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

RISE AND FIRE

THE ORIGINS, SCIENCE, AND EVOLUTION OF THE JUMP SHOT—AND HOW IT TRANSFORMED BASKETBALL FOREVER

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. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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