycling fans will probably get more out of the book than a general audience, but diligent readers will be rewarded with an enjoyable read about a private journey to understand an enigmatic public figure and his place in sport and culture.

Pub Date: June 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-58984-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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