A young man obsessed with basketball tries to puzzle out God’s game plan in this sprightly Christian motivational memoir.
Hammond, a high school basketball coach in Missouri, starts out by recounting his boyhood dream of becoming an NBA star, which he pursued with single-minded intensity through amateur leagues, summer camps and school teams. It’s a story full of juvenile drama—last-second wins and losses, an agonizing wait to find out if he made the varsity starting squad—that the author tells with panache and a dollop of self-deprecating humor, which obliquely registers the pain of discovering that he’s not quite good enough for the college level. But when the pre-med direction doesn’t pan out—he faints while observing an operation—Hammond feels called to recommit to the game by becoming a coach and teacher, an ambition that’s not quite as lofty as his former dreams of NBA glory, although, in its way, it can be just as absorbing. His career scramble takes him to a small-town school with a flagging team in dire need of a turnaround, then on to a metropolitan Kansas City high school basketball powerhouse, where some of his more important revelations come from supervising a humble detention class. Threaded through this picaresque is his growing Christian faith, which affirms itself through trials great (his mother’s bout with cancer) and small—his struggle to break with a soulless collegiate party culture; a soured romance; and the persistent doubt about whether he’s choosing the right path in life. Hammond’s love of the game animates the narrative, which is full of gripping play-by-play, subtle explications of on-court strategies and leadership insights both gratifying and harsh, especially when a losing season forces him to take a hard look at his unwieldy coaching system. But basketball is also a hook for his probing, complex take on religious priorities. The game serves as a metaphor for his active, fighting faith, not to mention a possible false god that can distract from a life of deeper meaning and purpose. Hammond’s lively prose and down-to-earth perspective make his lessons in devotion unusually resonant.
A rousing saga of sports and spirituality.