An expansive oral history of basketball.
Veteran hoops chronicler MacMullan (co-author, with Shaquille O’Neal: Shaq Uncut, 2011, etc.), who has covered basketball for more than three decades at ESPN and the Boston Globe, and sportswriter Bartholomew (Two and Two: McSorley's, My Dad, and Me, 2017, etc.) have done a major service for basketball fans in a book inspired by an ESPN Film series. With unprecedented access to an unbelievably robust lineup of players, coaches, executives, journalists and others associated with the game, the authors bring readers into the action both on and off the court, rendering the entire history of the game in easy-to-read bites interspersed with helpful contextual stories and background information. Roughly chronological, the narrative arc flows smoothly from James Naismith all the way to the present: from Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell to Jerry West and on through Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry—not to mention the women stars, including Rebecca Lobo, Kara Lawson, and Cheryl Miller. And don’t forget the boldfaced names in coaching and journalism: Phil Jackson, Mike Krzyzewski, Dick Vitale, Pat Riley, Bill Simmons, Bob Ryan, Ahmad Rashad, and Jim Boeheim. Some readers may find the text overly packed with information, but this is a book for true basketball fans, who will devour every page. In addition to the addictive anecdotes from nearly every great, still-living player and coach the NBA has ever seen, the authors provide chapters on non–NBA topics that are particularly insightful, including “Basketball’s Battle for Racial Equality,” “Breaking Barriers: Title IX and the Growth of the Women’s Game,” “Relief or Joy?: NCAA Championship Coaches on the Feeling of Winning a Title,” and “Coach K: From Bob Knight’s Protégé to the One-and-Done Era.”
Non–basketball fans need not apply, but this is must-read catnip for hoop heads. Pair with Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball (2009) for a full-spectrum roundball education.