IL BASKET D'ITALIA

A SEASON IN ITALY WITH GREAT FOOD, GOOD FRIENDS, AND SOME VERY TALL AMERICANS

A sunny, refreshing season of pro basketball in the Lega Pallenestro Italiano. Depressed, recently divorced, disillusioned, and fed up with the arrogance and cynicism of American sports, Oregon sportswriter Patton jumped at the chance to spend 1992 in Italy. Based in Bologna, the 32-team Lega Pallenestro plays a 30-game schedule. The lega champion goes on to play in the European Cup tournament, but there is also a complicated system of international tournaments and playoffs. Each team is allowed two stranieri, or foreigners. Many of these are former NBA players such as Darryl ``Chocolate Thunder'' Dawkins and former Detroit Piston ``bad boy'' Rick Mahorn. Cut by the Il Messagero team (ostensibly for a locker-room tantrum, though some claim he'd become ``fat and lazy'') just a few days before Patton arrived, Mahorn was proof that NBA fringe players ``don't automatically become stars in Italy.'' (Mahorn, however, finished 1994 with the New Jersey Nets and his old coach, Chuck Daly.) While the author spends a lot of time with the Americans, he also profiles Italian stars such as il monumento nationale, 69'' Dino Meneghin, who, at 43, was playing his 27th season at pivot, center. ``Italy's greatest player,'' Meneghin led Varese to seven championships in his first ten years in the league and then won five more with the Milan team. There's also C'e solo un (the one and only) Roberto Brunamonti, slick point guard for Knorr Bologna, and his suave coach, Ettore Messina, who, when talking basket, will blithely refer to Saint Sebastian and his favorite Greek mythological heroes. Patton's descriptions of the often ineptly played games (``You see shots there's no name for'') and the boisterous, lewdly chanting crowds are a delight. Well flavored with wonderful passages on the foods, the people, the travel from village to city, and the joys and frustrations of daily life in a foreign land. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-86849-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

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.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

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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