Stories of 11 athletes overcoming adversity to become the cream of their sports, from Wall Street Journal writer Zuckerman and his two sons.
Some of these athletes’ stories are well-known, how they excelled despite the most serious obstacles, be it having only one hand and dreaming of being a baseball player (Jim Abbott) or standing down the racism that attended tennis, as Althea Gibson did. Others may be more obscure. Soccer goalie Tim Howard had to struggle with Tourette’s and obsessive-compulsive behavior; Stephen Curry was small enough that he had to be a walk-on at Virginia Tech to even get a chance at basketball. There is poverty, sexual abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, illiteracy, and even civil war in Congo. While the subjects can carry almost any weight, the Zuckermans struggle to bring them to life. Often luck was the key to success: being in the right place at the right time and seen by someone who got and kept the ball rolling. And while it is never easy to explain transcendent sporting ability, quotes like “It was like I was floating on air,” from Tim Howard, or—without diminishing LeBron James’ mother’s influence—“He had his mother to love and comfort him” have little insight to offer.
There is both solace and inspiration in these 11 heroes, but it doesn’t take much to imagine that for each of them, there were dozens who didn’t get the break. (Nonfiction. 8-12)