Kirkus Reviews QR Code
LONG SHOT by Craig Hodges


The Struggles and Triumphs of an NBA Freedom Fighter

by Craig Hodges

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-60846-607-8
Publisher: Haymarket

A former professional basketball player looks back on his life on and off the court, with an emphasis on how his outspokenness regarding racial discrimination led to his unofficial banishment from the NBA.

Hodges was a three-point specialist whose skill helped the Chicago Bulls to back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992; he also played for other NBA teams and enjoyed a successful 10-year career. However, as a black man who rarely shied away from challenging racial stereotypes—he grew up sending letters to members of Congress about significant issues—Hodges experienced dismay and then anger that almost all of his NBA colleagues refused to challenge the rich, white ownership establishment. Given that about 75 percent of the league’s players identified as black, Hodges preached the gospel of strength in numbers. In college at Long Beach State, he excelled academically as well as athletically and thus felt better prepared than most of his colleagues to present their grievances effectively. Unfortunately, the NBA stars of the 1980s and ’90s refused to heed his call; his ex-teammate Michael Jordan, the biggest of all the stars, does not come off well. Hodges hypothesizes that what he considers moral cowardice is linked to players seduced by huge salaries, fan adulation, and the cocoon of the NBA validating black manhood. He notes the rare exceptions, such as Lamar Odom and, to a lesser extent, Kobe Bryant. At the beginning of the book, the author sets the stage by recounting an invitation to the White House by President George H.W. Bush. Instead of wearing a traditional suit and greeting the president meekly, Hodges wore a dashiki and delivered a letter to Bush about the nation's shortcomings, many of them related to racial discrimination. Hodges' eventual banishment from the NBA caused him to occasionally second-guess his activism and led to bouts of depression, but he never surrendered his convictions.

A skillfully told, affecting memoir of sports and social activism.