An absorbing and often poignant account that works both as a detailed sports chronicle and a heart-felt tribute to an...



Sportswriter (Sports Illustrated) and novelist Schwartz (Caught, 1985) offers an affecting yet balanced portrait of the legendary, lightning-fast filly and of the thoroughbred racing world she briefly set afire.

Although the tragic outcome (a broken leg; death) of the 1975 "Great Match Race'' that pitted the undefeated three-year-old against Kentucky Derby-winner Foolish Pleasure will be familiar to any horse-racing aficionado, fans and nonfans alike should be swept along by Schwartz's skillful narrative and broad depiction of the thoroughbred milieu. Here are the fabulously wealthy owners, the devoted trainers, the assorted jockeys, grooms, vets, and backstretch hangers-on, all living an odd, peripatetic existence as they follow the season and the fragile behemoths they seem genuinely to love. Not skirted is a consideration of the business forces that drive the sport (perhaps to the horses' detriment), the risk of fixed betting, and the hype surrounding big races. At the center is the huge, dark-brown filly, a fully rounded character in her own right, viewed from her conception in a stark, unromantic mating shed through each painstaking step of training and on to her short but brilliant career. Along the way there are lively sketches of those around her, particularly gruff trainer Frank Whiteley, chain-smoking and popping Gelusils, and hot-tempered jockey Jacinto Vasquez, passing up the mount he had led to a Derby win in favor of the awesome filly that "was different from every other horse he had ever ridden.'' Most notably there is a lyrical evocation of the wonder great horses can inspire, "a feeling that they gave you, a belief in something bigger than yourself...some bright, wordless magic.''

An absorbing and often poignant account that works both as a detailed sports chronicle and a heart-felt tribute to an extraordinary animal dying young.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-345-36017-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1991

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.


NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.


A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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