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The jump shot created offense, and Fury elevates it to yet higher ground.

Journalist Fury (Keeping the Faith: In the Trenches with College Football's Worst Team, 2005) celebrates basketball’s jump shot: its origins, its fundamentals, and its greatest practitioners.

“Roughly thirty-four years after I first picked up a ball,” writes the author, “there’s still nothing like being on the court—inside or outside, with teammates or alone—firing away with the jumper.” These are the words of a man smitten with a game, and within that game, he found something deep and abiding. It certainly affected his career arc, for here are more than 300 pages devoted to a tour d’horizon of the game’s most revolutionary shot: the jumper. Fury also takes detours into the history of the game, secrets and superstitions of shooters—no dribbles before free throws, sure, but also the idea that each hoop has its own personality—the worlds of shooting coaches and high-tech machines like Noah (color-coded to measure that consistency of the arc) and Dartfish (which “uses cameras to track a player’s shot frame by frame”), and the bizarre circumstances that led basketball players to be called, at least in the old days, “cagers.” In a pleasing touch, Fury mixes a little memoir—high school, college, and playground games—into the stories of Joe Fulks and Kenny Sailors, the outlandish Celtics dynasty of the 1950s, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, the Indiana savants Jimmy Rayl and Rick Mount, the Iowa stars Denise Long and Jeanette Olson, and the shot that launched the movie Hoosiers. The author digresses and then returns, smoothly if not silkily, to the chronological march, noting how the evolution of the shot changes everything each time it punctures the game’s equilibrium, most recently with big men moving away from the basket to shoot (something that Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had foreshadowed). Fury ends with every basketball fan’s favorite provocations: the greatest shot, the greatest shooter, etc.

The jump shot created offense, and Fury elevates it to yet higher ground.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-06216-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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