A VIEW FROM ABOVE

``When I play games I am so competitive that...I will take full advantage of any slip...to the point where many...kiddingly accuse me of cheating. How else are you going to accuse a seven- foot 300 pound man of cheating but kiddingly?'' Intimidating as ever, basketball great Chamberlain (Wilt, 1973, coauthored by David Shaw) reveals a lot more than probably intended in this wordy wit-and-wisdom collection. On the playing floor, Chamberlain was sensational—his arrival in pro basketball totally disrupted the established salary scale, after which he redesigned the game, popularized it, and set a pile of still- standing records. But at the writing table, he is, alas, opinionated, resentful, and unconcerned about continuity, organization, or consistency. (At one point he's a gourmet; later, his favorite food is white bread with peanut butter and mayonnaise.) Chamberlain is also concerned with his stature and sexuality (``few recognize the sensualness I have in this seven- foot frame'') to the point where his isolation, never really dealt with, is painful to consider (though he's not concerned ``to see [his] athletic prowess embodied in offspring''). And he just can't let others be great: Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon is okay, but team-player centers like Celtic Bill Russell and L.A.'s Abdul Jabbar are limited pretenders. After some obligatory respect, Chamberlain gets to his point: ``There may never have been a star athlete used as a yardstick as much as I....'' (What about Babe Ruth, Pele, Joe Louis, Bobby Jones?) As for today's talent, ``centers now are making $2 million a year...if you pro-rated my salary for what I did...I'd be making $20 million.'' Like Muhammad Ali, Wilt was the greatest, but there's no lilt or wit to make his tale palatable. Ali knows it took Joe Frazier to make him immortal, but Wilt stands forever alone with those awesome records. (Thirty-two pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40455-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more