My Sojourn with the White Mountain Apaches
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A restless basketball legend coaches high schoolers on an Arizona Indian reservation and learns a good deal more than he teaches. Eager to put the tumult of Los Angeles behind him and ever in search of new challenges, Abdul-Jabbar packed his car in the fall of 1997 and headed to Arizona to serve as a volunteer coach/advisor at Alchesay High School in Whiteriver. Upon arrival at the White Mountain Apache reservation, the star felt out of place—a sensation he was eminently familiar with as an extremely tall kid, and as an contemplative, bookish young man in the machismo-soaked world of pro sports. Gradually acquiring enough familiarity with Apache life to earn the trust and friendship of his players and their families, Kareem wondered why many of them seemed resistant to coaching. Over the course of the season, Kareem seized every opportunity to learn more about his players, their culture, and their environment. He discovered through his players— experiences the many obstacles these boys faced—alcoholism, lack of opportunity, the pressure not to succeed too conspicuously for fear of shaming others less fortunate. Kareem also began to think in new ways about his own life, especially about his failure to land a coaching job at a major college or in the pros. Although the Alchesay High Falcons never realized their potential as a team, they tested themselves and grew as individuals, on the court and off, and, by and large, enjoyed themselves in the process. Rather than wait in despair for a Falcon guard to score an improbable basket, or for the team to rally from another huge deficit, Kareem learned to share his charges— enthusiasm for the game—a pleasure he had missed, and one he realized would be all but absent from coaching at the highest levels. Thoughtful, introspective, and candid, Abdul-Jabbar offers readers a refreshing departure from the usual I—m-the-greatest tone of jock-penned tomes.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-688-17077-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1999


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