Three friends bike across America to bestow on the NBA Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., a basketball inscribed by everyday heroes.
Based on Austin’s documentary of the same name, which won the People’s Choice Award at the Banff Film Festival, the book begins with a sketch of the three pilgrims. Austin and his best friend, Clint, were consumed by basketball; Austin’s younger brother Jared was more interested in biking, but willing to go along on their pilgrimage to the “jock shrine” at the other end of the continent from their starting point in Venice Beach, Calif. Their journey took them to a number of unusual basketball venues, from a hoop nailed to a barn to a small-town court lit up at night. In one especially lovely scene, set in a court nestled alongside a cornfield, someone takes a long jump shot from deep in the stalks; the shooter rises like a ghost from the corn, “and that ol’ ball sailed through the heartland sky, past all the constellations and galaxies.” The story pivots around basketball, but is essentially about the journey and about the kindness of strangers. No unsung court wizards signed the basketball carried by Austin, Jared and Clint. The signers were heroes of a different stripe: generous-hearted people who offered the shoestring pilgrims a place to sleep, a bath, some food, somewhere to do the laundry. People tend to dominate his attention, but he’s also adept at catching the atmosphere of a landscape.
A sweet little piece of simple, optimistic entertainment. (8-page b&w photo insert, not seen)