SOLE INFLUENCE by Dan Wetzel

SOLE INFLUENCE

Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America's Youth

KIRKUS REVIEW

An blistering exposÇ of the sneaker industry’s current role in amateur basketball. The 1984 Nike endorsement signing of Michael Jordan became arguably the biggest story in the history of sports marketing. When Jordan became the star of his era, Nike reaped a financial payoff big enough to kick off a business war with its arch-rival, Adidas. Although stars of other sports and genders have been signed (golf’s Tiger Woods and WNBA’s Chamique Holdsclaw), the companies’ focus is generally on men’s basketball, as they leave no stone unturned in their attempt to find “the next Mike.” Wetzel (managing editor of Basketball Times) and Yaeger (associate editor of Sports Illustrated) show how the sneaker giants have worked to control much of the summer recruiting and grassroots basketball programs. Nike and Adidas also solicit young prospects— allegiance by giving out free footwear, offering contracts, and working their connections with top colleges. The end result is a climate in which, according to one player, the college coaches look over prospects “like they’re owners. ‘Look at his teeth. Are his teeth good?’ You just feel like cattle.” This culture generates rich but troubled players unresponsive to authority and uninterested in team play. Talented young players like Marcus Taylor and Gerald Wallace, supported by their parents, sometimes fight the lure of the big bucks, but most grab the brass ring if they can. Wetzel and Yaeger dish blame to all involved: the sneaker companies, the NCAA, coaches, the nation’s education system, the players themselves. But what is sadly clear after reading the details is that the problems are too epidemic to admit of easy, clear-cut solutions. An alarm about the state of amateur sport, and about what a society addicted to sports and money is doing to the mindset and future of the nation’s youth. (8 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 2000
ISBN: 0-446-52450-6
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999




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